SBC Summit NA: Responsible gambling is more than just an 800 number

Responsible Gambling Leaders

The opening panel of the Player Protection Symposium at this year’s SBC Summit North America, Leaders Panel – Walking the Tight Rope of Player Protection and Growth, did not mince words about how dire it is that the gaming industry takes responsible gambling seriously.

“There are three issues that this industry needs to put their big boy and big girl pants on and understand can prevent us from having a sustainable industry,” said panelist Bill Pascrell III of Princeton Pubic Affairs Group. Diversity and payment processing are two of the bullets on that list. The third is responsible gambling.

More than just addressing gambling addiction

“The brick and mortar casinos looked at the addicted gambler as the VIP customer. Online can’t afford to do that. Online must understand and appreciate the only way to continue a sustainable gaming industry is to not look at a one 800 number as checking a box on a consumer-facing page,” Pascrell added.

While fellow panelist and Caesars Entertainment’s EVP for Government Relations and Corporate Responsibility Jan Jones Blackhurst didn’t agree with Pascrell’s depiction of how retail casino VIP programs work, she did agree that RG measures are more than just addressing the population dealing with addiction.

“We need to have programs and treatments that are based on science and there are millions of dollars that are being spent in studying the science of disordered gambling and how to treat it responsibly,” Blakhurst noted. “But I think we have to separate messages for disordered addictive behaviors which are a relatively small percentage of people who gamble, from the broader responsible gaming message, which should be an industry priority.”

Jacob Coin, who serves as the Executive Advisor to the Chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, spoke about the importance of integrating responsible gambling into the culture, particularly when it comes to tribal gaming.

“Culture plays an important role in how Native people see the world. Everything with Indian country that people learn is put into practice in some way guided by spirituality of the humanity and how they see the world,” Coin said.

Coin noted that no other ethnic group in the country is more adversely impacted by addiction than Native Americans, so it is of paramount importance to integrate how to speak about and address those issues into the culture and plans for tribal gaming.

Regulation and moderation the key to sports betting sustainability

“What we have to do is we have to learn the lesson from what happened in the UK, where it was totally unfettered. The industry, to a degree, ran amok and like here, we’re one newspaper headline away from some politicians son or daughter, husband, wife, brothers, sister, aunt uncle from having a major issue,” Pascrell said.

Blackhurst also spoke about the proliferation of US sports betting ads and the need for the industry to self-regulate:

“With all the money we spend on marketing in this industry, the fact that we don’t put a certain percentage of that marketing aside for a responsible gaming message and how to keep it safe and why it shouldn’t be safe and fun is actually just bad because this is as much a customer service as it is responsibility.”

The panel spoke too about the importance of making sure this messaging is effective and rooted in fact-based science and study.

Can operators effectively collaborate with responsible gambling groups?

CEO of the Responsible Gambling Council Shelley White moderated the panel. She brought up the unique amount of collaboration in the industry around RG measures that outsiders sometimes balk at.

“Our organization was very collaborative,” she said. “Collaboratively with regulators, operators, human organizations, academics, as well as other researchers…Sometimes as a Responsible Gambling organization, somebody will say, ‘doesn’t that mean that you are in bed with the operators and how can you be objective if you’re actually collaborating?’ Whereas we believe that if everyone is working together, we can create a common vision around a responsible gaming culture.”

Blackhurst and Pascrell pointed out how lawmakers and regulators are not educated on how to approach RG, so it is essential operators remain involved in developing best practices.

Coin added that tribal gaming groups could be doing more when it comes to collaboration:

“in the case of tribes and tribal gaming, maybe more collaboration, more sharing of information is is maybe the next step that we might take. I know that in California tribal gaming enjoys a strong positive reputation in California because of the wonderful things that tribes do with it. But if we added responsible gaming to that list of wonderful achievements, we might be just over the top with regard to that.”

The consensus seems to be the industry absolutely can and should do more. However, it needs to be rooted in science, ingrained in the company culture of every operator and, most importantly, more than just an 800 number.