After 25 years, Responsible Gaming Education Month fully embraced by the gaming industry

August 31, 2023 9:42 PM
Photo: Courtesy AGA
  • Rege Behe, CDC Gaming Reports
August 31, 2023 9:42 PM

Responsible gaming messages are part of every advertisement, every commercial, every press release for the gaming industry. In casinos and sportsbooks, signage is omnipresent, featuring phone numbers and websites offering help to those who may have problems.

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But it wasn’t that long ago that problem gambling was considered a personal issue; if a patron lost exorbitant amounts of money, it was up to them to stop gambling or find assistance on their own.

In 1998, things started to change with the launch of the first Responsible Gaming Week. According to American Gaming Association Vice President, Strategic Communications & Responsibility Cait DeBaun, Phil Sartre, who held multiple executive positions with Harrah’s Entertainment, had been championing efforts to get operators to recognize that problem gambling was hurting the industry. In the mid-90s, Sartre created Operation Bet Smart to focus on responsible gaming and Project 21 to combat underage gambling.

“What (Sartre) learned from those initial initiatives was they were embraced by employees,” DeBaun says. “Employees wanted to promote responsible gaming; they wanted to be part of companies that encouraged healthy play and keeping gambling fun.”

Harrah’s began to incorporate responsible gaming policies across its properties, and regulators took notice.

“It became a differentiator when they went to new legal markets and they tried to get a license,” DeBaun says. “(Harrah’s) was doing something that their competitors weren’t, and I think that was the beginning of a sea change. It was around the time the AGA was founded, and there was more conversation as a collective than as individual companies.”

The AGA’s Responsible Gaming Week has evolved into Responsible Gaming Education Month. Starting Sept. 1 and running through the end of the month, RGEM will focus on four themes:

  • Sept. 1-10: Empowering Customers to Play Responsibly
  • Sept. 11-17: Legal, Regulated Gaming Protects Players
  • Sept. 18-24: Building a Responsible Gaming Culture Within
  • Sept. 25-30: Advancing Responsible Gaming with Research

DeBaun says since she started at the AGA in 2019, the increase in interest in responsible gaming issues has been noticeable.

“Even in that span of time (four years), the growth in the industry has been tremendous,” she says. “I’m proud to be part of the industry because of the growth, the interest, the investment in responsible gaming and the conversations around responsible gaming policies. There’s not a conversation we don’t have with our members in which responsible gaming isn’t coming up.”

DeBaun also has noticed that the increased interest in responsible gaming policies and issues is no longer just a “box to check.” Operators, she says, are going beyond the bare minimum required by jurisdictional regulations.

As the gaming industry expands and grows and moves into new verticals, DeBaun senses the commitment to responsible gaming remains steadfast.

“It sounds like a tagline, but it’s also a reality,” she says. “(Responsible gaming) is an everyday commitment that we continue to elevate. I think that is something the industry can hang its hat on.”