Margaret Mead, a 20th-century American anthropologist and writer, once said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." While the founding members of a new Canadian collective aren't focused on changing the world, their group is committed to changing the way the world thinks about responsible gaming.
The Canadian Partnership for Responsible Gambling is a group of gaming operators, nonprofit organizations, research bodies and government agencies that shares information and then develops effective strategies for preventing problem gambling based on that information. Outlined in a mission paper, "Moving Forward," which explains the group's core beliefs, short-term goals as well as long-term objectives, the partnership's key initiatives aim to unite Canada in promoting responsible gaming.
"The partnership is about coming together as a group to look at emerging issues [related to responsible gambling] and address them as a group, instead of individually," said Jon Kelly, co-chairman of the Canadian Partnership for Responsible Gambling, as well as the CEO of the Responsible Gambling Council, which Kelly says is the "arms and legs of the partnership."
The main objective of the partnership, as outlined in "Moving Forward," is "to promote better understanding and implementation of responsible gaming programs through joint research, issue analysis and information sharing." To attain that goal, each member of the partnership pledges individually to share responsibility in preventing problem gambling, increase understanding of responsible gaming and share ideas. To help improve responsible gaming efforts on an individual level, the partnership also has outlined three core service functions that focus on developing a clearinghouse of data and research to improve responsible gaming measures, recruiting other Canadian organizations with a stake in responsible gaming to the partnership, and pooling partnership members' and affiliates' information and resources.
"[The partnership] is a forum for ideas and initiatives," Kelly said. "It's essentially a think tank for responsible gaming issues."
Prior to the formation of the Canadian Partnership for Responsible Gambling, the partnership was just an idea batted around by representatives from a few of Canada's gaming operators and nonprofit organizations, including the Responsible Gambling Council, at an annual responsible gaming forum. The group determined that while there is a lot of information about preventing problem gambling, it wasn't available in a collective format. By pooling the information and sharing it across provinces, it could be used to develop more effective industrywide solutions. At that point, the group elected a steering committee to research and execute the concept, and Kelly, as co-chairman of the committee, visited numerous Canadian gaming organizations required to promote responsible gaming to raise awareness about the new partnership initiative.
Today, the partnership is only a few months old, officially launching in late September. And with 10 members representing five provinces, the partnership already has finalized its first product, which fulfills one piece of the group's information sharing objective. The Canadian Gambling Digest is a comprehensive information clearinghouse containing data from a broad range of gambling activities. According to Kelly, the partnership developed this database in order to consolidate information from across the provinces, answering questions such as: How much money are gaming operators spending on problem gambling prevention efforts? How much is the government spending? And how many different responsible gaming programs are there in a specific province, and throughout Canada?
In its first year the partnership is committed to completing five specific work goals, including the gambling digest and launching the partnership Web site. But Kelly says right now, the partnership is focused on membership - recruiting gaming organizations to provide broader insight on responsible gaming. The group also is working on coordinating an annual forum of its members to map out future projects.
One project being discussed by partnership members is a study of self-exclusion, with the results recorded in theCanadian Gambling Digest. According to Kelly, this project is an example of how the partnership works to provide members with several unique accounts of a certain topic to find the most effective ways to treat the situation. "With self-exclusion, the situation is the same in all the provinces," Kelly said. "So let's explore the differences of each program and ask the same questions of each program. Eventually, we'll find out what works."
What sometimes arises from this type of information sharing is a need for further research, but the partnership was not created to use its funds for that purpose, says Kelly. Instead, the partnership will identify the initiatives that might help in the prevention of problem gambling, and then each member can decide if it wants to participate in the financing of the study.
"Out of respect for the regional differences [of the Canadian gaming industry], we didn't want to set up an organization that would require everyone to participate in every initiative - it's flexible," Kelly said. "This group is a forum for ideas and initiatives, not setting the rules."