Wondr Nation Donates $250K to Responsible Gaming Research at UConn

Wondr Nation, the digital gaming unit of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, this week announced a major donation to fund responsible gaming research at the University of Connecticut.

Wondr Nation Foxwoods responsible gaming UConn
Wondr Nation, the online gaming entity of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, is donating $250K to the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine to fund responsible gaming research. The Mashantucket’s primary economic engine is its Foxwoods Resort Casino. (Image: University of Connecticut)

The Mashantucket, which own and operate Foxwoods Resort Casino in the tribe’s home state of Connecticut, formed Wondr Nation in May 2022 after the state agreed to allow its two federally recognized tribes to operate online gaming. The expansion of the Mashantucket and Mohegan Tribe’s Class III gaming compacts allows the Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun operators to conduct iGaming and both retail and mobile sports betting.

Foxwoods partnered with DraftKings to help the tribe manage its online and in-person sports betting operations. Wondr Nation is billed as “an online gaming entertainment company focused on partnering with best-in-class gaming platforms and using emerging technologies and trends to create new and exciting experiences for players.”

Wondr Nation operates Foxwoods’ free-to-play social casino, FoxwoodsONLINE, and is collaborating with DraftKings on the co-branded Foxwoods iGaming and sportsbook product in Connecticut. DraftKings and Wondr Nation will also soon debut sports betting operations at the Foxwoods El San Juan Casino in Puerto Rico.

Nonproblem Play in Focus

Foxwoods is one of the largest and most financially successful tribal casinos in the US. As a result, the tribe says it has a public duty to encourage responsible play.

The Mashantucket have long funded responsible gaming programs, and that’s been extended to its Wondr Nation subsidiary. In April, Wondr Nation announced a $300K per year donation to the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling (CCPG) to support the organization’s efforts to limit problem gambling through education, prevention, and awareness.

Wondr Nation expanded on its responsible gaming funding this week by announcing a $250K grant to the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine to support research into responsible gaming best practices. The goal is to grow nonproblem play while reducing erratic behaviors.

A tribal statement to Casino.org said the money is for a two-year grant establishing the Wonder Nation Responsible and Sustainable Gaming Fund. Anika Howard, president and CEO of the interactive gaming unit, said the research will focus on player safety and community development.

“We take responsible play very seriously and are proud to work closely with UConn researchers to increase player safety, fund critical research, and invest in our communities,” Howard said.

Foxwoods opted to remain smoke-free in the COVID-19 pandemic’s aftermath. Responsible gaming advocates say requiring smokers to go outdoors to light up can actually help alleviate rates of problem gambling.

Updated Protocols Needed

The Wondr Nation money will fall under the oversight of Carla Rash, an associate professor at the UConn School of Medicine. Rash says the rapid expansion of online sports betting across the country, as well as iGaming in more than a handful of states, including Connecticut, has necessitated the need for more research into best responsible gaming practices.

I am excited to work with Wondr Nation to examine the impact of rapid changes in the gaming landscape on our community and work toward enhancing responsible gaming strategies in online gaming environments,” Rash said.

Wondr Nation’s donation comes on the heels of September being designated as “Responsible Gaming Education Month” by the American Gaming Association. The trade group works for commercial and tribal gaming interests in the nation’s capital.

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