As the gaming industry continues to grow and expand into new types of gaming, the two major gaming industry trade associations, the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM) and the American Gaming Association (AGA), casino operators, and regulators in emerging jurisdictions such as Massachusetts are taking a lead role in seeking to assure that effective and appropriate responsible gaming initiatives are implemented, working with the National Council on Problem Gambling and the National Center for Responsible Gaming.
Four years ago, AGEM appointed Connie Jones as its director of responsible gaming. Jones came to AGEM after spending 14 years focused on the topic as director of responsible gaming at IGT. She is currently a member of the International Masters of Gaming Law (IMGL) and chairs its Responsible Gaming Committee. She also has worked closely with the treatment community, government bodies and gaming industry representatives to formulate strategies to address compulsive and problem gaming.
“AGEM’s responsible gaming efforts include working with and supporting major problem gambling organizations both in the U.S. and internationally,” says Jones. “In addition to sponsoring the National Conference on Problem Gambling, AGEM is a supporter of the prestigious 12th European Association of Studies on Gambling Conference in Malta, September 11-14.”
In her role at AGEM, Jones helps the association formulate a responsible gaming policy and plan, and has represented AGEM with a variety of organizations at industry events, conferences and trade shows. Under Jones’ leadership, AGEM has been very focused on the topic of responsible gaming, and has played a key ongoing educational role for the association’s 166 member companies.
“AGEM’s approach to responsible gaming reflects our organization’s broad global membership,” she says. “In today’s rapidly changing gaming environment, attention is being directed at game design and suppliers more than ever. Responsible gaming is top-of-mind in emerging jurisdictions such as Japan, as well as more established gaming markets like Australia and the U.K.
“It is imperative that we are aware of problem gaming sensitivities in jurisdictions around the world where our members conduct business—particularly as they relate to game design and promotion.”
In mid-April, the AGA convened leading gaming industry organizations, academic professionals and advocacy groups to chart a new course on the complex issue of responsible gaming. The AGA announced that its new Responsible Gaming Collaborative will identify the programs and policies that best address responsible gaming and the prevention of problem gambling, and will hold government accountable for supporting proven, effective solutions.
“It’s time to comprehensively review existing responsible gaming policies and regulations,” says Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the AGA. “We must drive a new discussion around proven, effective programs and ensure that governments are appropriately allocating resources.”
The gaming industry is estimated to provide governments with hundreds of millions of dollars annually for responsible gaming research and treatment. The spending of those resources is inconsistent across jurisdictions, and no programs exist today to ensure accountability with regard to how the money is spent.
In addition to the AGA, key Responsible Gaming Collaborative participants include the National Council on Problem Gambling, the National Center for Responsible Gaming, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas International Gaming Institute, Harvard University’s T.H. Chan Public School of Health, Yale School of Medicine, the National Indian Gaming Association, AGEM, the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries and the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
“This Collaborative with its diverse set of stakeholders is a welcome step forward to creating a unified approach to addressing problem gambling,” says Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling.
“No one party or way of thinking is ever enough to create transformative change. That’s why this group is so essential,” says Russell Sanna, executive director the National Center for Responsible Gaming. “We appreciate healthy dialogue and debate and are striving to use focused, evidence-based proposals to drive improvement, in both industry practices and government regulations.”
The AGA announced that the collaborative will:
- Conduct a comprehensive review of current responsible gaming policies and regulations;
- Identify programs that work and those that fail to meet their objective;
- Study regulations to determine which are based on solid evidence;
- Determine whether government resources are being properly targeted toward effective programs and prevention;
- Develop a set of recommendations and industry best practices; and,
- Work with regulators and other stakeholders to understand the best approaches.
“The word ‘collaborative’ was chosen deliberately,” says Freeman. “Our goal is to work with regulators, policymakers, experts, advocates and other stakeholders to find the best solutions and direct resources to them.”
Jones says, “The Responsible Gaming Collaborative will provide enhanced opportunities to share ideas with other stakeholders to refine responsible gaming initiatives.”
Making Sense of Gaming
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which introduced gaming at the Plainridge Park Casino several years ago, and will soon welcome a new MGM facility in Springfield, has also taken a very focused approach on the topic.
Mark Vander Linden, director of research and responsible gaming at the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, has outlined a “Responsible Gaming Framework 2.0” (RG Framework) which was presented to the full commission in May.
Rather than taking an approach which mandates behavior as part of a regulation, the framework is intended to inform responsible gaming regulation in Massachusetts and provide an overall orientation to responsible gaming practices and policy adopted by MGC licensees.
The goal of the RG Framework is to “create an effective, sustainable, measureable, socially responsible and accountable approach to gambling.” The RG Framework begins with an overview of gambling behavior in Massachusetts, which then sets the stage for seven responsible gaming strategies which primarily focus on prevention and player protection. The commission is committed to keeping an open dialogue with licensees to collaboratively achieve implementation of these strategies.
Alan Feldman, chairman of the National Center for Responsible Gaming, a member of the Advisory Board of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling and executive vice president of MGM Resorts International, has been a leading catalyst for the change that is occurring within the gaming industry in the topic of responsible gaming.
In 2017, MGM Resorts launched its “GameSense” program nationwide, designed to help guests make informed decisions and keep gambling fun.
The GameSense program was developed by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation. It encourages players to adopt behaviors and attitudes that reduce the risk of developing gambling disorders. This includes setting and sticking to personally allocated time and monetary limits for gambling, as well as being open and honest with family, friends and oneself when it comes to personal gambling habits. GameSense was first licensed in the U.S. by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
MGM Resorts was introduced to GameSense by the commission during the development of MGM Springfield. After reviewing the program, MGM Resorts decided to modify GameSense and integrate the program into its properties nationwide. The program was introduced at the company’s Las Vegas Strip properties in October and expanded nationwide in December.
“GameSense is already transforming how the industry approaches responsible gambling, and MGM Resorts is at the forefront of driving the conversation and responsible gambling culture,” says Alan Feldman, MGM’s executive vice president of global industry affairs. “The tremendous—and growing—number of responsible gambling interactions is truly unprecedented and unlike anything the industry has ever seen.
“GameSense builds stronger, more sustainable relationships with our guests by teaching them how to keep gambling fun. As gambling grows as a mainstream entertainment option around the world, GameSense ensures responsible gambling gets an equally mainstream discussion.”
As part of its GameSense agreement, MGM Resorts also committed to funding $1 million over five years for responsible gambling research. This includes a partnership between BCLC, MGM Resorts and the UNLV International Gaming Institute.
Keeping up with all of these developments and understanding the future direction to addressing this important topic is a daunting task. Fortunately, there is an upcoming conference which will address all these topics and more.
On July 20-21, the National Council on Problem Gambling will hold the 32nd National Conference on Problem Gambling in Cleveland, Ohio. The 2018 annual conference program will highlight best practices and rising trends in problem gambling and responsible gaming.
This year’s program features a new track focused specifically on the military and veterans. Additionally, part of the program is going to focus on the developments in Massachusetts and some of the baseline research that has been conducted.
“We’re very excited about the initial results from GameSense, and look forward to presenting the results at the NCPG Conference in Cleveland,” Feldman says. “There is no more esteemed a group that can appreciate the significance of this historic undertaking.”
In addition to the upcoming conference, August 6-10 is the AGA’s Responsible Gaming Week, a week where the industry as a whole focuses on this important issue and promotes educational efforts to inform both the public and the members of the casino gaming industry.