Jennifer Shatley Q&A: Striving for a safer American online gaming space

April 2, 2024
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Key industry players partner to change online gaming safety in the US.

Dr Jennifer Shatley speaks exclusively to Gaming America about the formation of the Responsible Online Gaming Association, her appointment as Executive Director, and how she believes the seven member companies can change the landscape.  

With the rapid development of the US market, and an increasing number of states legalizing online gambling, do you think now is a pivotal moment for responsible gambling regulation?  

As gaming becomes established across the US, we're going to be looking at best practises, we're going to be looking at; what is the knowledge base? How do we do this in the best manner possible? That's really one of the reasons why the Responsible Online Gaming Association (ROGA) was formed, because we want to expand that knowledge base. We want to help really implement evidence-based best practises. This is such a new field, that there's really not that much knowledge there yet. Responsible gaming itself is a young field from a research perspective, especially from an online gaming perspective. So one of our goals is really to advance support for independent academic research and advance that knowledge, so we can have the best evidence-based best practises established. 

We spoke to NCPG Executive Director Keith Whyte a little while back, who said he believes the US is far behind the UK when it comes to RG – do you agree? How do you hope ROGA can change this moving forward?  

Well, I think that responsible gaming is a constantly evolving programme. We're going to be looking at what are the appropriate policies for the US market. I think we can learn from other jurisdictions, and we can learn from other international markets, but it's not as simple as taking something from another jurisdiction and just implementing it. We have to look at the policy environment and what are the best practises? I believe that ROGA again will help drive that forward in the US with regard to looking at what the best practises are. How can we establish and implement those changes that make sense within our jurisdictions?  

Can you give us any more details about what your Independent Certification Program will entail?  

So, this is one that we're still developing details of. We are very young, only on 28th March we were announced, and I started about a week ago. The intent of it is really to have some evaluation by independent parties based on a specific criteria, to determine that operators have robust programmes in place. From the operator’s perspective, it’s to see where they're doing well, where there's opportunities to enhance their programmes. But it's also from a consumer perspective to see that these organisations have robust responsible gaming programmes in place. The details are still going to be worked out.  

You’re currently serving as the President for the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling; can you tell us a little bit more about your professional background?  

I have a 25-year history in the industry, focused on responsible gaming. I think my unique perspective is that I look at responsible gaming from a variety of different perspectives. So I have a policy perspective – that's actually my educational background as I have a doctorate in public policy. I can look at it from that perspective, but then I also have an operations background. I spent 17 years at Caesars, establishing their responsible gaming programme, which was the first company to create a responsible gaming programme back in 1989. I got to do a lot of things within that role, a lot of firsts in responsible gaming in the field. Others will call me a pioneer, although that makes me sound really old! A trailblazer, maybe! I was moving forward with a lot of innovative things that are sort of commonplace today.

Then, I'm also President of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling. So, I have sort of an advocacy, background and perspective as well. Then I have a research perspective, too. I can look at this not only from 'what does the research say?' But then how can you translate that research into programs that you can actually operationalize within a gaming environment. So that'smy background and made me a good candidate for this role. Based on the objectives that we have and in terms of research, best practises, creating a clearing house of data sharing – which was one of the things I also did at Caesars – and looking at all the goals we have at ROGA, seem to fit well with my professional experience.  

With your experience in Nevada specifically, do you think that gamblers in the state could be a good catalyst for the rest of a country to learn from with regard to problem gambling?  

I would say it doesn't matter the jurisdiction. We should be looking at what are the best ways to enhance the programs we already have in place. How do we make them resonate with a variety of different audiences?

How do you plan to unify people’s approach to RG with such differing regulation from state to state?  

I think that's really where best practises come into place. We're going to be looking at what the best practises are that are evidence driven. Informing what our members are doing within their organizations across all jurisdictions – but also, trying to do that for the industry as a whole, not just our members.   

How do you hope that the research and resources ROGA provides will ensure that action is taken within the gambling industry?  

I think that the commitment they've put forward of coming together to collectively address this issue and collaborate with a variety of different experts, researchers, audiences and others really speaks to their commitment. They're putting forward tremendous resources. The budget is $20m, to really delve into these topics, because they want to enhance programmes. They want to ensure the wellbeing of the customer base. So this is a commitment they're collectively making. It's certainly got some great people on it there.


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