ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — High-risk problem gambling in New Jersey declined slightly even as sports betting took off in the state, according to a report issued Thursday.
But the report by Rutgers University and paid for by the state’s gambling enforcement division found that such problem gambling remains three times higher in New Jersey than the national level.
Compiled between Dec. 2020 and April 2021, the report examines 15 types of gambling, including in-person or online casino gambling; buying lottery tickets or scratch-off instant tickets; betting on sports or horses; playing bingo, keno or fantasy sports, and engaging in high-risk stock trades, which it considers a form of gambling.
“We are taking a comprehensive look at the pervasiveness of gambling across the state,” said Attorney General Matthew Platkin, adding the report may better identify challenges for at-risk populations and spur the creation of programs to help them.
Lia Nower of Rutgers University’s School of Social Work, Center for Gambling Studies, said the state is trying to learn as much as it can about gamblers’ activities to spot problems and offer help.
“New Jersey has led the nation in evaluating every bet placed online, and addressing the impact of wagering on its residents,” she said. “This report provides evidence to guide prevention and education efforts for those at highest risk for gambling problems: Younger adults, members of ethnic and racial minority groups, and those who gamble on multiple activities and bet both online and in land-based venues.”
It is the first such report since 2017, an initial study commissioned to evaluate the impact of internet gambling, which began in the state in Nov. 2013.
The report found that even as sports betting grew rapidly in New Jersey — whose U.S. Supreme Court challenge to a federal gambling law cleared the way in 2018 for an explosion of such activity in more than two-thirds of the country — the overall rate of high-risk problem gambling decreased from 6.3% to 5.6%.
But that’s still three times the national rate, the report said. Low to moderate-risk gambling also decreased from about 15% to about 13%.
New Jersey has taken several steps to address problem gambling, including making it easier for people to self-exclude themselves from betting; naming a statewide coordinator in charge of all responsible gambling efforts; setting advertising standards for casinos and sports betting companies; and working with companies to use technology to monitor online betting and to offer assistance to at-risk patrons.
The report found that 61% of New Jerseyans took part in at least one gambling activity in the previous 12 months, down from 70% in the earlier report.
It also found that participation in sports betting increased from 15% in 2017 to over 19% in 2021, ad that the percentage of people doing all their gambling online tripled over that period, from 5% to 15%.
At the same time, the percentage of people whose gambling was done solely in-person at casinos dropped from nearly 76% to 49%, mirroring concerns from Atlantic City casino executives worried about the fact that many of the nine casinos have not yet returned to pre-pandemic business levels in terms of money won from in-person gamblers.
The most popular form of gambling remained purchasing lottery tickets (73%), which declined about 7% in popularity, and instant scratch-off tickets (59.1%), which also declined by about 5%.
About 25% of those surveyed engaged in high-risk stock trading, including trading in options or margins, a nearly seven-fold increase over the prior survey.
The report also found that participants who gambled were significantly more likely than non-gamblers to use tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs; to binge-drink, and to report drug use and mental health problems.
Researchers from the Rutgers University School of Social Work, Center for Gambling Studies surveyed 3,512 New Jersey adults by telephone or online questionnaires, and analyzed their self-reported patterns of gambling activities.
Follow Wayne Parry on X, formerly known as Twitter, at www.twitter.com/WayneParryAC