Q&A: Brian Hess of Sports Fans Coalition on Responsible Gaming
Brian Hess is the executive director of Sports Fans Coalition, the nation's leading sports fan advocacy group. He frequently testifies before legislative bodies as they contemplate new gambling laws, particularly sports wagering legislation.
He is the author of the Sports Bettors' Bill of Rights, which has been fully incorporated in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. During Responsible Gaming Education Week (Sept. 19-25), Hess took time to address gambling issues.
Top US Casinos (TUSC): What were the key components of the Sports Bettors’ Bill of Rights and similar inclusions that you advocated on behalf of when lawmakers in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia were considering sports gambling?
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Brian Hess: The five principles of the Sports Bettors' Bill of Rights are Integrity and Transparency, Data Privacy and Security, Self-Exclusion, Protection of the Vulnerable, and Recourse. Therefore, any legislation which legalizes sports betting should include provisions that guarantee these rights.
TUSC: Online gambling operators harvest an enormous amount of data about their customers. Can that data can be used to identify problem gambling behaviors and should operators assume more responsibility for proactively intervening when dysfunctional behaviors are apparent?
BH: The data that operators collect can be used to help problem gamblers, and I believe operators should use that data for that purpose. Operators can easily know if behavior on their platform has changed and can use significant deviations from the pattern to trigger messages offering help automatically.
TUSC: Third-party exclusion requests (e.g., from a spouse of a dysfunctional gambler) have been discussed in gambling jurisdictions outside the U.S. Third-party intervention is also understandably controversial and fraught but it is often a third party who is most acutely aware of the problem. What are your thoughts on the subject?
BH: This is a tricky subject. I can see both sides. Lawmakers have to find the right balance between protecting everyone's agency. In the case of a spouse, though, the finances being gambled are likely shared, impacting the whole family.
TUSC: In the early stages of online gambling in the U.S., advertising has obviously been a high priority for gambling operators. How do you feel about the tone of the advertising so far?
BH: Even I admit I was unprepared for the onslaught of advertising in Virginia, where I live. The tone doesn't bother me as much as the frequency and the content. Most concerning is that these ads aren't held to the same advertising standards like alcohol. For example, there's no prominent "Please Gamble Responsibly" message. Personally, every ad should have the gambling hotline number clearly displayed on the screen with a message encouraging the viewer to seek help if they believe they have a problem.
TUSC: Many state governments put aside money from gambling revenues to address gambling problems. In your view, what are the best uses of that money?
BH: That money should be allocated to four buckets: Prevention, research, treatment, and recovery.