Time to Shift Gears? Looking Ahead at the Industry's Next Phase in Responsible Gambling
This article is part of the Perspective series by the Responsible Gambling Council, which is intended to inform policy makers and industry leaders as they consider changes to the responsible gambling safety net.
Also in this series: RG = Prevention = Persuasion | Working with a Creative Agency
Over the past 50 years, and most notably in the last two decades, there has been a surge of energy in the effort to curb problem gambling within the gaming industry. As I see it, we are at a critical juncture in the evolution of how that industry thinks about responsible gambling.
Twenty years ago, when I first joined the Responsible Gambling Council, things were quite different. While the term “responsible gambling” had been in the industry lexicon for some time, the early years were largely characterized by resistance and denial.
To be fair, North American gaming providers introduced the first self-exclusion programs in response to petitioning by problem gambling advocates. And some, like Harrah’s, acknowledged problem gambling, investigated ways to address it and began to finance charitable efforts to provide counselling and support.
From Denial to Compliance
The widespread expansion of gambling, driven in part by governments’ need for new sources of revenue, generated many forms of backlash from the general public, and from a large variety of religious and community groups.
As a result, the notion gradually emerged that gambling providers require a social licence to operate, and that a large element in that licence is meaningful effort to address problem gambling. This led to the expansion of RG programs—typically where innovations developed in one jurisdiction or company and then were adopted by others. During this era, for example, most gaming providers established an RG Director position in their organizations. The onsite RG centres are another example that appeared in Australia and across Canada after being pioneered at the Crown casino in Melbourne.
At the same time, regulators in places like Queensland, Australia and Holland stepped in more aggressively to require increasingly prescriptive RG programs. Jurisdiction-wide self-exclusion programs spread rapidly from state to state in the U.S., and into Canada, after their introduction by the Missouri Gaming Commission.
Over time, more and more regulators stepped into the field, leading to the widespread adoption of a compliance model that remains the common approach to responsible gambling today. Regulators create the rules; operators follow them.
The era of compliance accomplished several things. It generated a reasonably consistent set of best practices, codes of conduct and standards, and in general elaborated what the range of RG programs should look like. (The standards that form the basis of RGC’s RG Check accreditation program are one example of such codification of RG.) The compliance model also led to growth in experimentation and applied research, with research centres opening around the world.
It also spawned a new generation of RG professionals within gaming operations: people focused on player protections who became increasingly influential in their organizations, and the industry more generally, through groups like the Canadian Partnership for Responsible Gambling, which was founded in 2001. This era also generated the virtually universal view that all staff should be trained in RG and sensitized to the issue of problem gambling.
From Compliance to Integration