None of us – media included – can ignore problem gambling issuesBy Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming ReportsAugust 16, 2017 at 5:12 pmProblem gaming, and the industry’s response to the issue, has not been an easy story for journalists to understand and cover. A new push by gaming leaders could change this narrative.Compulsive gambling stories were not “sexy.” Casino expansion, financing matters, mergers, or the latest in gaming trends and entertainment attractions were more interesting to readers, and easier to follow. I was guilty of this along with other journalists.Instead, problem gambling matters found their way to the police blotter, surfacing in human tragedy events. How many column inches over the years were devoted to stories of parents leaving children in hot automobiles to gamble inside casinos, or a person embezzling money from a business to feed a gambling habit? Too many to count.The recent 20th anniversary of the industry’s Responsible Gaming Education Week was not just symbolic. Roundtable events in Atlantic City and Las Vegas showed that some gaming industry leaders want to stop those customers with obsessive gambling habits before they end up in the news pages for the wrong reason.“Responsible gaming is more than a weeklong event,” said American Gaming Association President Geoff Freeman. He said the Washington D.C. trade organization and its members will show a continual, year-round commitment to responsible gaming.The AGA released an updated Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming that offers more than just suggestions on how to spot and confront a gambler with a potential problem. Freeman said the gaming industry is committed to “foundational and evergreen responsible gaming education, programming and awareness with employees, patrons, policymakers, regulators and the public at large.”This should also include gaming media.The National Center for Responsible Gaming, which the casino industry established in 1996, was the first serious organization to research gambling disorders and study the issue. The organization, which is located in Massachusetts, is a valuable resource to media for experts on compulsive gambling matters.“Responsible gaming practices are for everyone involved with gaming,” said NCRG Executive Director Russell Sanna.The AGA’s new code includes consumer protection measures, such as enhanced transparency surrounding odds and payouts, and truth in advertising. For example, the advertising and marketing campaigns should not overstate the probability of winning.However, there is no enforcement for gaming companies to follow that directive. Gaming media, then, could be the watchdog in this effort.Meanwhile, the new code takes into account all forms of gaming, including casinos, mobile gaming and interactive gaming.“The code seeks to enhance the industry’s commitment to protecting players and regularly seeking opportunities for industrywide improvement,” the AGA stated.Some casino companies are taking matters into their own hands.Alan Feldman, MGM Resorts International’s executive vice president of global industry affairs, who serves as the NCRG’s chairman, said during the Las Vegas roundtable that gaming leaders have spent much of the past 20 years focused on problem gambling matters when it was too late.Feldman said MGM Resorts plans to expand its responsible gaming efforts later this year with a new program at company properties throughout the U.S.“What we should be doing is having a regular ongoing dialogue with our customers to make sure that what they’re doing is safe and fun for them and their families, before gambling stops being a fun and affordable activity,” Feldman told the Associated Press.Disclosure: Howard Stutz oversees corporate communications for Golden Entertainment, Inc. He took a required course in understanding problem gambling when he joined the company in July 2016. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.