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December 10, 2017

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Gaming trade group updates how it addresses problem gambling

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Steve Marcus

Terry Johnson, left, a member of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, speaks during a Responsible Gaming Panel at UNLV Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. Alan Feldman, executive vice president of global government & industry affairs at MGM Resorts International, listens at right.

Responsible Gaming Panel At UNLV

Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-Nev) holds an American Gaming Association (AGA) Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming during a Responsible Gaming Panel at UNLV Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. Launch slideshow »

One of the gaming industry’s largest trade groups announced an updated approach to problem gambling during a roundtable discussion on the issue at UNLV’s international Gaming Institute on Thursday.

Just before the discussion, the American Gaming Association's (AGA) released its updated Code of Conduct for Responsible Gaming, which guides how the organization’s members — casinos, sports books, manufacturers and related businesses — deal with:

• Promoting responsible gaming

• Preventing underage gambling and unattended minors in casinos

• Serving alcohol responsibly

• Advertising gaming responsibly

• Training employees

• Raising awareness and promoting research into responsible gaming

The panel included Elizabeth Cronan, senior director of gaming policy, AGA; Alan Feldman, executive vice president, MGM Resorts International; Tim Richards, senior vice president of payments innovation, Everi Holdings Inc; Dan Shapiro, vice president of strategy and business development, William Hill; and Terry Johnson, a member of the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

In her opening remarks, Cronan said the updated code is just one part of the AGA’s effort to address problem gambling. The group has also dedicated more time and resources toward the issue and has created a new problem-gambling task force that meets regularly.

She said the new code now applies to all forms of gambling — in the past it just addressed land-based casinos — and prohibits misleading language in advertising or marketing regarding the odds of winning or the frequency of payouts.

Feldman applauded the new code and said it reflects the approach MGM has taken with GameSense, the enterprise-wide problem-gambling program the company recently adopted. Talking with customers about the issue long before a problem arises is essential, he said.

“We need to expand the focus of prevention beyond those people we know are facing some kind of issue,” Feldman said. “We need to start to speak more broadly, long before they ever get to a problem.

Johnson didn’t address the code of conduct, but instead spoke about the unique challenges the Gaming Control Board faces as it addresses problem gambling in the context of the state gaming regulations it enforces.

He said that while Nevada law addresses alcohol intoxication and gambling, it has nothing to say about marijuana intoxication and gambling, an important issue given the recent legalization of recreational weed.

He also said the industry could face problem-gambling issues as it tries to increase its appeal to millennials.

“We also have to balance the industry's desire to attract millennial gamers with the recognition that that population might be more susceptible,” he said. “Their minds have not matured to point that they know when to say when or even what when even looks like.”

The panelists agreed that the industry’s approach to problem gambling will be affected by looming demographic trends as well as by technological and regulatory changes.

Shapiro said the possible nationwide legalization of sports betting ( the Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case challenging a federal ban) will mean “we’ll hear a lot more about responsible gaming involving sports betting and how other jurisdictions should look at it.”

Johnson said Nevada may have to reexamine how it funds state problem-gambling programs in the light of declining slot revenues. Nevada gets all its funding for those problem-gaming programs from slot revenue taxes.

Feldman said another challenge will be the preference of younger people to use alternate forms of payment, such as smartphones, instead of cash to make purchases.

The gaming industry and regulators in Nevada, he said, have traditionally been wary of allowing non-cash payments, fearing it makes it easier for players to get in over their heads.

“This started as cash industry, and the notion that you could put something on a card was anathema at the time,” Felman said. “The industry needs to be prepared to transition (to cashless gaming). And we need to help people understand what we can be doing to think about the role responsible gaming plays in the life of people, no matter what payment they’re using.”

However, Richards, whose company Everi Holdings helps process electronic payments, said the move to electronic transactions could address gambling addiction by making it easier for companies identify who has a problem.

“When you think about where we’re going in the next few years, there’s been more tracking (of customer activity) around anti-money laundering campaigns and the suspicious activity reporting and the know-your-customer concept,” Richards said. “All of that will drive us to having more tools for responsible gambling by repurposing them. It’s really the same thing: knowing your customers and what they’re doing.”

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