Global Gaming Business
Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr.
Responsible gaming is an important part of our day-to-day work in the casino entertainment industry. We strive to help our patrons, employees and the public understand the importance of keeping it fun and setting appropriate limits through a variety of tools – from informational pamphlets and brochures, to employee meetings to broader public education campaigns.
Perhaps the foremost reason these efforts have been so successful is that they are grounded in sound science. Relying on findings from the leading research in the field of gambling disorders and responsible gaming, we have been able to develop and implement world-class tools for education and awareness. This research also has led to a much greater understanding of gambling disorders, demonstrated the complex interplay between gambling addiction and other mental health disorders, and paved the way for more effective methods of prevention and treatment.
Much of this groundbreaking research has been supported through grants funded by the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG), the American Gaming Association’s affiliated charity. Last year, with the founding of the Institute for Research on Gambling Disorders and the selection of the nation’s first NCRG Centers of Excellence in Gambling Research, the NCRG began the process of once again revolutionizing this field of research. That process continues this year as the NCRG and the Institute implement important changes to help increase the number of researchers actively working in the field and raise awareness about gambling disorders and responsible gaming.
Chief among these changes is the newly re-envisioned Project Grants program, a highly competitive program that provides researchers from around the world with access to important seed money for innovative, high-quality research projects. Through the newly refined program, the Institute will award twice the number of grants it has in the past. By providing a greater number of smaller grants, the Institute will help spark investigators’ interest and encourage a greater number of scientists to conduct research in the field.
The expanded number of grants available also will provide a wealth of new opportunities for investigators just starting out in the field to begin building their expertise. In addition, new researchers will be offered an unprecedented level of technical and professional support from the Institute and its Scientific Advisory Board, including mentoring by established researchers in the field. This new approach also will empower researchers to seek partnerships with experts in other disciplines to explore questions about gambling disorders from a fresh perspective. Finally, the process of soliciting grant proposals and selecting grant recipients will be updated to reflect recent changes in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) process that always has served as a guidepost for NCRG’s grants program.
Complementing the changes to the Project Grants program will be enhanced public education and awareness efforts. Representatives of the NCRG and the Institute will work to raise the profile of gambling disorders within the larger addictions community and engage with this audience on a broader scale. Members of the Scientific Advisory Board also will be working to increase awareness of the importance of this field by meeting with leading federal research organizations like NIH to explain the value of providing federal funding for gambling research.
The NCRG and Institute already are findings new ways to help gaming industry professionals, treatment providers, regulators and other key stakeholders learn about gambling disorders and responsible gaming.
Building on the strong foundation laid by the annual NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction, the NCRG last fall expanded its education efforts with the creation of the G2E Webinar Series. This year-round initiative provides free online educational opportunities designed to help individuals better understand and address critical issues related to gambling disorders and responsible gaming.
The NCRG already has planned several webinars for 2010, including one during Responsible Gaming Education Week in August. For gaming industry professionals, the webinars offer the opportunity to interact with some of the leading experts in the field – from researchers, to regulators, to leading responsible gaming professionals – and provide practical, take-home advice.
If you are looking for additional year-round resources on gambling disorders and responsible gaming, I recommend connecting with the NCRG through its social media sites. When you become a fan of the NCRG on Facebook, you’ll be kept abreast of the latest news and developments in the field. I also encourage you to visit the NCRG’s page on SlideShare, where you can download presentations, speeches and other resources for use in your own efforts on this subject. Visit the NCRG’s Web site – www.ncrg.org  – for direct links to both of these resources. Lastly, the Institute is expecting to launch a new blog this spring to cover a variety of issues affecting the field of research on gambling disorders. Be sure to visit the Institute’s Web site – www.gamblingdisorders.org  – in the coming months for further details.
It may seem difficult at times for those of us working in the industry to see what value to our daily lives the complex research findings made possible by the NCRG actually have. But as long as our industry operates, problem gambling will remain one of our most significant challenges. Promoting responsible gaming must remain a top priority, and a clear understanding of the issue is vital to making progress in education and treatment efforts that can help our employees, patrons and even our own family members. More researchers in the field – and a more robust field in general – will hasten this understanding. That is the goal of these changes and the goal of all of the NCRG’s efforts.
Many changes are underway, and it is clear we are entering an exciting new era in the field of research on gambling disorders and responsible gaming. With the support of the gaming industry, through the NCRG and the Institute, I have no doubt we will continue to see incredible groundbreaking discoveries and increased understanding of gambling disorders in the years to come.