SBC Digital North America: Responsible-gaming initiatives require teamwork Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports · June 10, 2021 at 3:53 pm Despite almost universal support for responsible gaming, a siloed approach across the United States can thwart efforts to help gamblers in need, four experts said Thursday. For example, consider all those ads offering a telephone helpline for problem gamblers. Some states have individual numbers and at least two numbers are available in multiple states, although they might not be able to point callers toward assistance, depending on their location. “I can’t imagine a world in which, if I’m in Tennessee and I’m having an emergency, I need to look up what 911 is there,” said Richard Taylor Jr., manager of the responsible-gaming program for BetMGM. “That makes no sense.” He and other members of a panel at SBC Digital North America said responsible-gaming efforts require a partnership among operators, regulators, and advocates. Also on the panel, titled “Staying Ahead of the Game: Investing in Responsible Gaming Regulation,” were former Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones Blackhurst, who helped develop the industry’s first responsible gaming practices in 1999; Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling since 1998; and Mark Vander Linden, director of Research and Responsible Gaming for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Jennifer Shatley, principal consultant with Logan Avenue Consulting in Las Vegas and president of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, moderated. “The principles (of responsible gaming) are easy and basic, but the implementation is hard,” Whyte said. “And as we look into sports betting and online gambling, it requires a whole lot of new learning.” Blackhurst and Taylor said their companies look at responsible gaming as a customer-service initiative. Blackhurst, who now serves on Caesars’ Board of Directors and is chief executive in residence at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas International Gaming Institute, said 90 percent or more of people gamble for fun, but about 10 percent are “on the border.” When Caesars instituted its program 20 years ago, she said, many thought its goals were too high. “It was a commitment to our employees, our customers, and our communities,” she said. Taylor cited a “business imperative” for a responsible-gaming program. “We do not want to cause harm to customers (whose loyalty) we want for decades,” he said. Vander Linden said regulators keep the big picture in mind and work with individual operators to carry out specific programs. He pointed to Massachusetts’ GameSense initiative, which has information centers at all three of the state’s casinos, along with advisors trained to help people who think they have a gambling problem. “Casinos are masters at marketing and communication,” he said. “We rely on cooperation with each of our licensees. Without that partnership, I don’t think it would be as effective as it is.” Taylor, whose company participates in GameSense, called it a “shining example” of how regulators and operators can collaborate on a responsible-gaming program. He cautioned against other regulators seeing the success of GameSense or another initiative and imposing specific requirements that won’t necessarily work elsewhere. Whyte said regulators should design goals that are “descriptive, not proscriptive.” “If there’s a shared set of values and we’re measuring outcomes, there are great grounds for a partnership,” he said. “When you don’t have shared values or objectives and you’re not measuring the impact, that’s when you start to run up the risk.” Blackhurst predicted a bright future for responsible-gaming programs involving online users, thanks to the added data on customer behavior. As the the panel was wrapping up its discussion, EPIC Risk Management announced plans for a Player Protection Symposium in partnership with SBC Events. The company said the Nov. 30 program in New York City will be the first high-level event dedicated to building a unified approach to responsible gaming across the country. EPIC said the invitation-only event will feature 100 representatives from politics, the media, and the sports and gambling industries.