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Entain Says Industry Must Get Better At Touting Accomplishments

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The Seton Hall Law School Gaming Boot Camp, with its focus on compliance and integrity, is where industry types and regulators come together annually to share thoughts and ideas. Entain is a sponsor of this event, and two of its better-known faces, board member Bill Pascrell III (also a partner at Princeton Public Affairs) and Senior Vice President of American Affairs & Responsible Gambling Martin Lycka, were on hand for the proceedings this past March 4-5 in New Jersey.

Reached via conference call from Sports Handle’s Pacific Northwest bureau, the two took some time away from the boot camp to discuss some pressing issues associated with Problem Gambling Awareness Month. Following is a transcript (edited for clarity and length) of the thoughts they shared.

On the industry and responsible gambling …

Lycka: “In terms of the lay of the land, everybody’s embraced responsible gambling and consumer protection. At the same time, we’re probably not as good at shouting about the good stuff that we have accomplished. Had we done that, we would have spared ourselves this press leading up to Super Bowl and, I imagine, some more leading up to March Madness. It’s a work in progress.”

Pascrell: “There’s been a ton of stuff, both in print publications and then, two weeks ago, on Saturday Night Live, that I think should be a greater wakeup call to what Martin has been trying to accomplish throughout the U.S. I think that SNL skit needs to be a wakeup call to the industry. I get that it’s jokey, but as I’ve said on social media, ‘Many a truth said in jest.’ I think the operators need to get far more serious about this, which Martin’s been trying to do for years now.

“There are a lot of regulators here and some of them have already been on panels, and there’s a lot of talk about this topic and about advertising. I do work in other industries, and when you’re trying to corral an industry to come together, it’s always difficult. People feel like they don’t want to be in bed with their competitor. The industry needs to stop blaming others and stop blaming regulators and get across this.”

On regulation and legislation …

Lycka: “I believe there’s a trend toward more efficient responsible gambling regulation to achieve long-term sustainability in all U.S. markets.” Lycka added that although Rep. Paul Tonko’s federal bill to ban sports betting advertising “has not really gone anywhere on the legislative level, that does not mean that the industry can rest on its laurels.”

Pascrell: Speaking about the GRIT Act, which would divert funds from the federal excise tax on sports betting to various problem and responsible gambling programs, Pascrell, whose father is a sitting congressman, said, “That’s going nowhere fast. I just think that Congress can barely get their act together to pass a budget, there’s not a lot of opportunity to move other verticals. The AGA (American Gaming Association) and industry have come back hard on that. 

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“The only impact if that were to pass is it would have a really bad effect on both the regulated markets helping the black market and would also hurt the effort to bring about more efficient responsible gambling regulation. The NCPG (National Council on Problem Gambling) doesn’t have the power, yet, to get something across the goal line. It’s not something that the 37-plus states who’ve been taking wagers would support. It would hurt the operators in their states.”

Lycka: “The states got the authority to regulate sports betting. That’s the first point of friction. More money needs to be spent, but there’s a debate to be had, and that debate needs to revolve around what kind of projects and how these funds need to be spent. What I would be advocating is for operators, regulators, legislators — and there are forums to do that, like Nickel G’s — need to sit together and have a discussion about a few seminal issues. Sports betting has been successfully regulated at the state level, but we’d be having a federal bill here. Secondly, RG funding should be spent so that it’s the patron who benefits from it. I happen to sit on the NCPG’s advisory board. The AGA and NCPG disagree as to the source of those funds.”

Pascrell: “[Regulators] feel they have been working collaboratively with operators, but that there’s far more that can be done. I think there’s also going to be a serious look at the way advertising occurs, trying to let people understand is that, yes, we should not be advertising gambling to minors, for sure, but we should also be educating vulnerable populations, like minors, before they get to the emancipation age. A lot of them are already gambling illegally in the black market, and nobody’s educating them because there’s a strict requirement of [those affiliated with gambling operators] not coming on college campuses and talking to students.”

On banning college player props ….

Lycka: In reference to states like Ohio banning college player prop bets, he classified this as “another trend in the wider mental health protection field that goes beyond responsible gambling,” with the motivation being to “prevent harassment of NCAA athletes.”

Pascrell: “Prop bets are definitely something that the NCAA has gotten a lot of regulatory regimes to focus on. What Martin’s been seeing is we have to get ahead of this as an industry. Otherwise, what’s happened in other jurisdictions — Scandinavia, the U.K. — will happen here. The industry has to not just look at the minimum requirements, but to get ahead of the curve. Whether it’s escalating or not, it’s still a problem that needs solutions. Operators need to do a better job of coming together and making recommendations.”

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