More than 30 years ago, Harrah’s pioneered the first formal responsible gaming (RG) program, Operation Bet Smart, to educate customers and employees while differentiating Harrah’s from competitors. Operation Bet Smart provided signage and informational materials for customers and training for employees to understand and recognize the signs of problem gambling behavior.
That’s because many of today’s responsible gaming programs draw on the same foundational pillars to educate customers and employees.
Certainly, RG programs have become more robust, research-based, and responsive to customers—look no further than MGM’s GameSense or Hard Rock’s PlayerEdge. It has also become more integrated into who we are as an industry. Responsibility is no longer a competitive advantage, but a regulatory requirement and community expectation of how we operate. It is the underpinning of our social license to operate.
This prioritization of responsible gaming over the past three decades is reflected in gaming’s expansion. With gaming legalized in 44 states, two-thirds of American adults live within an hour’s drive from a casino, and four in 10 Americans can now legally wager on sports betting in their home state.
As more Americans than ever before are encountering gaming in their daily lives, we need to ensure they can access RG resources as easily as they can our innovative offerings. Responsible gaming efforts must evolve and grow to keep up with the legal market.
That starts with applying the same innovation in responsible gaming that has led our expansion far beyond mechanical slots and into being a technology and entertainment powerhouse. While the impact of the Covid-19
pandemic has rightfully been the story of 2020, we are also starting to see the beginnings of an important and needed responsibility evolution.
This started in January when the Responsible Gambling Collaborative released first-of-its-kind effectiveness principles for evolving responsible gaming to meet the needs of today’s market, like investing in independent research and treatment. It’s incumbent upon operators and suppliers to consider the recommendations outlined in the principles and how they can advance them organizationally.
2020 also has shown how technology can empower consumers to govern their own spending and gaming behavior while providing operators tools to better understand customer habits. For example, GeoComply’s new PlayPause product carries a bettor’s self-exclusion across state lines, a much-needed solution to the patchwork of self-exclusion programs nationwide.
We are pursuing payments modernization, in part, to give consumers new tools to monitor gaming activity and set time and spending limits when they come to our properties. Digital payments equip consumers with real-time information on their spending across verticals, keeping them in control of their budget. Digital RG controls have the added benefit of moving seamlessly between gaming in a casino and at home in states with interactive gaming.
Our understanding of responsible gaming as it relates to payments modernization will also benefit from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas International Gaming Institute’s Payments Collaborative with AGA members Sightline, Everi, Worldpay and Global Payments.
Our evolved commitment to responsibility has never been clearer—or more important—than with the growth of legal sports betting. A little more than two years ago, legal sports betting was limited to one jurisdiction; now, it’s in 23. The gaming industry and our partners have accelerated our responsible sports betting efforts to keep pace with its rapid spread.
Most recently, the AGA introduced a new compliance process for the Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering. This proactive step establishes a high bar and creates transparency through self-regulation. The code sets restrictions for all sports betting stakeholders, AGA member or not, on marketing target audiences, outlets and materials branding, while mandating responsible gaming inclusion.
Consumer education is also vital, which is why the AGA launched “Have A Game Plan. Bet Responsibly” to educate new and seasoned bettors about safe betting practices. The public service campaign encourages bettors to wager responsibly by setting a budget, betting legally, keeping it social, and knowing the odds.
We’re also making strides to educate new entrants into the sports betting ecosystem and bring them into the fold as partners in our responsible sports betting initiatives. You can see this in NASCAR’s partnership to promote “Have A Game Plan” to their fans through PSAs and original digital content. We look forward to building upon this momentum with more league and team partners soon.
There are clear efforts under way to ensure our commitment to responsibility grows in tandem with the industry’s growth, but this is just the start. It will take the full force of the gaming community to ensure our responsible gaming efforts continue to meet the needs of this modern industry.