Most of us have a tendency to immerse ourselves so thoroughly in our work, we often fail to realize that those who are not part of our workaday world lack a full understanding of what we are about. For example, employees in the commercial casino gaming-entertainment industry, no matter the level of their responsibility, appreciate the need for attention to the problems of disordered gambling, both by the industry and by the general public. That is not always well known outside our business. But this is changing.
The casino industry has for years embedded into its operating philosophy the principle that one disordered gambler is one too many. Individual properties have been acting on this principle for years, understanding that in addition to having a moral responsibility to do so, good business practices demand that they do so. And it was upon this foundation that the American Gaming Association (AGA) board of directors built and adopted the AGA Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming in 2003, the first-ever industrywide approach to promoting responsible gaming.
As might be expected, the code is a comprehensive document that covers a broad range of responsibilities to be exercised by commercial casino gaming-entertainment management and employees. But as necessary as this code is – as a guide for expected action by the industry – the best way to spread the word on the subject of responsible gaming is by word of mouth, from friend-to-friend, from neighbor-to-neighbor, from family member-to-family member. These are trusted voices that will be heard, respected and heeded. A lovely brochure and well produced ad can be effective, but never as effective as caring words from a friend or family member passing along a bit of information or a word of advice. Consequently, the industry must work hand-in-hand with community leaders, opinion leaders and the next door neighbor to instill an over-arching culture of responsible gaming.
In addition to adopting the code of conduct to help address disordered gambling, the industry looks to the community for support with public education programs and for recognition that research in the field must be encouraged and put to practical use. This is all part of the AGA’s Responsible Gaming National Education Campaign.
In the area of public education, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the creation of Responsible Gaming Education Week (RGEW) by the AGA. Held annually during the first week of August (August 6-10, 2007), this week of activities focuses on educating employees about disordered gambling and was created to increase awareness within our industry of the challenges related to the problem, and to promote responsible gaming education within host communities, as well as nationally. Since its inception, the week has helped focus attention on this issue through companywide and industrywide contests, seminars, live satellite broadcasts, Webcasts and other activities. It is a time when all our employees across the industry join together to serve as ambassadors of the company’s responsible gaming message.
The theme of this year’s campaign, “Responsible Gaming: In Your Own Words,” was devised as a way to energize the level of employee and public involvement in Responsible Gaming Education Week, and engage all to maintain the momentum of this week throughout the year. In 2007, we are also celebrating a decade during which responsible gaming education and training have been made available; years during which all participants have taken the responsibility to educate themselves, and have applied that education by understanding the needs of those who experience problems with gambling.
Because so many employees are the first point of contact with customers, this year’s “In Your Own Words” campaign theme makes perfect sense. It encourages employees to not only take what they’ve learned and translate that education into comfortable messages for themselves or others, but it also provided opportunities for employees to help craft the actual campaign for this year’s Responsible Gaming Education Week. Furthermore, personalizing employee participation is viewed as a way to bring the campaign into the homes, churches and neighborhoods of industry employees as they speak to friends and family about responsible gaming “In Their Own Words.” In turn, friends, family and neighbors will take what they learn and pass that along “In Their Own Words.” Word will eventually get to the upper layers of the community pyramid, where sit state and local officials, healthcare professionals and opinion leaders.
This kind of communitywide involvement in this issue is vital because of what the research tells us about disordered gambling. Recent findings have shown that disordered gambling behavior might be a manifestation of an underlying addiction syndrome that accounts for all addictions, meaning addictions — whether to drugs, alcohol, food, shopping or gambling — are related. According to these findings, addictive disorders generally follow the same development pattern and share similar risk factors and consequences. This is reason enough for the creation of a community of interests to treat these addictions, whereby knowledge, resources, manpower and emotional support could be shared by all working in the same arena. RGEW is one manifestation of work being done by the commercial casino gaming-entertainment industry to contribute to the creation of this community of interests.
This year’s Responsible Gaming Education Week “In Your Own Words” campaign – which will be officially kicked off in Atlantic City on Monday, August 6th by the AGA and community leaders – coupled with the 10th anniversary of the program provide the perfect opportunity for industry employees to rededicate their energies to serving as ambassadors for ongoing responsible gaming efforts. It also provides yet another opportunity for the industry to carry its messages into the community to widen the awareness of what is being done, why it is being done, and why the public’s participation is needed to ensure a fully successful campaign.