This month during Responsible Gaming Education Week will mark the beginning of the unofficial countdown to implementation of the AGA Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming.
This means that, for our member companies who have not already incorporated the various provisions included in the code, new procedures and materials are going to be put into place in order to meet the Sept. 15 deadline. The requirement to “make available to patrons and employees information generally explaining the probabilities of winning or losing at the various games offered by the casino” is a new challenge for many in our industry. While some information, such as payback percentages for slot machines, may be available to the public through state regulatory agencies, it is not understandable to the average player and not readily accessible. As a result, the AGA, working with its member companies, has created an “odds brochure” to educate patrons in a concise and user-friendly way about the probabilities of winning or losing at the various games offered by casinos.
The odds brochure, which will be available this summer in AGA member company casinos, emphasizes that casino gaming is about fun and entertainment and should not be viewed by customers as a means for supplementing their income. It also details the house advantage for almost every game on the casino floor, including slots and table games, and provides an explanation of other factors that can — or cannot — influence the outcome of a game.
To fulfill this and other provisions of the code, the AGA has launched for members only an interactive resource guide, a comprehensive electronic tool kit of print materials and helpful Web links. Each provision can be accessed through a hyperlinked index, giving the user easy access to related materials and information. Users can order materials that are ready to go to the printer as well as files that can be customized with company logos and other state-specific information. There also are links to the AGA e-store to allow users to order videos, monographs and other code-related resources.
A version without the resource links is available on the AGA Web site for nonmembers, media and others interested in learning about the code. It also will be released on CD-ROM later this year and will be available for purchase through our e-store.
In addition to the debut of our odds brochure, we are supporting our member companies’ Responsible Gaming Education Week efforts by providing informational materials, such as a model press release, model newsletter article, sample proclamation, paycheck stuffer and Q&A, as well as offering promotional materials, such as ribbons, stickers, buttons, table tents and posters bearing this year’s campaign theme, “The ‘Code’ Word is RESPONSIBLE GAMING.” Pocket versions of the code will be available for distribution to employees and customers, and an online quiz will test employee and public awareness of all the elements of our code.
Adoption of the AGA Code of Conduct and its implementation are very visible displays of our commitment to responsible gaming, but they are by no means the only ones. Responsible Gaming Education Week, held for the seventh consecutive year, is one of the original components of the Responsible Gaming National Education Campaign. The campaign also has involved the development of numerous print materials on responsible gaming, including the Responsible Gaming Resource Guide, which documented and helped us share industry best practices, and the PROGRESS Kit, which provided companies with training materials on disordered and underage gambling. We are already into our third year of publishing Responsible Gaming Quarterly, a newsletter designed to disseminate the latest responsible gaming news and issues.
Additionally, the AGA created the Responsible Gaming Lecture Series in 2001, bringing responsible gaming experts to gaming jurisdictions nationwide, allowing gaming employees, regulators, mental health officials and problem gambling treatment providers to learn how the latest research applies to their work.
While the industry makes progress on public education and the development of programs to promote responsible gaming, we have continued to provide funding for research into the origin and cause of pathological gambling — an effort that is critical to improving prevention and treatment of this disorder.
To date, the gaming industry and related businesses have committed more than $13 million to this effort, and the NCRG has issued more than $8 million in support of groundbreaking research on gambling disorders. It is no understatement to say that the research funded through the NCRG has revolutionized the way we look at pathological gambling and related addictions. The NCRG has brought a new insistence on scientific rigor to the field of gambling research, and research funded through the organization has led to a greater understanding of all addictions as well as appropriate treatment strategies to combat pathological gambling.
In conjunction with the research has been an effort to improve education. What began in 2000 as a small gathering of scientific research and problem gambling treatment professionals has since expanded into an international event, bringing together more than 300 operators, manufacturers, government regulators, academics, treatment providers, public health officials and others for the NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction.
This year’s event, scheduled for Dec. 5-7 at the MGM Grand Las Vegas, will, for the second year, feature two distinct conference tracks to address the specific needs and interests of its diverse audiences. Scientific and clinical workshops will explore gambling disorders and addictive behavior research, while government and industry sessions will address the particular needs and interests of the gaming industry, gaming regulators, attorneys and state legislators. It will include an examination of global issues in online gaming as well as sessions dealing with health risks for casino employees, tribal casinos and problem gambling, challenges associated with implementation of the AGA Code of Conduct, and more.
The NCRG conference offers a unique opportunity for representatives from the gaming industry and government to engage in dialogue with the world’s leading scientific and clinical professionals about new addictions research and the implications for managing the consequences of disordered gambling and other addictive disorders.
Encouraging dialogue among stakeholders, funding research and promoting public education are all important steps in our ongoing commitment to ensuring that our guests have a positive experience while visiting our properties and using our products. But our latest initiative — adoption of the AGA Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming — raises the bar in our effort to become part of the solution to disordered gambling. Responsible Gaming Education Week 2004 is an opportunity for us to focus attention on this pledge — and pass along the “Code” word to our employees and our patrons.