West Virginia House committee advances responsible gaming bill mandating data sharing with academics

West Virginia House Bill 5668, also known as the Responsible Gaming and Research Act (RGRA), secured approval from the House Judiciary Committee on Friday. The legislation mandates gambling operators and intermediaries in West Virginia to furnish anonymized player data to West Virginia University (WVU).

WVU, in turn, will collaborate with the State Lottery Commission’s Department of Human Services to research problematic and addictive gambling behaviors. The objective is to garner insights that will inform future legislative measures, enhancing the safety of gambling practices, WTRF reported.

Spearheaded by Speaker of the House Roger Hanshaw, the bill has found support from Representative Shawn Fluharty, the President of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States.

Sheila Moran, Director of Marketing and Communications at First Choice Services, emphasized the timeliness of the initiative, noting that existing gambling helplines rely on a national study that dates back over two decades.

“So, people ask us all the time, how big of a problem is gambling addiction in West Virginia? And we think it’s a pretty big problem. But that’s based on helpline data and communications with people in the community. So, we can’t say for certain because there’s never been a real prevalence study done here,” Moran was quoted as saying in the report.

RGRA addresses privacy concerns by ensuring that data provided under the Act will not be considered a public record, safeguarding it from Freedom of Information Act requests. If enacted, the RGRA could yield an annual report as early as 2026.

Most of the research that we have in the gambling addiction field is based on self-report, and we all know that sometimes people aren’t forthright in self-report. You know, they’ve done studies on things like alcohol consumption and physical activity and church attendance. And when they compare what people say they do versus what the data shows, there is a discrepancy,” Moran explained.

The expert notes the same scenario occurs with gambling, especially problem gambling, with discrepancies occurring between self-reports and research conducted by third parties.

I think it would be very interesting to have the actual data from how people are truly behaving online, how they’re spending money. We know that there are certain tells in the data that will indicate problem gambling, and we would really like to know how much of that we’re dealing with that would help us, help us know how to target our efforts,” Moran said.

RGRA is now poised for consideration by the West Virginia House.