September 21, 2018 | ° F

Rutgers to conduct research to study Internet gambling behaviors

Photo by Michelle Klejmont |

Internet gambling became legal in New Jersey in February 2013 after it received overwhelming support by the New Jersey legislature. 

A research study that is about to begin at Rutgers could result in finding newer methods to help fight gambling addictions, said Richard Edwards, executive vice president of Academic Affairs and chancellor of the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus.

The Center for Gambling Studies at the Rutgers University School of Social Work will begin their study analyzing Internet gambling in the United States this January, after receiving a $1.2 million award by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement in partnership with the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, said Lia Nower, director of the Center for Gambling Studies and professor in the School of Social Work.

Once Gov. Chris Christie signed the Internet gaming statute of the Casino Control Act in February 2013, Internet gambling became legal in the state of New Jersey.

The extensive three-year long study is an effort to attempt to properly understand and analyze Internet betting behaviors and potential addictions in the wake of New Jersey’s passing of this act, Nower said.

NJDGE spokesperson Kerry Langan said the research study is essentially a response to the statute Christie imposed, which states the DMHS should put out an annual report on the impact of Internet gaming on problem gamblers and gambling addiction in New Jersey.

The statute specifies that the report would be prepared by a private organization or entity with expertise in serving the needs of persons with gambling addictions, Langan said. 

The NJDGE’s funding for the Center for Gambling Studies’ research was not provided by taxpayer money, Langan said, but instead by “casino licensees who have been authorized by the Division to conduct Internet gaming.”

Nower, the principal investigator of the NJDGE-funded project, said even though it might be difficult to recognize a problem gambler, behavior patterns of responsible gamblers could be recorded for a further comparative analysis. 

“Since gamblers don’t take clinical instruments before they gamble, we won’t know which ones have symptoms of problem gambling,” Nower said. “But we can investigate the betting patterns of those who access responsible gambling features like limiting money spent or self-exclusion.”

Describing the study overall as “longitudinal,” Nower and her colleagues plan to set a baseline to measure the initial popularity of Internet gambling before conducting a series of follow-up phone or Internet questionnaires that measure changes in frequency.

“The prevalence study will give us a snapshot of who gambles on the Internet, whether they develop problems from Internet alone or from a combination of gambling forms,” Nower said. “We [the Center] are doing sophisticated statistical analyses of betting patterns in one part of the study. No other study has done that with multiple vendors.” 

In addition to being the first representative prevalence study of Internet gambling in the state of New Jersey, the follow-ups are structured in such a way that statistical analysis from the Center of Gambling Studies would reveal large-scale increases or decreases in Internet betting on an annual basis. 

Along with the Center for Gambling Studies and the Division of Gaming Enforcement, Edwards is eager to see what Nower and her colleagues will accomplish with their research. 

Nower is an internationally recognized scholar on gambling addiction who has not only done extensive work in the United States, but also in Canada and Australia. Rutgers hired her due to her experience and research capabilities, and Edwards said she is well-suited to lead this study.

As chancellor of the New Brunswick campus, Edwards is happy to see that a study that could have positive far-reaching implications for Internet gambling in and beyond New Jersey is being done at Rutgers.

“In the sense that any of the research we do here — we are a major research university and a public university here in the state of New Jersey,” Edwards said. “I think that when we do research that has the possibility of having a positive impact on the residents of our state, that’s a great contribution.”

While it is difficult to speculate any sort of impact that could occur from the conclusion of the study three years from now, the potential of influencing future legislation or revisions of the Casino Control Act is great, Edwards said.

“What I hope will come out of this study is a much better understanding of the impact of Internet gambling on the lives of the individuals that have the propensity for being problem gamblers, and perhaps some of the impact it has on their families as well,” Edwards said. 

Dan Corey

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