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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 Check Accreditation: From Concept to Reality

by Kevin Noel, Operations Director, RGC | Dec 07, 2012 11:03 AM

Newscan (Vol. 14, Issue 48)

The concept of accreditation is fairly simple: compare a particular reality to a general standard to see where it stacks up. If it meets an established threshold, then it’s accredited. This process is familiar to most of us, whether from swimming lessons, or learning to play piano.

The reality of accreditation, of course, is much more complicated. What is the standard? Who sets it and how is it validated? What are the criteria for comparison? How is the process implemented? Who makes the final decision to grant accreditation? Once accredited, how long does it last? How do we maintain the program’s independence?

When RGC set about launching its accreditation program for gaming venues in the summer of 2011, we faced all of these questions, and more. Now, after announcing one accreditation and with over 27 others underway, I am preparing to present a joint session at BCLC’s New Horizons in Responsible Gambling conference in Vancouver on the RG Check program. As a starting point for the review, I thought it might be a good time to take a fresh look at the building blocks of the RG Check accreditation program.

What is the standard for RG Check?

For RG Check, the standard is the RG Index—8 standards that define the problem gambling safety net for gaming venues. These are the core areas of gaming venue operations in which responsible gambling practices are embedded:

  1. corporate policies
  2. self-exclusion
  3. advertising and promotion
  4. informed decision making
  5. assisting patrons who may have problems with gambling
  6. access to money
  7. venue and game features
  8. employee training

Who sets the standard and how is it validated?

The foundation must be solid for the structure to stand. Developed over many years as an independent initiative of RGC’s Centre for the Advancement of Best Practices, the RG Index is grounded in an extensive review of literature and international best practices in several sectors.

The Index was then discussed with a wide range of stakeholders, from regulators to treatment providers to people with firsthand experience with gambling problems. Lastly, the standards and criteria were pilot-tested in a Canadian gaming venue.

What are the criteria for comparison?

Within each standard, specific criteria define the standards in greater detail. These 40 benchmarks guide the accreditation process, providing stepping stones for evaluation. For example, under Advertising and Promotion, criteria include “not targeting problem gamblers” and “not misleading.” This specificity in the standards allows for metrics to be developed—a checklist of sorts—against which we can objectively measure a venue’s program.

Results are then collected and aggregated into an overall score. A venue must achieve a score of 50% or higher for each of the 8 standards and an overall score of 70% in order to be accredited.

While it’s tempting to see this as a kind of criteria checklist, it’s important to note that like the ingredients in a recipe, some criteria are more important than others. For that reason, part of the scoring system involves weighting certain criteria above others. For example, a venue without a self-exclusion program would be forgoing so many accreditation points it is highly unlikely that it could qualify for accreditation unless all other aspects of its programs were nearly perfect.

How is the process implemented?

With the RG Check criteria in hand, the specially trained RG Check coordinators are able to conduct the evaluations systematically and methodically. They collect information in several ways:

  • Review of policies, strategic and planning documents
  • Examination of statistical information regarding services and evaluations
  • Surveys of patrons and staff
  • Interviews with key staff
  • On-site visits including observation and a mock self-exclusion demonstration

Usually about 80 pages long, the resulting confidential report, which details the venue’s areas of strength, areas for improvement and a score for each of the 8 standards, is first shared with the gaming venue. The venue is then given an opportunity to respond before the report is submitted for final approval.

Who makes the final decision to grant accreditation?

It’s not enough for the process to be systematic—those empowered with the final decision must be knowledgeable, objective and independent. The RG Check Accreditation Panel, which makes the final determination on a given venue’s accreditation, is composed of respected community leaders chosen for their integrity and independence.

Does accreditation last forever?

No matter how well designed, all standards are subject to change—and since the pace of change in the gaming industry shows no sign of slowing—the standards in the RG Index must evolve as well.

For this reason, the standards in the RG Index will be updated from time to time as the sector changes and more is known about the impact and usefulness of responsible gambling measures.

Going forward

As I look at RG Check a year and a half into it, I see how much it has grown and how much we have learned. I will be sharing some of these lessons at BCLC’s New Horizons conference. I hope to see you there.