AGA: As gaming continues to evolve, so must responsible gaming efforts

August 1, 2017 5:41 PM
  • Aaron Stanley
August 1, 2017 5:41 PM
  • Aaron Stanley

As gaming evolves outside of the standard casino floor into new verticals like interactive and mobile, efforts to curb problem gambling and promote responsible play by patrons must continue to keep pace with technological innovation.

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That’s the ethos of a new responsible gaming code of conduct unveiled by the American Gaming Association, which was rolled out at an industry event at Stockton College in Atlantic City to kick off the group’s 20th annual Responsible Gaming Week.

The event, moderated by David Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, sought to shine light on how the industry is voluntarily being proactive in finding innovative ways to protect its customers, such as with MGM’s new GameSense program.

“Our goal today is simple: to educate the public, policymakers and media on all the responsible gaming programs that the industry is dedicated to year round, both here in New Jersey and in all other U.S. jurisdictions,” said Rebuck.

Geoff Freeman, president and chief executive of the AGA, stressed that while responsible gaming remains a fundamental commitment of his group and the industry writ-large, there is room for taking a more holistic approach toward the issue.

“We want to move away from just doing what we’ve done in the past or just doing small incremental improvements,” he said. “We need to move rapidly toward a deeper understanding of how we can make a more meaningful impact in fostering responsible gaming.”

The AGA’s new code of conduct, he stressed, is another step toward kickstarting that conversation. The document calls for continued industry-wide dialogue on the subject and includes new guidelines on consumer protection, transparency of a game’s odds and payouts and ensuring that advertisements do not misrepresent the probability of winning.

“This is a shift from the longstanding approach that focused exclusively on the prevention of problem gambling. The industry today is better positioned to go beyond an exclusive focus on prevention and promote responsible gaming practices,” Freeman said.

Russell Sanna, executive director of the National Center for Responsible Gaming, concurred with the need for an enterprise-wide and industry-wide strategy to address the problem.

“What we really need to recognize in the context of responsible gaming is that responsible gaming practices and techniques are really for everyone in the industry,” he stressed.

Sanna also said that there is a need for continued scientific research on problem gambling disorders, particularly with how they relate to the new verticals within the industry.

“As we take on new forms of gaming, we need to further that research to understand where there are risks and where there are not risks,” he added.

Looking ahead, Sanna raised the question of how the implementation and branding of responsible gaming programs would be perceived by the public in environments where legalized gambling is becoming more commonplace.

“There’s not been much work at all that’s looked at the attitudes and beliefs of the general population and specifically the legislative and regulatory decision makers around the future of responsible gaming,” he said.

Specifically, Sanna also noted that there remains a “gap” between responsible gaming frameworks that were implemented as part of state legislative action because it was the right thing to do and those that were created largely as a means to gain political support to pass enabling legislation.

“The goal would be to figure how to put those two things together,” he emphasized.