BOSTON (State House News Service) – For more than three hours Tuesday afternoon, the Gaming Commission regulators who are in the midst of making legal sports betting a reality in Massachusetts huddled with responsible gaming researchers and experts, a regulator from another state and others in the industry to wrap their arms around the ways that responsible play efforts intersect with sports wagering.

The discussion was wide-ranging and touched upon how the voluntary self-exclusion program that exists for Massachusetts casino-style gambling might need to be adapted to work best for sports betting, whether and how to restrict sports betting advertising, and what can be expected and required of sports betting operators in terms of player and public health protections. The commission made no decisions during Tuesday’s roundtable, which was the second in a planned series of sports betting-related deep dives.

Alan Feldman, a distinguished fellow in responsible gaming at the University of Nevada Las Vegas’s International Gaming Institute, kicked off the discussion Tuesday by pointing out that the academic research knowledge base around sports betting and problem gambling “is very thin and very young.”

“I’m gonna use air quotes here for the word ‘know’ — what we believe we may know may actually not turn out to be true in six months or six years time, depending on how our research is is able to continue to guide us,” he said.

Michael Wohl, a professor in the psychology department at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, backed Feldman up and emphasized the need for even more research on the topic as more states legalize betting.

“I agree that it’s green, and that we need stronger methodologies and research funding to truly understand the causes and consequences of making sports betting legal,” Wohl said. “For many, sports betting presents a means to enhance their enjoyment of sports events. For others, it’s going to cause severe financial, personal and interpersonal problems. And what leads one to one path versus another, we still need to better understand it.”

Researchers from the Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts (SEIGMA) project at UMass Amherst last week reported to the commission that an estimated 13 to 20 percent (and rising) of the Massachusetts population bets on sports. That rate, the SEIGMA team said, “is very similar to the prevalence rate in other states where sports betting has been legally operational for several years.”

While sports betting takes place across demographics, the research team found the activity is most popular among young, well-educated men.

“Problem and at-risk gambling is significantly higher among sports bettors, including in Massachusetts,” the researchers said. But it was not clear that sports betting itself is a riskier activity than other gambling.

“The relationship between sports betting and problem gambling is not straightforward,” the SEIGMA researchers wrote. “While people who bet on sports tend to have higher rates of problem gambling, this does not identify the unique contribution of sports betting to problem gambling, as most sports bettors engage in several different types of gambling, all of which likely contribute to their problems.”

The SEIGMA team made a slew of recommendations in its report, a few of which hit upon issues debated on Beacon Hill when the House and Senate were working towards a final sports betting bill.

Among the suggestions is that Massachusetts ban betting on any collegiate sports in any jurisdiction. That was the approach that the state Senate wanted to take before ultimately agreeing to a bill that bans bets on Massachusetts colleges and universities unless they are playing in a tournament. House Speaker Ronald Mariano, whose chamber passed a bill to allow betting on all college sporting events, said he didn’t see the point of legalizing wagering if collegiate betting was going to remain exclusive to the illicit market.

The researchers also proposed that Massachusetts ban in-play betting, or wagers on things like whether the next pitch in a baseball game will be a ball or a strike, because that type of betting “is disproportionately utilized by problem gamblers.”

Gaming Commission Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said the SEIGMA report, which the commission asked for last fall in anticipation of being put in charge of legal sports betting, “will aid the MGC as we begin to regulate a sports wagering industry in the Commonwealth with an uncompromising focus on integrity and player safety.”

The Gaming Commission, in its own snapshot summarizing the SEIGMA research team’s findings, concluded that, if it implements the activity “in the right fashion,” legal sports betting presents the opportunity for “some modest economic benefits for Massachusetts that could offset a small and temporary increase in gambling-related harm.”

“Legalizing sports betting in MA would likely increase the rates of gambling-related harm and gambling problems. However, the magnitude of these impacts is likely to be modest,” the commission wrote. “This is because current rates of sports betting in MA is similar to states where it has been legal for some years and because only a small proportion of the MA population (13% – 20%) participates in sports betting. Hence, even a high rate of gambling problems among sports bettors would have a fairly small effect on the overall rate in the population.”

The commission meets again Thursday for a meeting that is expected to focus mostly on sports betting implementation. Topics on the agenda include a discussion and possible vote related to a process for temporary sports betting licenses, and a discussion and possible vote on whether the commission will seek to launch in-person betting at its casinos, slots parlor and simulcast centers before or at the same time as it launches mobile and online betting.