As the industry comes together this week for the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, you’ll notice a lot of participants at the show wearing bright orange wristbands displaying the message “Keep it Fun.” The bands are part of the American Gaming Association’s latest responsible gaming initiative, themed “We’re Banding Together to Keep It Fun.” The campaign, launched last month during our industrywide Responsible Gaming Education Week (RGEW), brings together all gaming stakeholders – operators, manufacturers, employees, gaming customers, regulators, legislators, treatment professionals and more – in a common effort to promote responsible gaming.
More than 130,000 of the $1 wristbands have been sold so far, and all proceeds are being donated to the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG) to help support community-based outreach and treatment programs. Together, the AGA and its member companies raised more than $50,000 during RGEW alone.
But responsible gaming isn’t just a weeklong focus within the commercial casino industry. It’s a year-round commitment, which is why the AGA is extending the “Banding Together” campaign to encompass all our forthcoming responsible gaming programs and continuing to make the “Keep it Fun” awareness wristbands available for purchase on the AGA Web site and at events like Global Gaming Expo. Our goal is to have as many people as possible wearing the bands so they become a fixture in member properties and communities across the country.
It’s important to note that the commercial casino industry is not in the business of treating problem gamblers – we leave that to the medical professionals. The goal of our programs is to remind the 99 percent of our customers who gamble without a problem that there are simple, practical steps they can take to continue to gamble responsibly and keep it fun and to provide those who cannot gamble responsibly with the resources they may need to get help.
The “Banding Together” campaign has been successful at bringing together a variety of stakeholders to promote responsible gaming awareness, and it’s a model that should be followed as we work to develop a real solution to the overarching problem of pathological gambling as well. A successful approach lies in working together with public health officials, policy makers, clinicians and researchers to develop responsive and effective public policies and industry programs to prevent and reduce gambling-related harms while at the same time respecting the rights of those individuals who gamble without problems.
This is exactly why several leading researchers from the United States, Canada and Australia have developed an innovative new discussion framework that uses scientific research as the common ground for policy and practice discussions among these various groups. This new framework, called the Reno Model, is at the forefront of several promising community initiatives, and inspired the theme for the sixth annual NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction, “Finding Common Ground on Prevention, Treatment and Policy.”
Taking place December 7-8 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, the conference is co-sponsored by the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders, part of the Division on Addictions at Cambridge Health Alliance, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School. As in past years, the event will feature conference tracks specifically tailored to the scientific and clinical communities as well as government and industry representatives.
I have long been a proponent of the need for our industry to understand the science underlying addiction, and industry participation in this conference is the logical next step in our efforts to raise awareness on responsible gaming and develop more effective programs. This year’s conference will include a full explanation of the Reno Model and provide discussions with leaders putting its recommendations to work in their own communities. A range of public health issues as well as the latest research results also will be explored.
A sampling of conference programming includes a discussion of myths about gambling disorders that prevent the development of effective programs and concrete examples of how research can inform responsible gaming initiatives such as self-exclusion programs, employee education and evaluation of state-supported gambling treatment programs. Another session will address the theory that gaming machines can be reconfigured to protect gamblers from excessive play from the vantage points of science, industry and public health. We’ll also take a look at lessons our industry can learn from responsible drinking initiatives.
New to the conference this year is an emphasis on providing material that is as practical as possible. Thus, a “nuts and bolts” approach will characterize the sessions as presenters representing Indian gaming, commercial casinos, gaming law, regulatory commissions, public health and government discuss the implementation of new initiatives as well as provide concrete examples of model programs.
We are particularly pleased that former U.S. senator and presidential candidate George McGovern will join us to present the keynote address entitled “Freedom of Choice and Addiction.” Since the loss of his daughter to alcoholism, Senator McGovern has become a dedicated advocate who has inspired communities across the country and around the globe to work together to provide support for those battling addictions.
I encourage you to join me in December for this exciting conference and, more importantly, to take what you learn back into your own communities. Let’s build on the momentum we’ve started and make responsible gaming a way of life in every community.
To purchase a “Keep it Fun” wristband, visit www.americangaming.org.
For more information on the 6th Annual NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction, visit www.ncrg.org/events.