Expert Supports Strict Responsible Gaming Measures In Latest Sports Betting Bill

Written By Adam Hensley on April 20, 2024 - Last Updated on April 23, 2024
A responsible gambling packet

Problem gambling must be a priority in Minnesota sports betting legislation. That’s what Minnesota Alliance on Problem Gambling Executive Director Susan Sheridan Tucker believes.

And she’s not the only one.

Earlier this month, state Sen. John Marty filed Senate File 5330. His bill earmarks more tax dollars toward problem gambling treatment than any other Minnesota sports betting bill. It also includes a ban on in-game betting and dollar limits on players.

Sheridan Tucker told PlayMinnesota that Marty extensively researched problem gambling before crafting his bill. He talked to her team, as well.

“He understands that Minnesotans like to gamble, and he is not necessarily opposed to people gambling. But, like us, we want to make sure that if people are going to engage in this activity, we want them to do it in the safest way possible. I was really pleased.”

Sheridan Tucker applauds majority of tax revenue going to problem gambling services

No other sports betting bill comes close to earmarking such a high percentage of tax revenue toward responsible gambling services. Sheridan Tucker said the percentage dedicated to combatting problem gambling in SF 5330 would be the highest in the country.

Sports betting tax revenue would be broken down as follows:

  • 25% to problem gambling treatment programs
  • 25% to the National Council on Problem Gambling’s Minnesota branch
  • 25% to addiction and mental health services in schools
  • 25% to the state’s general fund

As a branch of the National Council on Problem Gambling, Sheridan Tucker’s organization would collect at least 25% of tax revenue from sports betting.

Sheridan Tucker does not see the allocation of tax revenue discouraging sportsbooks from applying for licenses.

“75% is tremendous. I so appreciate the fact that the focus of this bill is really on the people that are most negatively impacted. This will not deter the operators and whoever gets the licenses, whether it be tribes or racetracks – money is going to be made. But we cannot forget about the negative impact of this.”

In-game betting attracts gambling addicts, Sheridan Tucker says

SF 5330 bans in-game wagering, something most players and sportsbooks are not on board with.

In-game wagering’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years. It allows players to bet throughout games in real-time. Bets can include everything from the result of the current drive in football to which player will make the next 3-pointer in a basketball game.

Sportsbook operators love in-game wagering, as these bets strongly favor the “house.” Responsible gaming advocates like Sheridan Tucker, however, argue that in-game wagering must be kept in check.

There is a far greater likelihood that someone with a gambling addiction would participate in live betting more than the casual customer, Sheridan Tucker says.

“Just like with any addiction, if you put something in front of somebody that they’re addicted to, do you really think they’re going to have the self-restraint to stop themselves? No, especially if they’re getting prompted or nudged. To me, it’s disingenuous to say that it is not going to have some impact on individuals who are showing signs of problematic behavior.”

Sheridan Tucker urges lawmakers to be cautious at the start of legalizing sports betting in Minnesota, rather than offering the “full à la carte menu” from the beginning.

“There’s a lot of pressure to provide full services. That’s what the gaming industry wants, and they’ve got the power and the money to support that position. It’s a little more difficult for an organization like us to have the same kind of exposure and access. It’s also that this is not a priority for many of the legislators. I think many of them are indifferent to this. It’s just not a kitchen table issue.”

It’s worth noting that an amendment on another sports betting bill in Minnesota banned in-game betting.

SF 5330 sets limits on player losses

Marty’s bill includes other guardrails to protect bettors. For instance, the most a player can lose in a 24-hour period is $500. Also, players can’t lose more than $3,000 in a 30-day period. And the most money a customer can deposit into their account each day is set at $500.

Sheridan Tucker believes this is a great move, and one that more and more states could end up moving toward. She says that states rushed to legalize sports betting after the ban was lifted roughly six years ago, but they failed to consider the potential consequences.

“I think a number of states are already reconsidering what their initial bills were. This was rushed – very rushed – when the ban was listed in 2018. Statehouses were filled with lobbyists looking to pass sports betting. I think, in my mind, there wasn’t enough diligence and prudence in taking the time to understand what this was going to do to the gambling landscape. I think so many people still don’t understand, or accept, that gambling is a real addiction.”

Importance of treating problem gambling like any other addiction

At the root of it, Sheridan Tucker says problem gambling is a “public health issue.”

“And we need to treat it as such. And do the best that we can to protect those who are most vulnerable.”

She says there are 250,000 Minnesota residents who currently struggle with problem gambling. More than 50,000 Minnesotans would likely be diagnosed as having a gambling addiction.

Problem gambling does not discriminate. It can affect anyone, and the effects can be devastating. Aside from financial ruin, a gambling addiction can destroy relationships and families, Sheridan Tucker says.

“The percentage spent on substance use disorder, relatively, is hundreds times more than what is spent on problem gambling. We need some equity there. I’m not talking about equal amounts, but an equal ratio of services.”

Free resources available for Minnesotans suffering from problem gambling

There are several resources available to Minnesota residents who are suffering from problem gambling or have a loved one at risk.

Residents can call 800-333-4676 or text “HOPE” to 53342 for help. There’s also a helpline chat on the Minnesota Alliance on Problem Gambling’s website.

Treatment is free, Sheridan Tucker sresses.

“It’s not about judging people. It’s about offering them educational materials in which they can make more prudent decisions for themselves. If they find themselves needing help, then help is available.”

Her group is constantly evolving and producing new material in an effort to spread awareness. Sheridan Tucker told PlayMinnesota that the organization recently rolled out a toolkit for high school teachers and coaches to help combat problem gambling at a young age.

Photo by PlayMinnesota
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Adam Hensley

Adam Hensley is a journalist from Des Moines, Iowa, with experience covering online sports betting and gambling across Catena Media. His byline has appeared in the Associated Press, Sports Illustrated and sites within the USA Today Network. Hensley graduated from the University of Iowa in 2019 and spent his college career working for the Daily Iowan’s sports department, both as an editor and reporter.

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