September 15, 2020 Casino

AGA seminar addresses problem gambling, effects of coronavirus

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The American Gaming Association hosted an educational seminar as part of Responsible Gaming Awareness Week with the aim of defining problem gambling and looking at how the industry should help problem gamblers amid the coronavirus.

The seminar, titled Redefining Responsible Gaming for Today’s Gaming Industry, included Cait DeBaun and David Forman of the AGA, Brianne Doura-Schawohl of EPIC Risk Management, Alan Feldman of the UNLV International Gaming Institute and Washington State University professor Khalil Philander. 

Two million American adults are estimated to meet criteria for pathological gambling in a given year and 8.4% - 14% of the adult population meet the criteria for at-risk gamblers according to data from EPIC Risk Management. 

Only a small handful of states provide adequate problem gambling funding per capita while the federal government offers no funding. 

“On average we are talking about an infinitesimally small commitment to gambling disorder and problem gambling at an average of 37 cents per capita in state funding with the 40 states that actually have any public funds,”  Doura-Schawohl said. 

The AGA found that in states that do allocate funding for responsible gaming (RG), money is often misappropriated or the state has rolled back RG funding streams. 

“In many states a portion of state gaming taxes are supposed to be dedicated to RG programs and there is a concern that this wasn’t always happening,” Forman said. 

With little financial support or regulatory structure for RG at the state level, operators are asked to educate customers on RG while working under moving goal posts, according to Philander. 

“People have every incentive possible to deal with this issue from a compliance standpoint because that is the only incentive they have,” Philander said. “If you completely ignore this problem, you ignore your compliance requirements then your gambling license is at risk. But you have no incentive to go beyond that to experiment to try to find new ways to innovate to solve this problem.” 

Philander proposes using market incentives to increase support for RG innovation. 

Feldman, who chairs the Nevada State Advisory Committee on Problem Gambling, warns that operators must be cognizant of the coronavirus’ effects on gamblers. 

“We’ve all experienced isolation, loneliness and all of these things are known contributing factors for problem gambling,” Feldman said. “So I think the industry has to pay very close attention to our customer base in order to make certain that the people who were totally fine six, eight, 12 months ago aren’t now coming in in a different way. We just have to be sensitive about that.” 

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