Next month, the National Center for Responsible Gaming will host its annual conference in Las Vegas for the fourth consecutive year. Each time, the conference has brought together some of the best minds to help attendees—primarily academicians, clinicians and treatment providers—gain a better understanding of gambling disorders. What has been missing, however, is a forum that considers the role that can be played by all stakeholders in this issue. By bringing together these diverse groups from both the public and private sectors, this year’s conference will help us develop a more comprehensive approach to disordered gambling. The result will be an education opportunity unlike any the gaming community has ever seen in this field.
For the first time ever, the conference will feature an entire track aimed at gaming industry executives and operators, gaming regulators, attorneys, and elected officials, providing a practical agenda for the government and industry audience. The new track will offer a critical examination of the major issues facing the gaming community, government regulators and public policy-makers. Sessions will feature an in-depth look at gaming regulations, responsible gaming practices, harm minimization features on gaming machines, and evaluation of state-supported intervention and treatment programs.
The government and industry track will be offered along with a traditional conference track designed for the scientific and treatment communities. Conference sessions in this track will include examinations of the genetic and neural systems bases of addictive behaviors, as well as analyses of the effectiveness of various treatment approaches for disordered gambling and other addiction disorders. Couples therapy, 12-step programs, self-guided therapy, cognitive-behavior therapy and Gamblers Anonymous are some of the options that will be discussed.
While the government/industry and scientific/treatment tracks cater to different audiences, attendees will be free to attend sessions in either track.
Other sessions during the conference are designed to appeal to a more general audience. These plenary sessions include a town hall meeting on the role of personal responsibility in the addiction recovery process. Panelists for this session will include representatives from industry as well as the regulatory, research and treatment communities.
The expansion of the annual conference is part of a renewed mission for the NCRG. In the first phase of the organization’s development, the NCRG established itself as the pre-eminent source of funding for disordered gambling research. After nearly five years as the direct source of those research grants, the NCRG provided the funding to found the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders at Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addictions, which took over those responsibilities from the NCRG.
With the Institute filling this role, the NCRG is poised to enter a new era with a renewed focus on its public education mission. The expansion of the annual conference is the first step in this new commitment to broaden the organization’s outreach efforts. The NCRG also plans to provide funding for practical industry- and public-oriented peer-reviewed research, as well as education about gambling and its consequences, which can be applied within the casino setting.
This new phase for the NCRG brings with it a tremendous opportunity for cooperation. Next month’s conference will help us start this important dialogue among all interests concerned with this issue, and I strongly encourage everyone involved in the gaming industry to take advantage of this unique event. The fruits of this collaboration will bring us one step closer to adopting policies and programs that will help us safeguard the employees and customers who are truly the heart of our industry.
The 4th Annual NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction will be held Dec. 7-9 at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. To register for the conference or to view a full conference program, visit www.ncrg.org.