The International Center for Responsible Gaming was formed in the mid ’90s as the industry effort to combat problem gambling by conducting blind research, where gaming companies fund the research but have no say in its outcome. Mark
Lipparelli took over last month as chairman, continuing the momentum begun by the past chairman, Alan Feldman, and the president, Art Paikowsky. Lipparelli has deep experience in all gaming disciplines. He spoke with GGB Publisher Roger Gros in February in Las Vegas. To hear a full version of this podcast, visit GGBMagazine.com.
GGB: You are probably the most qualified person ever to be named chairman of the of the ICRG—you have experience as an operator, as a regulator, a legislator, and now you’re on the supply side. How do you think that’s going to help you guide the path of the ICRG?
Lipparelli: I kind of see myself as a unicorn. I do think that my background is well suited to be the chairman. And I have seen the industry from lots of different perspectives. I never planned for it to be that way, but I’m glad the things that I have done have given me a unique perspective.
For the last 10 years, you’ve been on the board of the ICRG and seen how the organization works, correct?
Yes, certainly. And we’ve had a really good cross section of people associated with the ICRG. It takes a little time to get an understanding of the ICRG’s purpose, and the strong contributions that it’s made to the industry. And seeing it from all those different perspectives is valuable.
When Art Paikowsky became president, he really hit the ground running.
No doubt. Art came in at a really interesting time. Like many of the organizations in our industry and in society at large, we suffered from the Covid meltdown. So we were struggling to hold on to funding, and people have been very supportive of the ICRG. But that was a very difficult time when everyone was taking their budgets to zero across the board. And for those who haven’t met Art yet, he has been a dynamo. He’s really helped us to get back on track. And I probably would say that we’re as healthy as we’ve ever been.
With the advent of iGaming and sports betting becoming prominent in the industry, obviously, you want to prevent any kinds of problems coming out of those areas. How important is it to really focus on those new developments?
I think it’s super important, and it has broadened the perspective of what our mission is. And I would even go so far as to say that it goes beyond the advent of iGaming and mobile gaming, with sportsbooks to now include an even broader focus to gaming in general. It’s probable that many of the dynamics associated with even console gaming or online gaming or esports in a broad context can be very much subject matter for our researchers. So, sure, not only has iGaming and mobile sports been another place that we have to place our emphasis, but it’s even broader than that.
Are these new iGaming, sports betting and esports companies joining the ICRG and making contributions at the rate do you think they should be at this point?
We never want to be negative on the companies who have or have not joined. I want everyone to have a better understanding of the value of the ICRG and the product that it produces. We have Art out there in the world exposing the mission of what the ICRG does. And I’m confident that some of those folks are coming on board, and we hope to make an even bigger impact with the people that are in that mobile sports and iGaming business, as well as even those adjacent markets that I just spoke about.
Right from the start the ICRG was funded by the industry, but separated by the blind contributions from companies that gave money, and had no say in how the studies would come out or the final research. How important is that still to the mission of the ICRG?
We are, and always have been, super focused on that. We have always said that the scientific advisory board really manages the research of the ICRG, and our charge is to make sure that the organization’s properly funded. We want to make sure that people are aware, as operators, manufacturers, participants in the industry, even some governments now, of things that we’re doing and our researchers are doing. But we’ve also had that bright line in place that says the research and the researchers’ chosen fields will remain with them. Our scientific advisory board manages that. And to this day, we’ve never interfered in that process.
We know that policy began right at the beginning when Dr. Howard Schaffer of the Harvard Medical School became involved. He has the utmost of integrity and would never tolerate any funny business going on.
When I talk about the ICRG, I always point that out. Howard is a giant in his field. And I think Frank Fahrenkopf and Judy Patterson and the original group within the AGA established that as a critical component. And Alan Feldman (immediate past chairman) has been a guardian of that as well. I think our scientific advisory board has always been respectful and cooperative, and let us know that they’ve got interesting researchers that have interesting ideas on where they want to go. Their job is to look into valid, interesting studies, and they take care of that for us.