A new institute at Miami University of Ohio hopes to provide an academic element as the state moves into sports betting.
The Institute for Responsible Gaming, Lotteries and Sport formed earlier this year with the intent to contribute research-based solutions to gaming addiction problems.
“We feel there’s a need for objective research to be done in this area and we have some experience in a number of categories we think would be important,” Randi Thomas, the institute’s executive director, told PlayOhio. “The Institute has the expertise to provide assistance the regulators can benefit from.”
With the Ohio Senate passing sports betting legislation in June and conferees set for the chambers to work out the final details this fall, there’s optimism that Ohio will legalize online sports betting by the end of the year.
Legislation could include ways to get the Institute data for comprehensive collection and analysis.
What an academic institute could contribute in Ohio
Thomas began working on the institute last year when it looked like Ohio could pass sports betting legislation. Then-Sen. Bill Coley welcomed the idea and worked with Thomas on the tenets of the institute.
“To have an academic powerhouse like Miami University there to assist regulators in developing tools to properly enforce the law and help people will be wonderful,” Coley said. “With sports betting, you have issues of consumer protection, anti-money laundering, problem gambling and tax collecting. We’ve got to have comprehensive data analysis as part of all that. We believe the Institute can be an integral part of the data analytical team.”
Coley, a former president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, now serves as a consultant for the institute.
The institute has lined up faculty from different areas of the University to provide their expertise. These include Prof. Adam Beissel, who specializes in sports leadership and management; psychology Prof. Matthew McMurray, who leads a neuroscience laboratory that studies the brain systems that control decision-making; and economics Prof. Austin Smith.
Graduate and undergraduate students also will take part in the gaming research under faculty leadership.
“We think we bring a robust team that would be able to address problem gaming and other issues related to gaming,” Thomas said. “We hope legislators and decision makers see us as a resource.”
Getting buy-in from regulators and stakeholders
But for the institute to make an impact, it needs cooperation from lawmakers, regulators and the industry.
Mainly, it needs data on which the professors can run their analytics. Rick Anthony, deputy director of the Ohio Casino Control Commission, told PlayOhio that the Commission is working with the Institute to determine what information is available and what is the best way to get that data to the University.
“We want to narrow down what is needed and possibly pursue a legislative change that would enable/require betting venues to provide useful information,” Anthony said. “We are excited about the possibilities of this project and see us assisting in any way possible.”
Thomas hopes operators provide the institute with data of all bets placed in Ohio. The data wouldn’t include names or personal information, but assign numbers to a bettor.
With that data, Thomas believes the Institute can create a prediction model for gaming behaviors and detecting patterns of addiction. And that could help Ohioans with problem gambling tendencies before they reach a point of despair.
Once sports betting begins in Ohio, the Institute will address legislative questions on which the Institute can run data analysis. By providing this proof of concept, Thomas hopes to eventually get state funding for the Institute.
Rep. Bill Seitz, one of the House conferees on sports betting, told PlayOhio that he welcomes the Institute. He sees the legislature using the Institute for analysis the way it does the Scripps Gerontology Institute at Miami University.