How to stop gambling from being banned

April 4, 2023 6:38 PM
  • Dennis Conrad
April 4, 2023 6:38 PM
  • Dennis Conrad

Noted gaming lawyer I. Nelson Rose has long espoused the theory that gambling in our society comes in “waves.” According to Rose, looking back in history informs us that gambling goes through alternate waves of prohibition and acceptance. His theory states that in the United States, we’re now in a “Third Wave” of acceptance and growth.

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It’s hard to argue with that, as casinos are everywhere, online gaming is growing rapidly, and sports betting is exploding. Yet Rose argues that a Fourth Wave of gambling will eventually come, preceded by scandal, ruin, and ultimately prohibition.

I’d hate to believe that I. Nelson Rose is right about all this and our beloved gaming industry will one day shrivel up and die or have to be put on life support. Gambling regulation is robust, public acceptance of gambling is high, and reputable companies and individuals pervade the industry as owners and operators. So what’s the worry?

While I usually consider myself more of an industry warrior than worrier, some occurrences in our industry over the last several years have given me pause:

  • Gambling “reform” is currently under way in several countries, most notably England and Australia. “Reform” rarely means gambling expansion and usually entails some package of gambling-device reduction, limitation of betting hours and/or customer spend, and assorted other restrictions and regulations.
  • While there hasn’t been one eruptive scandal, several mini-scandals have involved professional athletes and betting on their sports (tennis, soccer, football, etc.).
  • Restrictions on gambling advertising and promotions continue to be imposed on gambling operators by regulators.
  • The gambling industry continues to trail other industries in the adoption of non-smoking policies.
  • The incidence of problem gambling in the industry continues, seemingly unabated.

These and other storm clouds on the horizon may not mean that a Fourth Wave of Gambling (prohibition) is anywhere near. But government has a habit of trying to legislate what’s “good for us” and I believe our industry would be wise to get ahead of this tendency. Governments have never been laissez-faire with respect to gambling and we should do our best to reasonably keep it from telling us how to run our gambling businesses.

For a long time, gambling was a vice industry, right alongside drinking and smoking, with gambling at the center of all of it. It was naughty and for those of us who love the industry, it was also kind of cool. You could call it our “brand.” And there was no other brand like it.

But our naughty brand has slowly been changing. Casinos have become more than just gambling dens. They now include restaurants, showrooms, shops, spas, golf courses. They’re now situated in more conservative parts of the country, which requires more of “wearing the white hat.” Casinos, dare I say, have become more mainstream.

And being mainstream, I believe, means no longer doing or no longer ignoring the things that helped give the gambling business its shady rap—you know, mobsters running the joints, call girls available from the bell captains, dealers busting out winning blackjack players, slot machines programmed not to pay jackpots, and other (still believed) stereotypes.

So to prevent the Fourth Wave from crashing down on us and to move farther down the road of the gambling industry becoming a respected mainstream brand, several initiatives can and should be taken before some government mandates them for us.

Many of you will disagree with some of what I’m about to say, but I’m hoping you’ll grasp the overall concept and goal.

  1. A casino’s problem-gambling response needs to be more than a poster and some pamphlets at the cashier’s cage. Hey, some people can’t handle gambling. How can you more proactively and meaningfully deal with that?
  2. Gamblers have a right to know the house hold percentage on every bet. Yep, I know this one is sacrilegious and keeping players in the dark has been in the gaming-industry playbook for decades. But even McDonald’s lists the amount of calories in its Big Mac. Hasn’t seemed to hurt its business.
  3. Casino gamblers should be able to set their own loss limits and not be able to access their entire net worth at a gambling station. Did you know that gambling addicts have the highest suicide rate among all of the addictions and 17% of gambling addicts in treatment have attempted suicide?
  4. It’s time to put some guardrails up for casino hosts and player-development executives. Their job is to get the biggest gambling spenders to come in and spend more money. They’re given bonuses for that. But do they have any guidelines as to when they shouldn’t be cajoling some of these gamblers?
  5. It’s time for the smoke to go. For decades, every casino allowed smoking. The bosses were afraid all of the smokers would stop gambling and revenues would plummet. Well, it’s time to care about the air your customers breathe, before governments mandate that for you. Many already have.
  6. The “whiff of the weasel” should be eliminated in casino promotions. WIN (up to) A MILLION DOLLARS (yeah, what are the chances of that?). GET A FREE SUPER BOWL CAP (while supplies last). $29 HOTEL ROOM FOR FIRST TIME GUESTS (Mondays only, plus a $40 resort fee applies).
  7. Get kids out of the casino. I know, you say you already do. But really, do you? Or is what I’m seeing in many casinos an illusion?
  8. Stop highlighting “excitement” in your casino advertising and start highlighting “clean and safe.” Or haven’t you been listening to what your customers are saying?
  9. Make your casino about people, not things. – It’s hard to have a relationship with a buffet or a slot machine. But a relationship with a buffet server or a slot change person is meaningful.

I’m not naïve enough to think that many of you, if you’ve even read this far, will agree with me or implement any of my suggestions above. Maybe some better suggestions would be more helpful. But if I. Nelson Rose’s Fourth Wave of Gambling ever comes crashing in, I hope that you will have tried to calm any troubled waters and tied down your gambling ships. If so, I believe the storm surge won’t be nearly as bad.


Earlier posts by Dennis

What about these Electronic Crap Games?

Some overdue recognition

My top 10 casino pet peeves

Service you can trust. Really.

I Need Help!

Top 10 things casino players hate

Making lemons out of lemonade

David Kranes: The most unappreciated man in gaming

Two Dinosaurs Walk into a Bar

The magic of Barona

My Top 10 big-picture casino-industry trends

I am your customer

The Rad Bar — If I owned a video poker bar

Stop eroding player value

What? You’re still alive?