Over the past year, the commercial casino industry has witnessed a turning point in our efforts to promote responsible gaming among our employees and patrons. This year has seen us put new ideas into action, creating a framework for change that will guide us in our ongoing development of effective education and prevention programs. As we work to address the issue in new and exciting ways, the efforts of the past 12 months will surely be remembered as markers for the innovation that is to come.
Just how have we facilitated this progress? Perhaps most significant, this fall marked the full implementation of the AGA Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming, codifying a broad range of responsible gaming practices throughout our industry. For employees, our companies have all pledged to provide responsible gaming training and refresher training, share informational materials and post signage that will increase their understanding of this issue as well as the company’s relevant policies and procedures.
For patrons, our companies have all pledged to promote responsible gaming by prominently displaying on the gaming floor and on company Web sites educational materials, help line numbers, and information about the odds of winning or losing at various games offered by the casino. We also have formalized our commitment to provide patrons with the opportunity to request that they be excluded from casino privileges such as casino-issued markers, players clubs and check cashing, as well as from the casino itself.
The code also renews our commitment to prevention of underage gambling and unattended minors in casinos and establishes a standard for casino advertising that goes beyond the standards set by federal and state laws. Our companies have committed to include responsible gaming messages and/or toll-free help lines in their advertisements and not allow their ads to appeal to anyone under the legal gambling age or contain claims or representations that gambling will guarantee financial or personal success.
I am extremely proud of the hard work of each of our member companies to implement these provisions. The industry as a whole benefits from this effort because it not only standardizes our practices, but also sets the bar high.
Beyond these significant accomplishments, this year marks another important responsible gaming milestone – the fifth anniversary of the NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction, set for Dec. 5-7 at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Co-sponsored by the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders, a program of Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addictions, the conference provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity for representatives from the gaming industry and government to engage in dialogue with the world’s leading scientific and clinical professionals and formulate new strategies to address disordered gambling. I contend that this dialogue will be the hallmark of our future work in this arena.
The theme of this year’s conference is “Common Causes, Managing Consequences,” focusing on an emerging scientific theory that addictions to alcohol, gambling, narcotics and other substance use and behavioral disorders may be distinctive expressions of a common underlying addiction “syndrome.”
Looking at addiction this way may first seem a bit esoteric, but the concept of an addiction syndrome actually could have significant implications for the gaming industry as well as public policy officials, academics and health care professionals. In fact, looking at the shared causes of all addictive behaviors will help us explore new ways to study and treat pathological gambling and related addictive disorders, which could lead to more effective treatment strategies at the clinical level, as well as better informed responsible gaming activities in our casinos.
Last year, NCRG conference organizers debuted an innovative dual-track program format, offering a comprehensive examination of international responsible gaming issues from the public policy, industry, legal and scientific perspectives. The format allows attendees to participate in seminars exploring advances in research and treatment, as well sessions focused on practical applications for members of the gaming industry, gaming regulators, attorneys and elected officials. The new format was extremely popular, drawing more than 300 professionals from around the world to the 2003 event.
The 2004 program mirrors that successful approach, offering compelling, interactive seminars featuring leading pioneers from the scientific, regulatory, public policy, treatment and industry fields. Sessions have been designed to appeal to a broad range of industry professionals, and there will be an increased focus on responsible gaming in the international and Native American gaming communities, which encounter unique regulatory and cultural challenges in addressing disordered gambling issues.
This year’s NCRG conference will culminate with a “Town Hall” meeting featuring a cross-section of influential representatives involved in gaming in various capacities. I look forward to a spirited debate with that group about the implications of new gambling research on health care, the gaming industry and public policy.
For nearly 10 years, I have worked with regulators, treatment providers and some of the leading addictions researchers in the field to begin developing effective industry responses to disordered gambling, but there is still a lot to be done. I have developed an appreciation for what we, as industry professionals, have to learn from these other professionals, and they from us. This conference gives everyone involved in our industry access to the leaders in this diverse field — and allows us to put our combined resources to work to address disordered gambling.
I encourage everyone involved in the gaming community to join me in Las Vegas this December to take part in these important discussions on responsible gaming. There is no other event that provides for such in-depth collaboration among individuals from such a broad range of sectors within the responsible gaming arena – collaboration that is critical to success of the next phase of our industry’s efforts on this issue.
The 5th Annual NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction will be held Dec. 5-7 at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Visit www.ncrg.org to register for the event and view the full conference program.