What does it mean to be responsible? In the gaming entertainment industry, a big part of being a responsible corporate citizen means being vigilant about responsible gaming. Indeed, how we address disordered gambling is probably the single most important aspect of our business.
Being responsible corporate citizens also means being increasingly mindful and responsive to the myriad diverse populations that make up our employee and customer base. This is especially important in the gaming entertainment industry, which according to the most recent Gaming Industry Diversity Snapshot developed by Pricewaterhouse Coopers employs a higher percentage of minorities than other businesses in states where they operate, as well as the overall U.S. work force.
Mindful of the need for synergy between our industry’s diversity and responsible gaming initiatives, this year’s Responsible Gaming Education Week (RGEW), taking place Aug. 7-11, 2006, marks the launch of a new focused effort by the American Gaming Asssociation (AGA) and its member companies to increase the involvement in responsible gaming education and training opportunities of minority employees within the industry and the leaders of minority organizations in gaming communities.
While AGA members’ responsible gaming efforts always have been inclusive of our diverse community of employees, this will be the first industrywide effort to actively solicit the involvement of and input on the subject from these employees and the leaders of minority organizations to better tailor responsible gaming programming to the specific needs and cultural sensitivities of diverse populations.
Why the need for such an initiative? The casinos and gaming companies of today are increasingly multi-lingual environments, necessitating training and education materials delivered in various languages to create inclusive and comprehensive programs. Even more critical, new science is revealing that responsible gaming education – as well as disordered gambling treatment programs – that work for one population aren’t necessarily effective for others, creating a need for more adaptable programs and increasingly tailored approaches to ensure that responsible gaming messages, education materials and treatment approaches are having their intended impact.
The need for tailored programming is especially important in light of the accelerated global expansion of our industry. Several burgeoning international gaming jurisdictions, including Great Britain, Singapore and South Africa, already have unveiled comprehensive national frameworks to address problem gambling in their specific countries, and U.S. companies seeking a place in emerging markets in Asia and elsewhere around the world will need to be mindful of creating responsible gaming initiatives that are sensitive to specific cultural frameworks in each country.
The AGA’s new initiative will work to assist this process, and the added focus on minority outreach will continue throughout the year. In addition to the Spanish translations of the AGA’s responsible gaming materials available during RGEW, we will continue to adapt all our responsible gaming materials into Spanish as well as translate our primary education materials into Chinese. And, we will be working with national minority organizations to educate them about our responsible gaming efforts and adapt future programming.
The National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG) also will be assisting in these efforts, first by addressing diversity issues at its seventh annual NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction, scheduled for Nov. 12-14 in Las Vegas. This year’s event will focus on the challenges of translating the science behind gambling disorders into best practices for reducing gambling-related harms, and several sessions directly deal with the need for culturally specific responsible gaming programs.
One conference session will focus entirely on how American health care providers specializing in addiction must learn about different cultural concepts of mental health and gambling when working with Asian, Hispanic and Native American populations. Two other sessions will focus on the implications of global gaming expansion on the development of new responsible gaming programs. One will examine how traditional responsible gaming messages and tactics will need to be adapted to develop effective responsible gaming strategies in Asia, while the second looks at how operating and manufacturing companies around the world can apply new scientific information about gambling disorders to develop responsible gaming approaches that resonate most among each of their unique populations.
Experts like Dr. Howard Shaffer from the Division on Addictions at Harvard Medical School have noted the need for more research on effective treatment and education options for diverse populations, and its my hope the NCRG becomes increasingly involved in this effort by creating more opportunities for scientists exploring these important issues, as well as assisting in the creation of programming that best reflects what science currently is available on the topic.
A new focus on diversity also is being reflected in the development of EMERGE (Executive, Management & Employee Responsible Gaming Education), an innovative responsible gaming training program set to launch later this year. Made possible through funding from the NCRG, the Web-based training program was developed by scientists at the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders and is wholly interactive, allowing employee users to move at their own pace as they learn about the science behind gambling addiction and the importance of responsible gaming. EMERGE is the first program of its kind ever developed, and is customizable to the jurisdiction where it will be used. Soon after its release will be made available in Spanish and other languages so that diverse employee populations in the U.S. and abroad may utilize the program.
The commercial casino industry has achieved much with regard to responsible gaming since Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc. introduced the first responsible gaming program in 1989, and the industrywide commitment has made a significant impact As international markets as well as the diversity of our employee and customer base here at home continue to expand in coming years, the challenge of creating effective and culturally appropriate programs to address disordered gambling will continue. We look forward to working with our employees, minority organizations, the research community and international experts to build on the solid foundation already in place to meet these challenges.