When we announced the creation of the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG) in 1996, a reporter skeptically challenged the notion that the gaming industry would really support such an initiative. “I’m not asking you to trust what we say,” I responded, “just watch what we do.”
Eight years later, I am proud to say that “what we have done” has been significant. Since 1996, the commercial casino industry and related businesses have contributed more than $13 million to the NCRG. We have also contributed to the understanding of the issue through participating in the most significant conference on gambling and addiction in the world. In fact, in December, the industry-supported NCRG co-hosted its fourth annual Conference on Gambling and Addiction, bringing together scientists, regulators, industry representatives and other stakeholders to pursue a public health approach to disordered gambling.
That conference also provided a venue for the announcement of the next major step in our ongoing industry efforts to promote responsible gaming—the American Gaming Association (AGA) Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming. The code gives the industry—for the first time ever—a comprehensive approach to promoting responsible gaming.
The AGA Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming builds on what we have learned in our own efforts and from the NCRG’s research. While this code details a general national program to promote responsible gaming, it also contemplates that companies can go beyond the scope of its provisions if desired or required by state gaming laws.
The code was developed after many months of preparation and deliberation by a committee of professionals representing several AGA member companies. The final draft was reviewed and recommended by a special subcommittee of AGA’s board of directors before its approval by the full AGA board in September.
Provisions of the code encompass all aspects of member-company business, from employee assistance and training to alcohol service, advertising and marketing. The code also details the commitment of AGA members to continue support for research initiatives and public awareness activities surrounding responsible gaming and underage gambling. Specific provisions include a commitment to train employees with regard to responsible gaming and responsible alcohol service, as well as a provision to allow patrons who have a gambling problem to self-exclude themselves from gaming activities. According to the code, this self-exclusion will also include opportunities for patrons to request to be removed from promotional mailing lists and to revoke privileges for casino services such as casino-issued markers, player club/card privileges and on-site check-cashing.
A broad rollout program for the code has already begun. We are in the process of developing resources to provide members with best practices and materials that will directly assist in implementing specific provision, and we are conducting outreach to educate additional stakeholders about the code.
This code builds on our ongoing efforts to promote responsible gaming throughout the industry. A large number of our measurable accomplishments can be witnessed in the tremendous impact of the NCRG. The organization has issued more than $8 million to support ground-breaking research on gambling disorders, awarding 32 grants or contracts since 1996, supporting research on topics ranging from clinical trials of treatment strategies to the role of genetics in pathological gambling.
Research institutions that have received NCRG funding include Boston University Medical School, Harvard Medical School, University of Calgary, University of Michigan and Yale University School of Medicine, among others. Findings from NCRG-funded studies have been published in nearly 100 peer-reviewed journals and books and are frequently cited by other researchers. Several new funding commitments for the NCRG in the past few months ensure that this strong record of achievement will continue.
The NCRG awarded its first grant in 1996 to Harvard Medical School to determine the prevalence of gambling disorders in the United States and Canada. The results of this study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, have been praised by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences as “the best current estimates of pathological and problem gambling among the general U.S. population and selected subpopulations…” And, in 2000, the NCRG made its most significant contribution to date, awarding a contract to Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addictions to establish the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders.
In addition to their contributions to the NCRG, individual gaming companies have made responsible gaming a business priority. Most AGA member companies participate in our annual Responsible Gaming Education Week, as well as independent programs developed at the state, company and property levels.
The AGA has also developed additional responsible gaming programs, including the AGA Responsible Gaming Lecture Series, a program designed as a tool to provide additional training for casino employees, regulators, clinicians, researchers and others interested in learning more about how to address disordered gambling. The lecture series has featured some of the leading investigators in the addictions research field. In addition, the AGA launched the Responsible Gaming Quarterly in 2003, which has become one of the leading international resources for news and analysis of disordered gambling issues.
Adoption of the AGA Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming is a necessary expansion of these successful efforts. The next several months are a critical time in the implementation process, and I am encouraged by the enthusiasm of every member company in making this a priority. This truly is a major step forward for our industry, making clear that we are committed to providing an entertainment experience in which our patrons gamble responsibly. We will make responsible gaming an integral part of our daily operations across the United States. This is our pledge to our employees and patrons.