Last month, BetMGM and Kindbridge began a program in Colorado to increase access to mental health services for problem gamblers. The pilot program gives players access to telehealth meetings with specialized professionals trained to help people struggling with gambling.
PlayColorado touched base with Daniel Umfleet, founder and CEO of Kindbridge, and Richard Taylor, senior manager responsible gambling for BetMGM, to discuss the program and what it provides to Colorado bettors.
Laying the groundwork
Umfleet’s career started in consultancy. Umfleet worked in two industries: oil and health care.
“When I got into the health care side, it started to become a passion.”
That passion turned into projects at Stanford, Mayo Clinic, Iowa Health Systems, and many other clients. In July 2020, when it became clear telehealth was here to stay, Umfleet founded Kindbridge.
“People still needed access to health care, so we built a network of care providers underpinned by four major health insurance companies across the US. We’re live in 43 states, Ontario and Puerto Rico. As we’ve grown, we started to directly integrate with operators like BetMGM so we could connect with players on that level.”
Taylor said Kindbridge lived up to its name, overcoming a gap in BetMGM’s services.
“One of the important elements of our self-exclusion and account closure process is that we’re providing these individuals with every opportunity to get effective and meaningful treatment. Prior to Kindbridge, we didn’t have the right resources. The telehealth aspect was key for us. This is going to change how operators assist customers.”
The BetMGM and Kindbridge customer journey
If a BetMGM customer decides to self-exclude, the Kindbridge program kicks in. It’s also kick-started if BetMGM notices particular warning signs of problem gambling and decides to reach out to a Colorado bettor directly, Taylor said.
“When we’re closing an account, we send a final email reaffirming the player’s decision to exclude and providing them with encouragement and resources. The Kindbridge link will be at the top of our resource list along with an explanation of how it can help.”
The service primarily targets players who choose to self-exclude, but BetMGM will occasionally flag problematic behaviors and do direct outreach to players. Taylor said the BetMGM responsible gambling team performs a thorough analysis of player behaviors and checks in with those who might need treatment.
It’s also essential to understand the significance of self-exclusion, Taylor said.
“That’s a big deal. It’s often the first step toward recognizing they have a serious problem. So, from our perspective, we want to be sure we’re assisting those players and providing a warm handoff to effective care and resources.”
That’s where Kindbridge comes in. Once a player gets in touch with Kindbridge, the process is fairly straightforward, according to Umfleet.
“First, they answer a series of quick questions so we can gather some information. Then, the player scheduled a quick call with an intake provider to explain what complimentary services they get. This includes the intake call and an in-depth mental health assessment.”
Next is a meeting with a licensed provider to walk the player through the professional’s interpretation of the assessment. The player and provider work together on a care plan. If the player wants, they can be connected to support and educational groups as well, Umfleet said.
“We try to make the user journey as quick and easy as possible, so once they’re in the system, we can help them find the care they need.”
Working with trained professionals
To get problem gamblers the help they need, Kindbridge and BetMGM had to ensure they could get access to properly trained professionals, Umfleet said.
“If you take a macro-level view, this area is drastically underserved.”
To remedy the lack of gambling-specific mental health support, Umfleet and Kindbrige engaged in research to find qualified providers across the country and identify regions with big gaps.
“Basically, we found a big ocean of nothingness.”
Kindbridge aimed to build capacity and create an environment that would get therapists the hours they need while also allowing them the opportunity to get certified in problem gambling treatment. The program focused on finding qualified mental health professionals alongside building easy access for problem gamblers.
Colorado was the perfect state to launch the pilot program, Umfleet said.
“Colorado just made it easy. Regulators are starting to require risk scoring, and Colorado took it one step further, asking for a comprehensive communication strategy and a plan for what we’d do when we found people in risk categories. It opened the door for this program, and it made it clear to us that Colorado is going above and beyond.”
He also explained that the Kindbridge program isn’t just a communication strategy. It’s a direct path to care. Taylor believes programs like this will encourage regulators to think ahead and plan for deep, helpful initiatives that support problem gamblers.
“The amount of support we received from the state’s Division of Gaming really affirmed our decision to start with Colorado.”
Both Umfleet and Taylor emphasize that education of responsible gambling in Colorado is just the beginning.
Responsible gambling is an ongoing commitment
Taylor said he and his counterparts take responsible gambling very seriously.
“As competitive as the industry can be, when it comes to responsible gambling, we’re all on the same team. We didn’t want exclusivity here; it was the exact opposite. I’m actively encouraging other operators to jump on board with Kindbridge so we can continue to sustainably promote responsible gambling.”
The natural next question is: Are operators doing enough? Taylor is proud of the work BetMGM does in the space, though he admits there’s always more to be done.
“We’re committed to continuous improvement and research and working together to identify customer behaviors and use that information to find the best ways and times to engage with them.”
Kindbridge is looking ahead
The BetMGM and Kindbridge partnership opened the floodgates. Following the announcement, Kindbridge quickly scooped up a deal with DraftKings. Backing from two of the world’s biggest operators has created a wellspring of opportunity, Umfleet said.
“Now that we have buy-in at this level, I’m suddenly flooded in a very good way. A lot of dominoes will fall in quick succession.”
Umfleet and Kindbridge don’t want to overextend, though. He notes that the company will focus on its current partnerships and ensure they scale up at a reasonable pace.