Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017 | 2 a.m.
When the fun stops and gambling becomes a problem for an individual, seeking help could be difficult for some.
In an attempt to provide better access to help, MGM Resorts International and British Columbia Lottery Corp. (BCLC) entered an agreement to license the responsible-gaming program GameSense, the companies announced at the New Horizons Responsible Gambling Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Wednesday.
GameSense encourages players to adopt behaviors that can reduce the risk of developing gambling disorders. Some of those behaviors include setting time and money limits and having an open dialogue with friends and family about personal gambling habits.
The program will have a presence at MGM properties through GameSense information centers, where customers can go to receive education on responsible gambling. The possibility for kiosks on the casino floor is also being discussed.
MGM will donate $1 million over five years to UNLV’s International Gaming Institute, which will research the program’s findings to improve it and aid similar efforts.
UNLV’s research will help across the board, said Alan Feldman, MGM Resorts executive vice president of global industry affairs.
“We cannot just monitor what’s going on from a metrics point of view, but also really try to get into the important qualitative work for both employees and from our customers,” Feldman said. “Together we can learn a lot more about how to operationalize from a customer service point of view, as opposed to trying to be the gambling police.”
MGM anticipates having GameSense fully implemented in all of its properties by the end of the year.
“MGM is excited to adopt the GameSense platform and to form this dynamic research enterprise,” Feldman said. “Our vision for GameSense is to transform the guest experience at our properties by providing a program that is rooted in enhanced customer service, player education and leading research.”
Jim Lightbody, BCLC president, echoed Feldman’s sentiments, explaining the importance of a program such as GameSense.
“We believe it’s our role to take the lead in providing better responsible gambling programming that supports our players, helps reduce harm and strengthens the gaming industry as a whole,” Lightbody said. “We are thrilled MGM Resorts recognizes the value of our GameSense program, and wants to align with us to further the positive role it can play in reducing gambling-related harm.”
Feldman explained the program targets more than those with gambling issues, as it should be aimed at all guests. He said the gaming industry does not and should not identify problem gamblers.
“What this needs to be is the base relationship we have with every customer,” Feldman said. “Not just identifying problem gamblers, which by the way is absolutely nothing we ought to be in the business of doing. I’m not saying we’re ignoring people that are in distress — we are not. But I mean to the extent to that the industry makes a promise anywhere that we’re going to identify problem gamblers.
“I frankly would argue that that borders on and maybe even crosses over into unethical behavior,” Feldman said.
Although a number of factors contribute to problematic gambling, alcohol, specifically free drinks that are served to players, was addressed by an attendee of the conference.
Education is key to those who choose to mix alcohol and gambling, which he sees as a declining problem, Feldman said.
“With responsible gaming and alcohol consumption, informed choice is a key instance in all of this,” he said. “We find that the free alcohol has become less and less of an issue across the board. People need to understand the nexus between drinking and gambling and how that can go critically wrong.”
Overall, having regular discussions about problem gambling with all their customers and employees could lower the amount of customers that end up in distress, which is the hope with GameSense, Feldman said.
“Our objective is to normalize discussions of responsible gaming in all of our relationships throughout the company,” he said.