Kindbridge Research Could Change Responsible Gambling Programs In CO, Across US

Written By Cole Rush on 02/08/2024
Red dice that says Leader among regular dice next to logo for Kindbridge Research Institute, whose research may change responsible gambling programs in CO, across US

It’s hard to parse the serious from the fluff in an industry full of buzzwords. Perhaps no two terms are more overused than “responsible gambling” and “problem gambling.” Often peppered with the best of intentions, these terms are hard to define despite their huge impact on gambling operators. Kindbridge Behavioral Health and Kindbridge Research Institute are promoting a new approach to combat problem gambling, backed by research from Rutgers. Funding for the research game from the CODOG Responsible Gaming 2023 Grants. Additionally, Playtech helped kickstart the project three years ago, laying some of the foundational groundwork for the later research.

Dr. Lia Nower, Distinguished Professor and Director of the Rutgers Center for Gambling Studies, led the Kindbridge-commissioned study to map problem gambling risk factors and publicly available data and compare it with the availability of treatment options.

The resulting findings could reshape how Colorado responsible gambling programs — and those across the US — address problem gambling.

The GIS-Based Risk Analysis from Rutgers maps the potential for gambling-related harm, and the findings are publicly available from the Rutgers Center for Gambling Studies.

Nower told PlayColorado:

“We start with a basic layer of a geographic location, such as Colorado,” she said. “On top of that, we pull in different demographic variables from the US Census and other publicly available data. We can then superimpose the location of certified gambling providers, casino locations, race tracks, etc.”

The story map allows viewers to display high-risk areas with many gambling options and overlay the availability of certified problem gambling treatment options. The data — collected from public sources and readily available to all — can help operators, regulators, and other stakeholders form a cohesive, responsible gambling strategy.

Identifying risk factors

The first step of the study was identifying risk factors, which are available in the story map. Problem gambling can affect anyone, and the demographic information reflects that. Nower outlines some of the primary risk factors:

“There’s a bimodal distribution by income. People with lower incomes—like under $35,000 a year—and people with higher incomes—$100,000 or higher—are more likely to gamble with higher intensity. Certain ethnic minority groups have higher rates of problem gambling as well.”

Those are just a few of the at-risk populations. Men tend to gamble more than women, for example. Active military and veterans who are on isolated bases or have a history of trauma may be more likely to present with problem gambling. Kids who are exposed to gambling at home are more likely to have high risk later in life.

The data can sort populations based on these and other risk factors and then display gambling providers such as lottery locations, casinos, and more. Another layer can show where problem gamblers have the most access to potential treatment.

Finding help: The where and the how

As you might expect or even see for yourself within the Rutgers story map, problem gambling treatment is complicated to come by. Further, it’s often limited in areas where gamblers are at the most risk.

Many of Colorado’s most populated areas — Denver, Colorado Springs, and Longmont — have a smattering of treatment centers, including SAMSHA treatment facilities, Gambling Anonymous meetings, and International Gambling Counselor Certification Board-approved providers.

But other pockets of the state have little to no support for problem gamblers. Some areas with limited internet access can’t use telehealth as an alternative treatment option, either.

In other words, this data can help the whole industry develop strategies and implement new treatment options to support at-risk gamblers specifically.

From anecdote to antidote

Dr. Nathan Smith, Executive Director of Kindbridge Research Institute, has a background in psychiatric epidemiology. That’s a fancy phrase for someone who studies how mental health issues spread through populations.

He notes that responsible gambling strategies have little direction, and this newly curated data could present heaps of opportunities to improve treatment options and availability.

“There’s no more excuses,” Smith told PlayColorado. “Right now, it’s like there’s a goal, and then everyone’s running around doing random activities. Those activities may or may not have anything to do with the goal. If you’re making Thanksgiving dinner, you don’t want someone in the garage building a birdhouse. When you can see where problems are likely to happen and where the gaps are, you can shape a responsible gambling strategy that actually works.”

Daniel Umfleet, founder and CEO of Kindbridge, hopes for a more research-based approach to problem gambling solutions. He told PlayColorado:

“When I first entered this industry, I would ask stakeholders: what data are you using? What information do you have that actually helps you build a cohesive strategy to provide the right kind of regulations, policies, and consumer protections? And all I’d ever get was anecdotal information.”

Naturally, anecdotes didn’t translate well into wide-scale solutions to reach problem gamblers. Umfleet cited data that could theoretically help but wouldn’t do much in practice.

“You might get a stat like the hotline rang 30,000 times ina month, but it lacked any directional information,” he said. “Like, where were those calls from? How many of those calls led to intakes and treatment?”

Some calls to hotlines, Umfleet noted, would just be complaints or misdials in addition to the individuals presenting for help. The data operators and regulators need to act on can’t be hearsay or 10,000-foot data. It needs to be widely available and pulled from reliable sources. That was the spark for Kindbridge to commission the study with Rutgers.

Umfleet and Smith hope it will fan the flame to bring more attention to reliable and sustainable problem gambling help.

What’s the next step?

Kindbridge hopes Colorado is just the beginning. Once Rutgers completed the Colorado map, it became clear that the data could be useful in other states, such as New Jersey. Work is underway to replicate the process and expand on it by adding another layer to highlight online betting volume.

As for immediate action, Umfleet believes this approach should make it easier for leadership everywhere to better understand the gambling prevention, education, and treatment landscape in their jurisdictions and it could inform RG and PG marketing tactics.

“This data could be used to inform advertising strategies,” he said, “and how regulators, advocacy groups, community health providers, and public and behavioral health departments spend their dollars on RG campaigns or Problem Gambling Awareness campaigns. When you can see with utmost clarity which areas of your population are most at risk it should impact how you advertise to them, how you outfit the areas with educational and prevention oriented resources, and how you capacity plan in the surrounding health systems for when a person with a gambling problem presents in those areas.”

He also recommends more coverage for problem gambling treatment services, including more training for clinicians.

Smith says it’s an ongoing journey to discover how the data can be implemented into holistic strategies to combat problem gambling.

“I’m not a decision-maker in Colorado or any other legal gambling state,” he said. “We’re providing the information and letting them take it and run. Some focus on a particular area at first, such as upping their protections for veterans or a specific demographic.”

Even so, Smith, Umfleet, and Kindbriudge have noticed stakeholders asking for help, and they’re working on more robust recommendations for implementing their findings into actual, actionable responsible gambling resources.

Photo by PlayColorado
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Cole Rush

Cole Rush writes words. A lot of them. Most of those words can be found in gambling publications such as PlayIllinois, iGaming Business, Gaming Today,,, ICE 365, and IGB North America. Cole also covers pop culture and books for and Cole has more than eight years of experience writing about gambling and entertainment.

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