Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to be here today. I can’t think of a more beautiful place to hold this conference, and it’s always refreshing to get out of Washington and see that life exists “outside the Beltway.”
I know it is traditional or appropriate to tell a joke about now… a favorite psychiatrist joke, or even better, a psychiatrist—in—a—casino joke. But I will tell you upfront, I’m not much of a joke teller.
So I’d like to begin by getting to know a little bit about you — to “know my audience” — by asking you some questions. Give me a show of hands. Who has been in a casino in the last five years? Last year? Last month? Outside of Nevada?
If you had the experience of seeing casinos five years ago and more recently, than you know a lot of changes have taken place in the entertainment, food and even the games themselves. I think you’ll all agree that similar changes are taking place in the area of responsible gaming.
It is sincerely an honor to be here, especially in light of the important subject I’m here to speak about.
Several years ago, I worked for the American Bar Association, and one of my jobs was to help develop public—private partnerships to make much—needed improvements to the justice system. I worked with many national associations as a part of that effort, one being the APA.
Not surprisingly, we found that there is no magic silver bullet, no one solution for many of the problems with the justice system. Nor is there one single culprit or sole cause of a problem. We concluded that it takes many committed organizations and individuals working together to make lasting solutions to society’s deepest problems.
Problem and underage gambling is as serious and compelling an issue as those we faced as lawyers. And just as it will take public—private partnerships to fix the justice system’s problems, it will take many organizations like yours and mine to successfully address the issue of problem and underage gambling.
I’m here tonight to share with you some of the solutions we’ve found to some of those problems and talk about the ways we can all work together to solve other problems. There are exciting things taking shape, and I’m thrilled to be able to share them with you.
Before I begin, I want to first tell you a little bit about the American Gaming Association. Our mission at the AGA is to help people better understand the gaming entertainment industry. We bring the facts about the industry to the public, elected officials and the media. We address national issues and help develop industry—wide programs on critical issues such as problem and underage gaming.
When we first opened our doors in June of 1995, we decided problem and underage gambling was something we must address. This was an industry problem, and we weren’t going to pretend it didn’t exist.
From day one, we set this as one of our highest priorities and decided to take a leadership role in finding ways for the industry to help those who cannot help themselves. Fortunately, although it was not yet an industry—wide effort, we had several industry leaders who had taken giant steps that we could model and develop.
Even though gaming has been around for a long time, problem gambling is a relatively new phenomenon. I hope we can all agree that what is known or thought to be known about problem gambling behavior is sketchy at best.
Gaming critics cite statistics about the number of problem gamblers and the percentage of industry revenues derived from problem gamblers. The truth is, no one knows for certain how many problem gamblers there are.
As you all probably know, the National Gambling Impact Study Commission was signed into law in August of 1996, and the nine members appointed to the Commission were just finalized in the last few weeks. They will soon begin their work to study the social and economic impacts of gaming in the United States. They will have two years to conduct the study and submit their findings to Congress and the President.
The Commission will examine various aspects of gaming, including problem and underage gambling. This portion of the study will be contracted out to the National Academy of Sciences, which will ensure that the appropriate professionals will carefully examine the issue with no biases. With peer review, they will make sound judgments based on a scientific methodology.
This is a tremendous opportunity that will hopefully result in useful findings that will allow us to understand the behavioral problem better.
Although the industry believes the number of problem gamblers in this country is small, we believe that one problem gambler is one too many. Because of this concern, the gaming industry has stepped up its efforts to help address the issues of problem and underage gambling, identify the extent of the problem and then help find solutions that include not only treatment, but education and prevention.
The industry is more proactive than it’s ever been. After almost two years of hard work, we’ve got a great story to tell. With the opening of the AGA, we decided to take two different approaches to the issue of problem and underage gambling.
To fulfill the need for more and better research, the AGA created the National Center for Responsible Gaming, located in Kansas City, Missouri, which I’ll talk more about later.
Secondly, in October 1995, the AGA created the Responsible Gaming Task Force, an active and aggressive group charged with identifying, developing and implementing responsible gaming programs and policies throughout the gaming industry.
The task force is made up of vice presidents of administration, human resources, operations and communications, and general counsels from more than 12 AGA—member companies, and leading experts in the area of problem and underage gambling from universities and problem gambling councils. I am pleased to be a member of this group and am constantly inspired by the enthusiasm and determination I see in our meetings.
One of the task force’s first achievements was the creation of The “Responsible Gaming Resource Guide.” Essentially, the guide is a “tool kit” that can be used for introducing or improving responsible gaming programs.
The Resource Guide includes essential step—by—step instructions for:
establishing responsible gaming programs
setting up training programs for staff supervisors
assembling educational information for non—supervisors
establishing employee assistance programs for problem gamblers; and
providing educational programs for casino guests and the entire community.
It also includes contact information for organizations and groups that are involved with problem gambling throughout the country.
In August of 1996, the Task Force organized a full—day seminar in Las Vegas for more than 120 industry members. The seminar provided a forum to bring together industry representatives to exchange ideas, develop strategies for responsible gaming practices and provide the impetus for additional action.
The Task Force has many more exciting projects in the works right now. We are developing a national speakers’ bureau to communicate the industry’s perspective on these issues and create public awareness about the extent of the problem.
The Responsible Gaming Task Force also saw the need to create an underage training curriculum for casino employees for those gaming companies who had not already developed their own or wanted to enhance their existing programs. It is on a fast track for development right now.
We are also in the process of developing a training video for casino personnel to help identify and assist problem gamblers. And a “train the trainers” technical assistance seminar to ensure that the training of casino employees across the industry is handled in the best way possible.
