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

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Approaching Patrons with a Potential Gambling Problem—A Win-Win-Win Situation

by Responsible Gambling Council | Nov 30, 2012 12:40 PM

Newscan (Vol. 14, Issue 47)

Taking action to prevent problem gambling has a wider impact than simply helping the gambler with a potential problem. As seen in the recently published Insight 2011—Responding to Patrons with Potential Gambling Problems, developing a response framework that is systematic and respectful can not only help the gambler in question, but also improves the experience of venue staff and other patrons.

For Patrons with a Potential Gambling Problem (and by Extension, their Family and Friends)

The most obvious person helped is the patron who is approached—clearly it is much better to address a suspected problem before that problem becomes fully blown. And, given the devastating impact of problem gambling on family and friends, early intervention helps the gambler’s wider network as well.

As one participant in the Insight 2011 focus group of people with gambling problems noted, “it’s [the venue’s] obligation to approach and if you get angry their staff should be qualified to handle that.” Another observed: “Maybe I would not respond the first, second, or third time, even the fiftieth time, but ...maybe on the 101st time I would respond.”

For the Venue Staff (and by Extension, the Venue as a Whole)

Many of the casino managers and supervisors interviewed for Insight 2011 said they saw assistance to these customers as simply an extension of good customer service.

Having a process in place for this kind of intervention just helps people do their job well, and good job performance leads to job satisfaction, employee loyalty and improved retention. Research shows, however, that the benefits are greater than just a sense of “doing a good job.”

Similar to Maslow’s (1970) hierarchy of needs, human resources experts have described a hierarchy of need in employee engagement. The first level revolves around job clarity—knowing what your roles and responsibilities are. The second is that employees have to believe their work is meaningful to the organization as a whole. (Employee Engagement: Motivating and Retaining Tomorrow's Workforce, Shuck & Wollard, 2008). Finally, at the top of the pyramid, are engaged employees who believe their work has a positive effect on the world at large. For that, employees must believe their organization cares about its customers.

The framework outlined in Insight 2011 includes protocols to meet all 3 of these levels of need: job clarity, meaningful feedback and a sense of helping patrons in need. As the research shows, this framework should help employees feel committed and passionate about their work, to the benefit of all.

For Other Venue Patrons

Other customers benefit as well if patrons with a potential gambling problem are reached early. A gambler with a full-blown problem can poison the gaming floor by begging for money, harassing staff, disturbing other patrons, and using up excessive amounts of staff time. When patrons with potential problems are approached with respect and discretion, the surrounding patrons’ experience of the venue improves.

And this is just the beginning. Having happy, engaged employees contributes to having happy, engaged customers. (See Caterina Bulgarella’s white paper, Employee Satisfaction & Customer Satisfaction, for several examples of research that quantifies the positive relationship between customer and employee satisfaction.)

The ‘How’ Is the Most Important Part

It’s clear, then, that having a carefully considered plan of action for managing patrons with a potential gambling problem is something that can have far-reaching benefits to all involved. That doesn’t mean that it’s easy, or simple, to implement. There are many pitfalls and potential issues to address in designing appropriate ways to manage these situations.

As identified in Insight 2011, the most significant barrier identified is the lack of clarity around the varying roles and responsibilities of gaming staff. Another important concern is that—though they were unanimous in their view that doing something is better than doing nothing—gamblers were careful to observe that a suspicion is not a fact until carefully assessed and verified. Appropriate training and clear feedback to staff are essential.

In considering an appropriate way to respond to patrons who may have gambling problems, gaming providers need a clear set of guiding principles that is respectful, responsive and systematic. For more on this response framework, see the full Insight 2011 report.

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