In its State of the States report published this week, the American Gaming Association earmarked 2017 as the year in which the US casino industry embraced responsible gaming more than ever before. The industry, it said, continued to pivot away from a traditional, compliance-based approach determined by state-mandated rules and regulations, and toward a more proactive role, whereby operators are encouraged to institute best practices.

A major component of the new approach is the Responsible Gaming Collaborative which pulls together the AGA, advocacy groups, academic institutions and trade associations representing tribal casinos, state lotteries and the thoroughbred racing industry to establish a first-of-its-kind coalition.

The AGA noted in its report: “The Collaborative’s goal is to broaden the industry’s understanding of what responsible gaming measures are effective, and to align stakeholder policies and industry best practices with those effective policies. To better identify effectiveness, the group is likely to conduct an extensive audit of the responsible gaming policies in place across the United States. The group’s findings will then be used to identify best practices, and to hold states accountable for directing responsible gaming funds generated by the gaming industry to the solutions said funds are specifically earmarked for.” 

“The evolving approach to responsible gaming is the result of a combination of factors,” added the AGA. “One factor is a greater emphasis on corporate social responsibility initiatives, not just by gaming companies, but by corporate America in general, with strong social responsibility programs seen as a positive by both investors and consumers. American gaming companies are also aware of acute regulatory pressures being felt by operators in overseas markets like the United Kingdom and Australia.”

A second factor, suggested the association, is the industry’s evolving gaming technology. “Operators enthusiastic about cashless wagering, mobile gaming or other technological innovations will typically need buy-in from state policymakers before they can deploy those products,” it said. “Concerns over problem gambling can represent a significant hurdle to the type of regulatory approval those products require.”

SBC Americas analysis: The American gaming sector is wise to take a more holistic view as well as looking towards other jurisdictions as it shapes its approach to corporate social responsibility. In the UK, for example, the long-held and overtly negative view is that when it comes to problem gambling it’s the polluter that pays. Hence the growing pressure in Great Britain to introduce a mandatory levy on the gaming industry to fund treatment for those who get into trouble with their gambling habits. Such outcomes are good for academics and highly remunerated charity officials, but costly and potentially onerous for industry stakeholders.