While the commercial and Native American gaming communities may be competitors in the business landscape, we share many common interests, including a fierce commitment to safeguarding our patrons and employees. Responsible gaming is one such issue where we clearly share common ground. It is an issue that affects far more than our industry—it affects our people.
As a member of the board of directors of the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG), the nation’s pre-eminent organization devoted to funding peer-reviewed, scientific research on pathological and youth gambling, I have been privileged to witness the entire industry’s growing dedication to responsible gaming research and education. Casino companies—both commercial and Native American—as well as gaming equipment manufacturers and others have all made generous financial commitments to the NCRG, and all sectors of the global gaming community must continue to work together if we are to develop truly effective responsible gaming programs.
There is much to be learned from one another, and the more information sharing we do across all facets of the industry, the more effective our response to these issues will be. Beyond the experts from within our own ranks, we must also engage the scientific, treatment and regulatory communities in the development of an effective public health approach to the issue.
The NCRG recognizes the need for this new level of engagement and has made aggressive moves to provide a venue for this interaction. The result is an education opportunity this winter unlike any the gaming community has ever seen.
For the past three years, the NCRG’s annual conference, held each December in Las Vegas, has brought together the world’s leading academics, clinicians, treatment providers and other health care professionals to detail the latest research and treatment advances in the field of pathological gambling and other addictive disorders. The dialogue at these events has helped debunk many of the myths surrounding pathological gambling, resulting in new treatment approaches and helping to define the AGA’s approach to responsible gaming concerns.
This year, the NCRG is taking a dramatic step forward to expand the reach and scope of the annual conference beyond the scientific community, making it more inclusive and accessible to all audiences with a stake in the responsible gaming issue. For the first time ever, this year’s event will feature an entire conference track aimed at gaming industry executives and operators, gaming regulators, attorneys and elected officials, providing a comprehensive, 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, and conference attendees will be invited to participate in sessions from either track. In addition, the conference will offer several plenary sessions open to all attendees, including a town hall meeting on the role of personal responsibility in the addiction recovery process. Panelists for the town hall will include representatives from the industry, 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 organization’s development, the NCRG established itself as the pre-eminent source of funding for pathological gambling research, sponsoring educational programs surrounding disordered gambling, raising public awareness of the issue, and, most significantly, creating and funding the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders at Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addictions.
This phase of development has stabilized, and the NCRG is poised to enter a new era. It is focused on approaching pathological gambling as a public health issue and bringing together all sectors concerned with gaming—operators, manufacturers, government regulators, academics, treatment providers, public health officials, public policy officials and consumers—to work minimizing the impact of pathological gambling. The expansion of the annual conference is the first evidence of this new commitment.
Beyond the annual conference, the NCRG plans to embark on several projects to create a dialogue surrounding scientific research on disordered gambling that will communicate to and educate a diverse audience base. The NCRG also plans to embark on 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.
All this presents a tremendous opportunity for cooperation as we enter the next phase of our approach to responsible gaming. The December conference will be an important step in opening 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 be a comprehensive public health approach to gambling that is one step closer to meeting our goals and safeguarding 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. Visit www.ncrg.org to view the full conference program.