Saturday, 13 October 2012

Responsible Gambling is Everyone's Responsibility

Responsible Gambling is Everyone's Responsibility

by Phillip J. Boucher

Gambling in regulated gaming establishments such as casinos and racetrack slot facilities always seems to draw the ire of critics who are quick to shout out how the gaming industry is turning the ordinary citizen into an addicted gambler without any sense of moral or ethical conscience. Critics are quick to ignore the fact that horse racing, lotteries, and even the coveted and precious Bingo parlours have their share of extreme gambling addicts. Yet it seems these types of gambling and gaming establishments and the problem gamblers who use them are immune from the critics' comments.

Yet no one is forcing anyone to gamble. The simple fact that a casino exists is not fodder for some to say that because it is there it has created the gambling addiction monster. For if the critics were right, then the simple fact of opening a bar would justify the action of stating that it has created the alcoholic. Yet no one is forcing anyone to drink.

Critics of gambling need to realize that gambling addicts are triggered by feelings. The feeling of beating the system. Of beating the odds. Of showing who's the boss, who's in control. So a slot machine is not the only trigger. Bingo can trigger the same feelings and "create" the same addict. Break-open tickets, playing the lottery, or a simple friendly card game can turn the ordinary gambler into a raging addict. So it is important for the critics to note that everyone, including themselves, must practice responsible gambling.

Most operators and regulators of gaming facilities and lottery products have aggressive measures to ensure they are providing Responsible Gaming to their customers. Many use self-exclusion programs for guests, employee training in the recognition of problem gambling indicators, and referral programs for those guests who request help. Some also have outside addiction counselors or referral agencies on-site to deal with those guests in crisis.

These measure go far to help the gambling addict deal with their problem. Dispelling myths about slots is very much a needed addition. Further measures could include the implementation of on-site educational programs given by the slot technical staff with handouts (such as brochures) that explain exactly how slot machines work, how the Random Number Generator operates, and what Payback Percentage really means. Posting on each machine the exact odds for hitting the top award for that machine. The immediate intervention to anyone having a crisis. Just as some jurisdictions make it illegal to serve alcohol to someone who is impaired, it should also be illegal to allow anyone to continue to gamble when they obviously show sings of problem gambling crisis.

However, the gambling addict is also responsible for their own behaviour. Understanding how a machine operates and reading each machine's paytable, realizing that they have a problem in the first place, and availing themselves of the help offered will enable them to get their disease under control. Since there is no one forcing them to go to casinos and no one forcing them to spend their money, it is the gambling addict who is ultimately responsible for their own situation.

But to those critics who time and time again cite casinos as the evil instigator and perpetrator of gambling addiction, you have a responsibility as well. Instead of always criticizing the gaming industry as the sole cause of gambling addiction, start to lobby for more addiction centres and counselors specifically trained in treating gambling addiction. Lobby for better programs put together by regulators and operators that specifically target the triggers as discussed previously. Push for better education towards the dangers of addiction, not the "dangers" of gambling. Do your research before you speak your say. Don't put the blame solely on the gaming industry or solely on the problem gambler, or solely on the government, or solely on the public.

Remember that Responsible Gambling is everyone's responsibility.