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Personal Responsibility

Personal Responsibility

Anyone who has ever read Global Gaming Business for any amount of time knows that we’re big supporters of responsible gaming. But that’s like saying you’re in favor of peace. Everyone prefers peace, but there are often good reasons to wage war. (And before you read any further, we won’t get into the politics of this, so rest easy.)

Responsible gaming is, of course, the goal of every casino company. Despite the skeptics, there are no casinos that actively and knowingly market to people afflicted with problem gambling; that’s money we can live without. In fact, most gaming companies have extensive policies and spend large amounts of money to help them avoid harming the problem gamblers, so they are costly to casinos, not profitable.

So when you hear about people who sue
casinos after they lose what is to them massive amounts of money, you have to wonder about their stories. Last month, a woman sued several Las Vegas and Atlantic City casinos, charging that they allowed her to gamble for five or six days straight, without leaving the tables, squandering her life
savings. The story was widely reported in the mainstream media because she got quite graphic in her description of her daily hygiene habits. She claims that her malady was very apparent and therefore ignored by casino staff. But apparently she ignored her erratic behavior too!

She’s treading a path that has usually gone the casinos’ way. Plenty of disgruntled gamblers have had the bright idea that they weren’t capable of any rational thinking while they were gambling so it wasn’t their fault they lost; it was the casino’s fault.

In fact, a famous gambler in the 1980s, Leonard Tose, owned the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. He became a high roller at the Sands in Atlantic City and blew his fortune. He finally had to sell his team to pay off his debts and subsequently sued the casino. He claimed the Sands purposely plied him with alcohol, free rooms and food in an attempt to get him to disengage from his normally rational life. He lost, as many others have.

A gambler in the U.K. tried the same tack last month when a decision was rendered on his suit attempting to get William Hill to repay £2 million he lost betting on sports. The player claimed to be a problem gambler and said William Hill’s policy to reject bets from problem gamblers gives him the right to demand the return of his wagers. The court, of course, rejected this ludicrous allegation, especially since William Hill did not know he was an alleged problem gambler before taking his bets.

Most courts look at these suits as “buyer’s remorse,” and their decisions reinforce that the gamblers should have known better and should have been able to control their gambling.

Now I’m not discounting that people who have a serious gambling problem may find it impossible to back away from the tables or slots. But at some point, they have to know what they are doing is destructive. And all modern casinos now have help at the fingertips of any player. At virtually every casino cage you’ll find information on intervention for problem gamblers.

And the more we learn about problem gambling, the more complicated it gets. Research published by the National Center for Responsible Gaming has confirmed that the malady is difficult to treat because there is so much “co-morbidity,” or more than one addiction involved. Most problem gamblers also have trouble with alcohol and/or drugs, making treatment very difficult.

But that’s the reason the NCRG is continuing to fund studies that expand research or experiment with different treatments. The major players in the gaming industry are committing to fund these studies, demonstrating their commitment to responsible gaming.

But the key to this is the word “responsible.” The notion that a casino should return your bets if you lose before you realize you have a gambling problem is ludicrous. We’re glad to help players who do indeed have a problem with gambling, but there is such a thing as admitting you have a problem before you can fix it.

The lack of personal responsibility seems to be endemic these days. Just how different are people who bought a house they couldn’t afford with an interest-only mortgage, and now want the government to bail them out, from these gamblers who suddenly cry sickness? Not so much, I’m afraid.
Casinos definitely don’t want patrons who are problem gamblers. But it’s not like problem gamblers wear signs that identify them to all employees. Yes, we’ll help. But admit you have a problem and don’t try to hold us up.

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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