Regulation a focus of SBC Summit Barcelona, set for Sept. 20-22

September 12, 2022 10:37 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
September 12, 2022 10:37 PM

U.S. sports betting and how to balance player protection and growth are among the topics that will be discussed at the three-day SBC Summit Barcelona that kicks off Sept. 20.

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Global leaders in sports betting and igaming will assemble at the three-day event to discuss the future of the industry, exchange knowledge, and build connections.

Approximately 6,000 executives are expected to attend the conference, which covers sports betting, casino and internet gaming, payments and compliance, emerging tech, blockchain, and metaverse, and affiliate, marketing, and media. The sessions will be held Sept. 21 and Sept. 22.

Alan Feldman, a distinguished fellow in responsible gaming at the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, will headline a panel discussion on Sept. 21 moderated by Martin Lycka, senior vice president American regulatory affairs and responsible gaming for Entain.

The focus of the session centers on U.S. states’ rolling out sports-betting regulations and operators jostling for early market supremacy. There’s a balancing act, however, between attractive customers, regulated operations, and putting in place responsible-gaming measures.

The panel will talk about how leaders of the industry deliver on this shared goal, while protecting their competitive edge.

Feldman will be joined by Bill Pascrell III (partner, Princeton Public Affairs Group), Dan Spencer (director of safer gambling, EPIC), Brianne Doura-Schawohl (founder & CEO, Doura-Schawohl Consulting LLC), and Jaime Debono (managing director, iGaming Academy).

“We’re going to try to have an understanding of what is known from a research perspective about some of the important topics in sports betting, igaming more generally, and esports,” Feldman said. “A lot of regulatory rules are in place, but one of the questions I want to address is whether they’re likely to succeed or whether or not they’re relevant. At this point in the industry, it’s all happening so quickly that we have regulators who are very understandably wanting to put certain protections and controls into place.”

Feldman said it isn’t known if those are necessary or if they have any chance of being effective in the U.S. A lot more study needs to be done, because so far the research is inconclusive, he said.

“Unfortunately, Europe has decided to act first and determine the needs second (on advertising restrictions),” Feldman said. “There has even been a ban on jersey advertising and many countries have bans on credit cards. There was little evidence to suggest either of those things were going to be meaningful. What we’ve seen in Europe is taking action first and never bothering to determine what impact it had or finding out much later what you thought you were doing had any effectiveness. Unfortunately, most European countries don’t go about determining if it made any difference.”

Something similar has started in the U.S., with advertising crackdowns, Feldman said. Massachusetts’ new law allows for rules dealing with excessive advertising. No betting is allowed for in-state college teams unless they’re playing in a tournament. He also said there is a ban on using credit cards.

New Jersey and Colorado are talking about advertising restrictions, he said.

“In Massachusetts, we’re seeing some of the more evolved regulatory approaches,” Feldman said. “What impact does advertising really have? Is the advertising leading to unhealthy or harmful behavior or is the advertising simply leading to product trial or loyalty? I don’t think enough is known about this. I think there is enough reasoning that the advertising may not be leading to harmful behavior and other factors contribute to that.”

Feldman said he doesn’t believe anyone starts to develop problems just because they see an ad.

As for limiting the use of credit cards, Feldman said there’s a legitimate question whether a credit card or a debit card leads to any noticeable difference in behavior among consumers.

“What we may end up finding out is for those who are affected negatively by gambling, having access to credit cards and debit cards may make it worse,” Feldman said. “Whereas for those who aren’t affected by it, it has no impact. Unless the number of people negatively affected skyrockets, and thus far there’s no evidence to support that, then I’m not certain that debit and credit cards will become the focus of regulation.”

The question remains, how do you provide player protection while at the same time having an ongoing healthy business? Feldman said the industry will likely find out that the successful move will be to allow customers to gain control of things.

“That is possibly by setting deposit limits, setting withdrawal limits, and possibly by putting in other safe checks,” Feldman said. “For example, if you’re trying to load your account and have three declines in a row, that means something is up and someone ought to be talking to that customer.”

As for in-play betting, Feldman has concerns about its impact on players, but can’t say at this time whether it’s more addictive.

“I’m concerned it might be, but I would like to study that and try to determine the relationship between in-play betting and harmful behavior generally,” Feldman said. “It may turn out that for the person who is already on that path, the in-play can make it worse. I wouldn’t be at all surprised. The question is whether a person who is otherwise healthy is affected in any way.”

Feldman said there are good responsible-gaming education programs and operators have initiatives to keep gaming responsible. Many operators are upfront about telling people to set a budget and time limit and not go over either, he said. Entain in Europe has even structured data analytics to look for harm.

“There’s quite a bit going on,” Feldman said.

For more information on the conference, visit the website.