Kindbridge Using Public Data, New Research to Improve Problem Gambling

Kindbridge Research Institute recently commissioned a study with Rutgers to map populations at risk for problem gambling against treatment options available in Colorado. The findings—all curated using publicly available data—provide a new lens through which stakeholders can take stock of their approaches to responsible gambling and strategies to help problem gamblers get help.

The study started with Colorado, but Kindbridge and Rutgers see the potential for a much broader impact in gambling markets across the US. Funding came from CODOG Responsible Gaming Grants. Playtech was also fundamental in laying the foundation for the research—work began on the project three years ago.

I spoke with Dr. Lia Nower, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Rutgers Center for Gambling Studies; Dr. Nathan Smith, Executive Director of Kindbridge Research Institute; and Daniel Umfleet, Founder and CEO of Kindbridge Behavioral Health, to better understand the data and how it can change responsible gambling for the better.

Before I dive right in, I recommend readers open the story map to follow along. It allows you to toggle risk factors and compare gambling opportunities in relation to available treatment centers.

Risk Factors: A Data Deep Dive

The section of the story map showcases the potential risk factors for problem gambling. Various factors can contribute to a person’s risk for problem gambling, including socioeconomic background, education, ethnicity, gender, geography, employment status, and more.

Here’s Dr. Lia Nower expanding on at-risk communities and groups:

“Veterans and active military have higher rates of problem gambling,” she said, noting that base isolation and trauma can contribute to problem gambling risk. “Children in homes where members of the household gamble are more likely to gamble frequently and engage in other behaviors such as drinking or substance abuse.”

Dr. Nower also highlights how income can affect a person’s risk for presenting problem gambling behaviors. Individuals below the poverty line have higher risk, and so do well-off individuals earning more than $100,000 annually. Unemployed people are at risk, too.

The story map allows you to toggle these and other risk factors to show where these populations are most prevalent in Colorado. And that’s just the beginning. The real strategy-shaping comes in when you compare the risk factors with the accessibility and density of problem gambling treatment.

Treatment Availability For Potential Problem Gamblers

The next portion of the story map lets you overlay accessible treatment options with the availability of gambling, be it lottery, racetracks, casinos, or other formats. Dr. Nathan Smith noted a few key findings.

“We have these urban pockets where there are folks who have a high risk score and plenty of access to treatment,” he said. “But then you have rural or less-populated pockets with access to gambling but very little treatment channels.”

Plus, in geographically remote areas, some people may have little to no internet access, which further bottlenecks their ability to seek treatment via options like telehealth. The data—all publicly available and primarily pulled from the US census, among other sources—can tell us a lot about the people who may need help. Smith continued:

“We’re looking to find people who may be vulnerable. Who are they? Where do they live? What do they look like? What are the opportunities to reach out to them? What are they playing?”

The data gives us answers to all of these questions in simple terms. In turn, those answers can become helpful tweaks to existing responsible gaming initiatives. This is crucial because, as Dr. Smith puts it:

“Folks with the most problems are the hardest to reach by typical measures.”

He mentioned this in the context of studies and academia, but it’s not a far leap to conclude the same is true for people who experience problem gambling. They need help to get help, and it’s a complex cycle to break without the right tools and information.

Fortunately, Kindbridge and Rutgers think their research can make a big difference.

Rethinking Responsible Gambling Strategies

With all this readily accessible data at its fingertips, the industry can make significant changes to responsible gambling strategies and problem gambling responses. Daniel Umfleet, Founder and CEO of Kindbridge, said the advent of this research could be a benchmark for the industry.

“What information do stakeholders have that actually helps build a cohesive strategy and inform regulations, policies, or consumer protections? I would ask people these types of things, and they would only ever have anecdotal information in response.”

As you might’ve guessed, anecdotal evidence just won’t cut it, especially in the US markets, which each have their own regulatory and legal quirks. With cold, hard facts in hand—a far cry from unhelpful data like 30,000 calls on the hotline with no context—operators, regulators, and other organizations can start to think clearly about responsible gambling.

Dr. Nathan Smith, who himself has a background in Psychiatric Epidemiology and has run many studies in the past, has some hilariously contradictory advice for industry leaders:

“Big prevalence studies aren’t going to help here. It’s hard to get enough of a sample size to adequately measure problem gambling. Instead, you need to use the data to build a response strategy. In a way, it’s like we’ve skipped a step, or at least it looks like that. This data was a three-plus year undertaking. Now it’s about translating this data into solutions.”

By carefully analyzing the research and building strategies informed by it, responsible gambling stakeholders can find out where they need to invest.

While Kindbridge and Rutgers have driven the research to where it is now, operators, suppliers, and regulators must accept the hand-off and rethink their approach to responsible gambling. Revised strategies should factor in the most at-risk populations, the availability of treatment, internet access, and new advertising paradigms.

Looking Ahead

Now that the research is available to all and Colorado has provided a great case study, other states have seen the value.

“Colorado was the first one to jump on this,” said Daniel Umfleet. “New Jersey saw value in what we were doing with Rutgers, and we quickly realized other states would benefit.”

Now, Kindbridge is replicating the story map for other markets and expanding on it, especially concerning online gambling volume.

About the Author
Cole Rush

Cole Rush

Writer and Contributor
Cole Rush is an industry writer and contributor at Gaming Today. He is a Chicago-based writer in the gambling and media spaces. His work has been showcased in various gaming industry magazines and online columns. Rush also covers pop culture and books for Reactor Mag (formerly Tor.com) and TheQuillToLive.com, a sci-fi and fantasy book review site. He has more than eight years of experience writing about gambling and entertainment.

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