Three years after the American Gaming Association was founded in 1995, the organization launched Responsible Gaming Education Week. Since then, there have been myriad changes in the gaming industry, including the opening of brick-and-mortar casinos across the country, the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act that led to the widespread legalization of sports betting, and the emergence of igaming.
Those seismic shifts led to unparalleled growth and a recognition that more attention needed to be paid to protecting customers at risk of gambling problems.
“While (responsible gaming) has always been a priority, I think it’s become a business imperative,” says AGA Vice President, Strategic Communications and Responsibility Cait DeBaun.
To reflect the ongoing importance of responsible gaming, the AGA is expanding its outreach from a week to a month this year. Responsible Gaming Education Month begins September 1, with the goal of enlisting gaming industry stakeholders to raise awareness of the benefits of responsible gaming.
“When we talk about the industry here, it’s not just operators and manufacturers,” DeBaun says. “It’s those engaged with what we’re doing — media, regulators, sports teams, and leagues, advocates. It’s a moment for everyone to come together and celebrate, reflect, and reinforce our commitment to responsible gaming.”
Companies are devoting more resources to responsible gaming initiatives. Aristocrat Gaming’s ESG Report features a comprehensive approach to the issue, with three points of emphasis — comply, empower, and improve – as the foundation of its program.
But Aristocrat differs in that it refers to RG as responsible gameplay to better reflect the variety of its products.
“A good section of our business is not gambling, but is in the video game, or mobile game space,” says Aristocrat Group General Manager Responsible Gameplay Harry Ashton. “We aimed to have a term, ‘responsible gameplay’, which captures both our regulated gaming business and our mobile business.”
While free-to-play games may seem vastly different from regulated gambling sites, players can experience “difficulties playing video games and mobile games,” Ashton says. “So, for us, it’s about recognizing that and ensuring that we’ve got a policy which looks at the unique circumstances.”
While responsible gaming has become a point of emphasis at recent gaming industry conferences, MGM Resorts developed a comprehensive plan to address the issue five years ago. In 2017, MGM teamed with the British Columbia Lottery Corporation’s GameSense to provide a holistic approach to responsible gaming.
Before the adoption of GameSense company-wide, BetMGM Responsible Gambling Program Manager Richard Taylor said that the company “focused on the 1-5% of individuals who unfortunately have a gambling-related problem. We were training our staff to recognize the signs and symptoms, providing a problem gambling helpline required by regulation, and really just doing what we could to ensure compliance.”
But when the operator was developing MGM Springfield, it became aware of Game Sense in 2017 through the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
“We reviewed everything, and it was the program we as a company were looking for,” Taylor says. “It doesn’t just focus on those who may have a problem. It focuses on the entire spectrum of customers. It’s designed as an educational program to explain to our customers how they can gamble responsibly.”
In advance of the RGEM, MGM released a statement committing company resources, including its employees, to address responsible gaming issues.
“Training is a priority,” said MGM Resorts Director of Responsible Gaming Garrett Farnes. “Our employees serve as the front line for the company’s responsible gaming efforts, and we want them to be equipped with the skills needed to ensure guests are informed, confident and in control of their play.”
For teams and leagues entering the sports betting space, the need for programs addressing responsible gaming can be a little daunting, given the complexity of the issue. That’s why the PGA Tour was one of the first professional leagues to sign on to the AGA’s Have a Game Plan. Bet Responsibly campaign
“We’re not a gaming company; we put on world-class golf events,” says PGA Vice President of Gaming Scott Warfield. “So, having the right partners is critical for us.”
The expansion from a week to a month allows the AGA to focus on four critical areas of responsible gaming.
- Sept. 1-10 — Empowering Customers to Play Responsibly
- Sept. 11-17 — Legal, Regulated Gaming Protects Players
- Sept. 18-24 — Employees: The RG Front Line
- Sept. 25-30 — Advancing Responsible Gaming with Technology
DeBaun says the root of the AGA’s approach to responsible gaming parallels the Reno Model, a paper authored by Alex Blaszczynski, Robert Ladouceur, and Howard J. Shaffer published in the Journal of Gambling Studies in 2004. The paper’s introduction states the work “describes a strategic framework that sets out principles to guide industry operators, health service and other welfare providers, interested community groups, consumers and governments and their related agencies in the adoption and implementation of responsible gambling and harm minimization initiatives.”
DeBaun says, “There isn’t a single responsibility for responsible gaming,” and that customers, operators, employees, regulators and other stakeholders have a duty to ensure responsible gaming succeeds.
“That’s where we find success,” DeBaun says. “That’s where we push everything forward. We often get involved in these conversations where people say, one or another party should be doing this differently. I think we need to take a step back and reflect on what we are doing, how that has grown, and what we can continue to grow and evolve into.”
“We need to be looking at what is effective,” DeBaun adds, “and investing in research to understand that.”