The casino gaming industry goes to great lengths to provide a superior entertainment product to people who can enjoy that product responsibly. The American Gaming Association (AGA) supplements these efforts by building on the hard work of individual companies to develop broad, industrywide responsible gaming programs and by educating the public about responsible gaming.
I have covered this subject in this space before, but given its importance to our industry, and the broad attention it receives, a periodic return makes sense. That is especially true when I can confirm that our efforts to promote responsible gaming are helping the cause.
As reported in the most recent edition of AGA’s The State of the States, approximately a quarter of the U.S. adult population visits a casino annually. A catalogue of scientific studies has firmly established that 99 percent of those who choose to gamble, do so responsibly.
All that said, the industry has always held itself to the highest standard: “One problem gambler is one too many.”
It is in striving to meet this standard that the casino gaming industry has, in concert with the AGA, long implemented employee and public education programs to increase awareness of problem gambling, and to aggressively promote responsible gaming practices. And – as many of you know – the desire to find out what makes some people unable to gamble responsibly led AGA and the industry to found the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG). It is the only national organization exclusively dedicated to funding peer-reviewed research on disordered gambling, and to promoting public education about responsible gaming.
In addition to its continued support of groundbreaking independent research into gambling disorders, the NCRG continues to develop new vehicles for turning solid scientific research into practical applications for casino employees, patrons and the public. This summer, the NCRG will be “on the road” talking about its work with the media, opinion leaders and community officials during a tour of various cities – the second such national tour sponsored by the Center.
Among the subjects that will be discussed are two national initiatives designed to raise awareness about gambling among college students and young people. These NCRG outreach activities have been developed through the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders, a program of the Division on Addictions at the Cambridge Health Alliance, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School.
The first of these initiatives is designed to raise awareness about college gambling. The NCRG is supporting the creation of a national task force comprised of representatives from 11 colleges and universities to develop science-based campus gambling policies. Task force members come from geographically diverse institutions – among them Harvard, Villanova, Lehigh, Mississippi State, University of Alabama – and reflect a cross section of disciplines. This initiative addresses the findings of an NCRG-funded study of gambling and alcohol policies at U.S. colleges and universities showing that 42 percent of the students surveyed reported gambling during the past year. Yet, while all schools had a student alcohol policy, only about 22 percent had a gambling policy. The authors concluded that the schools might be missing an opportunity to inform students about the risks of excessive gambling. The NCRG task force will consider guidelines for various policies such as those that regulate student activities, athletics and health services, and how these policies are communicated to parents and students. Final recommendations will be announced in 2009.
The second initiative focuses on youth gambling and provides guidance via a brochure on how to discuss gambling with young people. The critical need for this resource was made readily apparent when recent research revealed that 68 percent of those 14 to 21 years old participated in some form of gambling during the past year. Geared to parents, teachers and others involved with this age group, the brochure will include information about the games young people play, the prevalence of gambling-related problems experienced by this age group, and will guide parents and educators to other resources. The NCRG plans to release the brochure during Responsible Gaming Education Week (RGEW) this August, and it will be available for order by gaming companies to distribute among employees and customers.
And that brings me to Responsible Gaming Education Week, which will take place August 4-8 this year. Since its inception, RGEW has helped focus attention on this issue through company- and industry-wide activities, seminars, live satellite broadcasts and Webcasts.
It also is a time when casino gaming employees will participate in various education programs and seminars. Because so many employees interact directly with customers, they need “refresher” courses to keep them up to speed on the issue, and new employees must learn about this issue and understand the importance of promoting responsible gaming practices. Employees can then act as “ambassadors” and transfer this knowledge to the general public in the course of their daily activities. Employee participation also will serve to involve co-workers, family and friends, furthering awareness of this issue within the community at large.
This year-long procession of events, activities and products focusing on responsible gaming comes to a climax with the National Center for Responsible Gaming’s 9th Annual Conference on Gambling and Addiction, a must-attend event for industry professionals, researchers, health care providers, regulators and public officials. The conference will be held at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino and Las Vegas Convention Center, Nov. 16-18. Sessions on the final day of the conference will take place at the convention center as part of G2E’s corporate social responsibility conference track.
This year’s theme, “The Changing Landscape of Treatment, Responsible Gaming and Public Policy,” reflects the current societal and scientific trends that are having an impact on gambling research and responsible gaming initiatives. The conference program will cover a number of evolving research areas and explore a broad mix of topics on everything from using the Internet to promote responsible gaming to how human resources and employee assistance programs can address problem gambling in the workplace. Panelists leading the various plenary and breakout sessions will include industry professionals, as well as experts from the public policy, research, and health care fields.
The bottom line is that the people in our industry want to make certain that all our patrons enjoy an entertaining, enjoyable experience, a mantra that bears repeating time and time again. Indeed, we at the AGA, along with our industry partners, will continue working hard to make certain this happens, and we will remain dedicated to educating the public on how to gamble responsibly.