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The Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to problem gambling prevention.

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RG Standards for Lottery Operators—One Piece of the Prevention Puzzle

Jan 10, 2014

Newscan (Vol. 16, Issue 1)

Playing the lottery is one of the most popular forms of gambling in Canada and elsewhere. Lottery tickets are much more readily available than other types of gambling— with nearly 30,000 outlets across Canada that sell them (as shown in the Canadian Gambling Digest 2011-2012). And today, seven of ten Canadian provinces offer online lottery ticket sales.

Why Are Lottery Games So Popular?

The reasons are not hard to list. For a relatively small price and short time commitment, there is an opportunity for a large cash prize. Traditional ticket-based state lotteries have been around in Canada since the 1970s, and tickets are widely available. In fact, many people don’t even think of playing the lottery as gambling at all.

More Than Just Traditional Lottery Is Involved

But lottery outlets offer more than traditional lottery tickets. Players can purchase instant-win scratch tickets, electronic Keno, sports betting tickets and more. These games are also accessible in new ways: online, at grocery store checkouts and in specialty stores focused on enhancing the customer gaming experience.

While the research generally agrees that lottery is among the less risky types of gambling, it does depend on the type of game. For example, scratch/instant win tickets are riskier because the immediacy of the results can lead to continuous play. Also, the perceived skill element of sports lotteries can lead to excessive play as players try to “beat the odds.” In general, though, lower problem gambling rates exist among lottery players than those who gamble on other forms.

If Lottery Play Isn’t a Big Problem, Why Develop RG Standards?

Prior to Insight 2012, there had been very scarce attention paid to best practices for responsible gambling provision for lottery operators. And, while there are responsible gambling initiatives for lotteries, they are limited compared to those for casinos or electronic gaming machines. However, research has shown that there is a percentage of lottery players who do experience problems related to their play.

“The aim of developing lottery RG standards is not to exaggerate a problem.” says RGC CEO Jon Kelly. “In fact, many of the processes outlined in the report are in practice across the country. To me, the real value is that the report highlights an opportunity to raise awareness. The places where lottery tickets are sold—and the retail clerks who sell them—are the only direct point of contact with gambling for many people. That means these interactions represent a unique opportunity to remind people that they are gambling, that gambling has risks, and that help is available.”

Given the popularity of lottery gambling, its potential to lead to problematic play, and the sparseness of RG programs for lottery provision, RGC's Centre for the Advancement of Best Practices undertook Insight 2012: Responsible Gambling for Lotteries, a project to develop responsible gambling standards for lottery operators.

5 Areas for Emerging Best Practices

Insight 2012 identified best practices in five key areas of operation:

  1. Responsible Gambling Policies — policy statements clearly identify corporate commitment to RG
  2. Advertising and Promotion — campaigns are vetted from an RG perspective and do not mislead people, or target at-risk populations
  3. Informed Decision Making — clear information is available to players about the risks of play
  4. Assisting Customers — staff are able to respond to customers who express concerns about their gambling
  5. Staff Training — RG education is a component of the training process for retailers selling lottery tickets

What is the RGC Insight Project?

Insight is an annual research project by RGC’s Centre for the Advancement of Best Practices that is published in a report of findings by RGC. The research for this report included a literature review, a review of current training and procedures, a focus group with lottery players who have experienced problems with their play, and an expert forum of operators, retailers, regulators, treatment providers, RG experts and others. Download the full report for more.