As we marvel at the tremendous growth of the gaming market in Macau, we also must grapple with the many challenges it raises, including the significant issue of problem gambling. As the industry grows in Asia, it is critical that its attention to this issue grow as well.
In the U.S., the gaming industry has long made a commitment to helping the small percentage of men and women who suffer from gambling disorders, and there are lessons that can be gleaned from these experiences.
Having a coordinated industrywide approach is key. The American Gaming Association (AGA), created 11 years ago as the national trade association for the U.S. commercial gaming industry, has developed a number of programs to promote responsible gaming education and awareness throughout the entire U.S. industry. These coordinated initiatives build on the efforts of individual companies, strengthening the overall effort.
Responsible gaming practices also need to be integrated into every aspect of everyday business in order to have an impact. In 2003, AGA member companies committed to a Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming that encompasses all aspects of our business, from employee assistance and training to alcohol service, advertising and marketing.
It’s important that all these programs be based on sound science rather than guesswork, and there is now a substantial body of research from which to draw knowledge. Since 1996, the U.S. gaming industry and related companies have committed more than $15 million to the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG), which funds peer-reviewed, independent research on pathological gambling and has led to many of the most significant advancements in the field.
It’s vital that employees are on the front lines of any responsible gaming effort, and the NCRG also recently supported the development of EMERGE, an interactive, web-based training program created for casino employees by Harvard Medical School faculty. EMERGE is the first training program based on peer-reviewed scientific research on addictions and can be translated into many languages.
Several Asian countries, along with US companies entering the market, already are leading efforts to address problem gambling. For example, Singapore has established a national framework to address problem gambling that includes the creation of a National Council on Problem Gambling. In Hong Kong, the Ping Wo Fund, established in 2003, finances research, public education programs and treatment services. The Fund also sponsored the first Asian Pacific Problem Gambling Conference in 2005. U.S. companies expanding in Asia have extensive responsible gaming programs. Their challenge will be to adapt these programs to the cultures in which they are now operating.
These are good foundations upon which to build, and the AGA and NCRG can serve as valuable resources as the Asian gaming market expands its responsible gaming activities. Responsible gaming also will be a focus of a special session at the inaugural Global Gaming Expo Asia (G2E Asia) event, to be held June 13 to 14 at the Macau Tower Convention and Entertainment Centre.
I urge all of you with an interest in the continued growth of the gaming to participate in the discussion about this important issue. Through sharing best practices, exploring new insights and learning more about responsible gaming, we have an opportunity lead the way when it comes to being responsible corporate citizens.