As president and CEO of the American Gaming Association (AGA) and a member of the board of directors of the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG), I have been privileged to witness our industry’s growing commitment to responsible gaming research and education. We have come a long way in securing broad international industry cooperation on the issue, and it is time to take the next step in developing an effective public health approach to responsible gaming.
If our plans are to truly be successful, the international gaming industry must look beyond the experts from within our own ranks to develop an ongoing dialogue with the myriad other stakeholders in the responsible gaming arena. We must continue to engage the scientific, treatment and regulatory communities in the development of industry responsible gaming initiatives to gain the most from our diverse expertise.
The NCRG, the nation’s pre-eminent organization devoted to funding peer-reviewed, scientific research on pathological and youth gambling, 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 industry 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 our industry’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. For the first time ever, this event will feature an entire conference track aimed at gaming industry executives, 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 industry, 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 provided 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. One of the most exciting events will be a town hall meeting on the role of personal responsibility in the addiction recovery process. Panelists for the town hall will represent a diverse cross-section of the responsible gaming arena, including Ron Barbaro, chairman and CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation; Phil Satre, chairman of Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.; Scott Scherer, member of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, Howard Shaffer, director of the Division on Addictions at Harvard Medical School; and John Wilhelm, member of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission and president of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union.
The expansion of the annual conference is part of a renewed mission for the NCRG. In the first phase of development for the organization, the NCRG established itself as the preeminent 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.
Now that this phase of development has stabilized, the NCRG is poised to enter a new era, 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 toward the reduction or elimination 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 and education about gambling and its consequences, which can be applied within the casino and gaming industry setting.
All this presents a tremendous opportunity for the entire gaming industry, leading us into the next phase of our own approach to responsible gaming issues. The December conference will be an important step in opening dialogue between the industry, regulatory, scientific and treatment groups, and I strongly encourage all members of the gaming community 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.
The fourth 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.