Panel: Education About Responsible Gaming Should Start Early

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By Bill Ordine

As part of Responsible Gaming Education week, Conscious Gaming along with the American Gaming Association has promoted discussion about strategies to address the issue.

Among the points that are recognized among those working in and around the gaming industry is that much work needs to be done and that much of the effort to educate about, prevent and treat dysfunctional gambling behaviors is fragmented.

In a wide-ranging virtual panel discussion this week involving Cait DeBaun (moderator), vice president, strategic communications & responsibility for the AGA; Brianne Doura-Schawohl, vice president for U.S. policy and strategic development, Epic Risk Management; Rich Taylor, responsible gambling program manager for BetMGM, and Anna Sainsbury, a trustee for Conscious Gaming, founder & chairman, GeoComply, a number of issues were touched including early education regarding the nature of gambling itself and potential problem gambling.

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Doura-Schawohl broached the issue of education, saying that there needs to be more awareness of “appropriate gambling — what does it look like, what kind of help exists (for those who need and seek it)."

’Gambling Literacy’ Discussed

Taylor highlighted the concept of “gambling literacy” and noted that it was very low in the U.S.

“Where does (gambling literacy) start,” he said. “When somebody walks into my casino or walks into my sportsbook or logs into my app? Or should it start sooner? I’ve talked to a lot of people who (discussed) taking problem gambling education into the classroom, into our high schools. And maybe that’s where we should start this conversation (about problem gambling).”

Taylor, who lives in Las Vegas, drew on his own personal impressions.

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“I can’t go to a bowling alley or go to a movie with my 11-year-old daughter without walking past a slot machine … so for me, who is educated on this, I am able to have that conversation with her and talk to her about gambling – what it is, what it is not. How you should approach it. Because for me as a parent, it’s important to me that my daughter has that information at an early age and that we reinforce it into adulthood. But what about the parents who don’t have that background, who aren’t educated about this topic? What information are they passing on to their children?”

Early Gambling Education

The vacuum, Taylor said, will be filled by misinformation. He advocated early education about gambling for both parents and children, just as there has been an emphasis on education about dangerous drugs and alcohol.

Regarding gambling, he said, “It’s becoming more and more accessible. The days of Nevada and New Jersey being the only games in town are long behind us and we’re not going back to that so we might as well put our arms around this from a holistic standpoint and start educating our children at earlier ages and hopefully increase that literacy and hopefully drive down addiction rates.”

Doura-Schawohl pointed out that in Maryland, a state that has casino gambling and where retail and online sports gambling has recently been legalized but not yet launched, there have been bills in the state legislature for two years looking to mandate some problem gambling education in schools, but the proposal has not gained sufficient traction.

More Collaboration

Considering responsible gaming is a huge, multi-faceted issue, it wasn’t surprising that the discussion touched on many areas.

For instance, there are more than 25 different helpline telephone numbers for problem gambling across the U.S., according to organizers of Thursday’s panel discussion. But more isn’t necessarily better if it causes confusion for gaming operators trying to make their customers aware of available help. There could also be confusion for those seeking help, or if the messaging from helplines is inconsistent.

Because gambling as an enterprise falls under state jurisdictions, self-exclusion policies for problem gamblers trying to curb their own betting frequently differ wildly from state to state.

An answer, panelists agreed, is more collaboration across the board among stakeholders in gaming, especially from those making money from the proliferation of legalized gaming. But that’s easier said than accomplished.

Sports Leagues Have A Responsibility

DeBaun of the AGA referenced the newest partners in the sports gambling universe, meaning Big Sports. It’s obvious that sports leagues and teams have recently found that an enterprise they long considered an adversary is now a source of revenue.

“Leagues, teams, media, companies — they’re all seeing an upside right now (with) building these partnerships and launching these new verticals as a way to engage in their products,” DeBaun said.

However, the issue of responsible gaming “is new to them, so we’ve been focused on having this conversation,” she added.

Doura-Schawohl included online business known as “affiliates” that provide gaming-related content and direct audiences to online gaming operators as entities with responsibility in promoting responsible gambling.

“They are very much a part of this gaming ecosystem and they have a real sense of responsibility here and I’ve been happy to see in other countries, such as the UK, that the affiliates are getting together to talk about these issues,” she said.

Sainsbury, of GeoComply, reinforced the role that affiliates could take on.

“Especially if they are working in the legal markets, helping to explain to users the differences between the licensed operators and the (offshore) ones they still might be seeing advertisements for or (that) might be coming up on Google searches for them so they can be aware and make informed decisions,” Sainsbury said. “That would be a tremendous help. I think we’re already seeing more and more improvement.”

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Bill Ordine
Bill Ordine was a reporter and editor in news and sports for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun for 25 years, and was a lead reporter on a team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News. Bill started reporting on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for 10 years. He covered the World Series of Poker for a decade and his articles on gaming have appeared in many major U.S. newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald and others.
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Bill Ordine was a reporter and editor in news and sports for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun for 25 years, and was a lead reporter on a team that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News. Bill started reporting on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for 10 years. He covered the World Series of Poker for a decade and his articles on gaming have appeared in many major U.S. newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald and others.
... Read More