It’s no secret that our industry has its fair share of vocal opponents, and it is safe to say that some of those critics will not be swayed from their opinions. But rather than focusing on our critics, I believe we should continue to focus on doing right by our customers.
Our industry has a longstanding commitment to responsible gaming, and no matter how small the population is that suffers from a gambling disorder, our dedication to this population will not fade.
Last month in these pages, I wrote that a key strategy of the American Gaming Association is to continue to tell our industry’s story. The story of our efforts to promote responsible gaming happens to be one of our best.
It’s a story that must be told not just by the AGA or industry CEOs, but shared by the rank and file of our diverse industry to the point that we are all zealots when it comes to sending the message that we take responsible gaming seriously.
This is a year-round effort, but is especially important during this month’s Responsible Gaming Education Week (RGEW). For the 16th consecutive year, RGEW will educate our employees and customers through a wide variety of initiatives. However, it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our industry’s activities.
The following initiatives illustrate our dedication to responsible gaming and the necessity to continually build on—and share—this commitment:
• Commit to the Code – This year marks the 10th anniversary of the AGA’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming. The code is an industry standard for gaming companies’ approach to responsible gaming and is a model for programs internationally. A revised version of the code was released earlier this year, and reflects the way in which the industry has evolved since it was first developed. More information on the code can be found at www.americangaming.org.
• Fund Cutting-Edge Research – Since the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG) was founded in 1996, our industry has committed nearly $25 million to fund cutting-edge research into responsible gaming. This fall, the NCRG will host the 14th annual NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction, where major stakeholders come together to discuss the latest research and best practices in this field. Take a moment to learn about all of the good work of the NCRG at www.ncrg.org.
• Help Youth – CollegeGambling.org and a youth gambling curriculum are two initiatives spearheaded by the NCRG to create awareness, provide tools and educate students on responsible gaming.
• Educate the Public – With brochures such as “The House Advantage: A Guide to Understanding the Odds,” “Taking the Mystery Out of the Machine: A Guide to Understanding Slot Machines,” “Talking with Children About Gambling” and “Keeping It Fun: A Guide to Responsible Gaming,” the AGA and the NCRG constantly strive to get responsible gaming information in the hands of more people who need it. We also recently released a new video titled “What Are the Odds?” while the NCRG put out “What is a Gambling Disorder?” Anyone can download the brochures or watch the videos by visiting www.americangaming.org or www.ncrg.org.
• Train Employees – Companies across the country are constantly training employees about responsible gaming, often utilizing the NCRG’s Partnership for Excellence in Education and Responsible Gaming (PEER), which is derived from the AGA’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming, or Executive, Management & Employee Responsible Gaming Education (EMERGE), which was designed by scientists at Harvard Medical School. Information on both of these programs can be found at www.ncrg.org.
• Support State Programs – Many commercial gaming companies continue to provide funding for problem gambling councils at the state level.
• Self-Exclusion Programs – Even when state law does not require it, commercial casinos are enforcing self-exclusion programs for those dealing with problematic gambling behavior.
• Combat Underage Gaming – In addition to the NCRG’s anti-youth gambling efforts, Project 21—an initiative to combat underage gambling—began with Harrah’s nearly two decades ago and has spread to other companies.
• Answer the Call – Across the industry, companies’ dollars are helping fund and support free, 24-hour gambling addiction helplines that provide counseling and guidance.
• Harness Technology – In those jurisdictions where regulators have requested technological solutions to responsible gaming challenges, manufacturers have answered the call, investing in the development of game features designed to minimize risks associated with irresponsible gaming.
Let’s remember that the best way to share our story is to live it. While we may not change the minds of our harshest critics, we will continue to spread responsible gaming messages while providing help to the people who need it most.