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Leading the Way

The National Center for Responsible Gaming continues to blaze the trail

There have been many occasions in this column to share with you the accomplishments of the National Center for Responsible Gaming, and our industry’s efforts to address gambling disorders and responsible gaming.

It’s true that we have come a long way since the mid-1990s in terms of what we know about gambling disorders, how to treat them and how to properly address the issue in the casino setting. A majority of this knowledge may never have been gained if not for the NCRG and the more than $22 million that has been committed by gaming companies and others to further the organization’s mission since it was founded in 1996.

Critics often question how research about gambling disorders that has been funded by the industry can possibly be unbiased. Given the exploits of the tobacco industry at the time of the NCRG’s creation, we knew the organization would be subject to extreme scrutiny, and ensuring the integrity of NCRG-funded research was paramount in establishing the structure of the grant-making side of the organization.

The scientific community has given strong evidence to the success of this effort by publishing NCRG-funded research studies in more than 150 peer-reviewed scholarly journals since 1996. These findings have put to rest questions about the prevalence of gambling disorders and made great progress in determining how to effectively identify, treat and even prevent the disorder.

The field of research on gambling disorders is still evolving. There is much we still have to learn, and the NCRG is poised to lead the way. In fact, this year, the NCRG will make available more than $700,000 in research grants—nearly double the amount funded in 2010. This grants program does more than expand the body of research on gambling disorders. By offering exploration and seed grants, it encourages new investigators to explore gambling addiction and, ultimately, increases the number of researchers working in the field.

As the field of research on gambling disorders has evolved, so too has the role of the NCRG. The organization’s education and outreach initiatives have substantially grown as research has increasingly lent itself to practical application. After all, it is one thing for a researcher to draft a journal article explaining their findings to others in the scientific community, and another to translate that research into tools that can be put to use in the real world.

The NCRG has been a leader in doing just that—developing employee education tools like its EMERGE training program, creating resources to help parents address gambling issues with their children and college communities to address gambling on campus, serving as a resource for new gaming jurisdictions looking to develop responsible gaming regulations and programs, and much more.

The NCRG also has been at the forefront in promoting dialogue among all the parties affected by gambling disorders through its conferences, webinars, road tours and other education initiatives. Gambling disorders are a community issue, after all, and the most effective solutions are borne out of developing relationships, finding common ground and collaborating toward a common goal.

The NCRG has big plans to expand on these efforts in 2011. Later this month, it will launch, a new website created to give campus administrators, student health and student life professionals, students and parents with comprehensive resources to address gambling on college campuses across the country. The site will be launched in conjunction with the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament, a period of time noted for high betting volume on campus, but it should serve as a vital year-round resource for this population. I encourage all of those in our industry to share this website with your college-aged children and colleagues in the academic community.

The NCRG also will be enhancing its training initiatives in 2011, embarking on a series of treatment provider workshops, as well as grant-writing workshops for young researchers.

Other outreach opportunities are only just beginning to percolate. The NCRG is investigating ways to collaborate with universities that offer casino management coursework to incorporate responsible gaming training into their curriculums so the future leaders of the industry have a basic understanding of the issue before they even begin their first jobs. Additionally, the organization plans to work more closely with state problem gambling councils to provide them with training, education opportunities and other types of support.

Another emerging partnership worth noting is one with NAADAC, the country’s largest association of alcohol and drug counselors, which contacted the NCRG last year. Such collaboration signals just how far the NCRG—and the field of gambling research—has come during the past 14 years. Not only is the NCRG widely acknowledged as a respected national leader on gambling problems and responsible gaming issues; disordered gambling is now recognized among the broader addiction community as a condition similar in nature and significance to alcohol and drug addiction.

Those of us in the gaming industry must stay abreast of these developments. Whether directly or indirectly, they stand to have a profound impact on how we do business. The American Gaming Association certainly will be mindful of the latest research as we continue to develop tools to help the industry promote responsible gaming.

We all know that problem gambling is not an issue that is going away any time soon. Our challenge is to constantly find new ways to keep the issue on the front burner and to refresh the message so that it continues to resonate with all who are impacted. We have a duty to be responsible to our employees, our customers and the community at large. Science must guide us, and the NCRG will lead the way.

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