In October, members of the Responsible Gaming Task Force will conduct a seminar at the World Gaming Congress in Las Vegas. They will discuss many of the cutting edge programs that have been developed or are in the process of being developed by industry leaders.
The seminar will include topics like how to survey the health risks of employees for addictive behaviors and better target company resources to assist them; how to start responsible gaming programs for suppliers and vendors; and how to implement training curricula. They will also talk about the industry’s approach to creating a national public educational campaign about problem and compulsive gambling.
The work of the Responsible Gaming Task Force has been invaluable to the industry. The group’s efforts are a constant work in progress, as we move from one accomplishment to the next challenge.
While the industry is working as a whole to address the issues of problem and underage gambling, much of the “front line” work is being done by the individual gaming—entertainment companies.
In Nevada, for example, eight Las Vegas casinos are contributing $200,000 to the state’s Council on Problem Gambling program.
In Missouri alone, the Riverboat Gaming Association is spending $1 million per year on coordinated programs for problem and underage gamblers.
In 1995, eight states in the gaming industry spent nearly $5 million on this cause, as well. These kinds of programs and contributions show a tremendous willingness and interest by the gaming industry to do the right thing.
I mentioned earlier the National Center for Responsible Gaming. This is perhaps the most exciting, invigorating and promising project the industry is involved in, in the area of responsible gaming.
Through the Center, we expect to be on the cutting edge of efforts to find approaches and solutions to problem and underage gambling. The National Center for Responsible Gaming was established in 1996 and is a non—profit 501 (c) (3) organization.
The board includes 10 industry and 10 non—industry members with varied and distinguished backgrounds, such as Dr. Louis Sullivan, former director of Health and Humans Services; Howard Shaffer, director of Harvard Medical School’s Center on Addictions; Roland Burris, former Illinois Attorney General and other members from the health care, law enforcement and public policy fields.
The Center, which is housed on the University of Missouri—Kansas City, was formed to fund outside independent research by leading universities and research centers on problem and underage gambling.
It is the first ever nationwide funding source devoted solely to the study of problem and pathological gambling.
The Center will support the finest peer—reviewed basic and applied research on problem gambling, encourage the application of new research findings to improve prevention, intervention and treatment strategies and enhance public awareness of problem and underage gambling.
The Center also has an Advisory Board, which includes academics, health and social services professionals and other experts in the field of addiction.
Funding for the Center is provided by casino companies. Overall support for the Center currently totals $4.485 million over the next ten years, with more than $800,000 in funding available each year for the next three years.
In July of 1996, the Center made its first grant of $140,000 to Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addictions to conduct an analysis of existing gambling prevalence studies. This is the largest grant ever awarded in the area of problem gambling research. This study should lead to a better understanding of compulsive gamblers and help identify other areas where research is needed.
The Center has just released its first request for applications in the area of neuroscience research. This is the first of three that the Center will release this year alone. The other two are psychology and the social behavioral sciences — and epidemiology. The second request will be released shortly, and the third will soon follow.
While I don’t pretend to fully understand these areas of research, I will do my best to generally acquaint you with them.
The first request in the area of neuroscience research should investigate the causes and consequences of addictive gambling. Research should identify neurobiological mechanisms associated with gambling disorders and potential treatments for the problem. Such topics include molecular genetic investigations of temperament and personality traits associated with risk taking, novelty seeking and other behaviors related to gambling disorders.
The Center also encourages studies that focus on co—morbidity factors in gambling disorders. It is anticipated that knowledge generated from these research efforts can offer important insight into developing a treatment protocol for gambling disorders.
The second area of research, as I mentioned, is behavioral sciences. The Center believes it is important to consider the role that mental, psychological and social processes play in problem gambling.
The Center will encourage projects that study the influence of a peer network, the family setting, the workplace and the relationship among these and other factors in determining both the development of gambling disorders and how disordered gamblers recover. This request for research will also emphasize the study of the effectiveness of casino—sponsored responsible gaming programs.
The third area of research the Center will request applications for is epidemiology. These projects must be rigorous investigations of the general population or more limited groups of special interest.
As I mentioned, the Harvard study is nearing completion, and with it we hope to begin to answer many questions about epidemiology, as well as provide a blueprint for future areas of research for the Center.
This should be enough to keep the National Center busy for a while, don’t you think? And as you can see, the entire gaming industry is working diligently to address the issue of problem gambling. We still have a long way to go to meet the challenges that lay before us.
But the industry is strongly committed to finding answers and solutions. We, as an industry, know that we must take care of our own problems. I hope that, as experts in this field, you’re encouraged by the efforts the industry is making to do just that.
I’d like to close today by discussing the issue of reality with you.
The reality is that gaming is entertainment that many people enjoy. The origin of gaming dates back to ancient times. In Egyptian tombs dating back before 2000 B.C., and Chinese excavations from as early as 600 B.C., dice with markings almost identical to our modern—day dice have been discovered.
In our own country, lotteries provided funds to construct Harvard College … the University of Virginia … and our Capital City, Washington, D.C. After the Civil War, lotteries helped rebuild the South. Gaming is not new to our country, and its popularity is likely to continue to grow. That is the reality.
Unfortunately, some people have a problem gambling responsibly. This is a reality we must deal with. It seems only logical that we spend our time trying to find solutions to the problem. Many in this room — all of you who are experts at the top of your field — need to take a part in this effort.
The gaming industry is only part of the solution. And, as I hope I have demonstrated to you this evening, we are working our very hardest to see our efforts pay off. But we are just a piece of the puzzle. To complete the puzzle, we must put all of the pieces together. In practical terms, one obvious way we can work together is through the National Center.
I encourage you to look closely at opportunities that research provides for people in your profession. I sincerely hope that becomes a reality.
Thank you for asking me to be with you today.