As good corporate citizens, we in the gaming entertainment industry work hard to promote responsible gaming and implement education and awareness programs that help our employees and patrons keep it fun. Our upcoming annual observance of Responsible Gaming Education Week (RGEW), scheduled for Aug. 3-7, provides a unique opportunity to increase awareness about the important actions we take year-round to encourage responsible gaming practices among all our stakeholders.
This year, the American Gaming Association (AGA) celebrates the fifth anniversary of the first implementation of the AGA Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming, one of the pillars of the industry’s commitment to responsible gaming education and practices. To celebrate this milestone, RGEW 2009 will be themed “Know the Code” and will emphasize the importance of this lasting industry pledge to employees, patrons and the public to integrate responsible gaming practices into every aspect of our daily operations.
In the years since the Code of Conduct was first implemented, the vital role of responsible gaming has become increasingly magnified by our industry and its stakeholders.
This increased attention has perhaps been most evident with the continued expansion of gaming in the U.S. and worldwide. Here at home, regulators are making responsible gaming a priority from the very beginning, as evidenced by two of our newer commercial gaming jurisdictions – Pennsylvania and Kansas – where casino operators are required to submit a detailed responsible gaming plan as part of their applications to obtain operating licenses.
Responsible gaming also is steadily gaining a higher profile across the international gaming scene. We have long known that different jurisdictions around the world implement diverse approaches to responsible gaming that are heavily influenced by the cultural and societal realities of each jurisdiction, as well as the role gambling plays in each society. For some markets, such as Asia, responsible gaming still remains a relatively new concept.
I believe the increased globalization of the industry, facilitated by international partnerships and cross-border business ventures, will continue to heighten the focus on responsible gaming. And, as it has since its implementation, the AGA Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming can serve as a jumping off point to help our colleagues around the globe develop and tailor their practices to best serve their employees and patrons.
One of the attributes that makes the AGA Code of Conduct a valuable model for other countries is its firm grounding in scientific research on gambling disorders and responsible gaming. Since the founding of the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG) in 1996, the AGA and its members have maintained a strong commitment to supporting the highest-quality scientific research in the field, and to using the results of that research to implement practical, real-world solutions for preventing problem gambling and promoting responsible gaming.
The field of research – and the practical programs it has informed – has evolved considerably during the last decade, thanks in large part to the outstanding work of Dr. Howard Shaffer and his team at the Division on Addictions at Cambridge Health Alliance, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and the continued support of the NCRG.
Since the implementation of the Code of Conduct, NCRG-funded research has provided insight on a broad range of topics, including how gender, age, culture, ethnicity, proximity to a casino and other factors may affect an individual’s chances of having a gambling problem. Research also has explored effective prevention and treatment methods for gambling disorders. The results of this research has, in turn, helped further refine training programs for employees and been incorporated into education programs for the public.
This year, the NCRG ushered in a new era of research on gambling disorders by establishing the nation’s first NCRG Centers of Excellence in Gambling Research at Yale University and the University of Minnesota. Supported through multiyear grants provided by the NCRG, the Centers of Excellence will conduct long-term innovative and multidisciplinary research and education programs about gambling disorders.
At Yale University, the Center of Excellence will examine the various factors that influence the treatment of gambling disorders using a clinical trial to investigate whether the drug naltrexone will be effective in a “real-world” clinical setting. The Center at the University of Minnesota will develop a model of impulsivity that will enable the identification of young adults at risk for developing pathological gambling. The results of these projects should help researchers and other stakeholders develop effective interventions for prevention and treatment.
In addition to supporting groundbreaking research, the NCRG also works to increase education and awareness about gambling disorders and responsible gaming. One of the ways the NCRG has increased the effectiveness of its education programs has been moving its annual conference to coincide with Global Gaming Expo (G2E), the gaming industry’s premier international trade show and conference event.
Since 2007, the NCRG has partnered with G2E to create NCRG at G2E conference sessions that have helped increase understanding of these issues, spark dialogues about best practices, and facilitate partnerships to address gambling disorders and promote responsible gaming here in the U.S. and abroad.
While attitudes and understanding about responsible gaming have evolved since the Code of Conduct’s first implementation, the Code continues to serve as an important model for addressing this issue and form the basis of responsible gaming programs worldwide.
Amidst the many changes that have occurred since the Code’s first implementation, one thing that has remained the same is the importance of gaming industry employees having a strong understanding of the commitments in the Code, as well as of their employers’ specific responsible gaming policies and procedures. Responsible gaming impacts every aspect of the gaming business, so it is important for employees to understand the role it plays in both their jobs and their lives. Knowing how to gamble responsibly and how to get help if they need it is vital for employees, in their roles as community and family leaders and as ambassadors to our customers. RGEW presents the ideal opportunity to remind employees about our industry’s and your company’s long-term commitment to this issue. Together, we can continue to build on the progress of the past five years with a renewed purpose to know the code and keep it fun.