New Jersey

Casino industry doubling down on responsible gaming initiative

The casino industry's largest lobbying group in the U.S. on Thursday rolled out a new code of conduct with consumer protection measures that it says are meant to promote responsible gambling.

The code of the American Gaming Association (AGA) calls on casino operators to be more transparent with patrons and provide training to employees. Its announcement in Las Vegas came within months of two high-profile criminal cases that drew attention to the effects of compulsive gambling as authorities believe the perpetrators were problem gamblers.

"We appreciate that this is an issue that must be top-of-mind industry-wide for all employees, from those that interact daily with consumers on the gaming floor to the senior executive leadership and the boards of directors," said Elizabeth Cronan, the association's senior director of gaming policy.

Enactment of the new code will fall mostly on gaming entity owners and their employees to properly display the odds of winning at game tables and slot machines. They also look to identify and help problem gamblers and prevent underage gambling.

“Our industry is committed to responsible gaming, to protect players, to protect our employees, to protect the communities in which we do business,” AGA President Geoff Freeman said during a news conference in Atlantic City this week, New Jersey's NJ1015.com reported.

The code calls on casino operators to generally explain to patrons the odds of winning or losing at various games and to not use advertising that contains claims that gambling activity will guarantee a person's social, financial or personal success. It also includes training requirements for employees on procedures for dealing with underage gambling and other issues.

The industry's longstanding estimate is that between 98 percent and 99 percent of casino patrons gamble responsibly. This year, however, the remaining 1 to 2 percent have grabbed attention around the world.

In April, a man who randomly gunned down a Cleveland retiree and posted video of the crime on Facebook talked in the footage about his gambling losses and trouble with his girlfriend.

Two months later, police in the Philippines said the lone suspect behind a deadly attack on a casino and shopping complex in Manila was a heavily indebted Filipino gambling addict.

“The industry will have the responsibility for training all of its employees to identify behavioral traits, and quite honestly when you’re in a casino or at a racetrack, over time you begin to identify individuals you suspect may be having problems,” Dave Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, said at this week’s news conference.

The AGA’s Freeman says that there was a previous voluntary code of conduct but that the new initiative is more deliberate and specific.

“For any regulated industry you can sit back and wait for regulators to tighten the screws or you can take the lead on your own and that’s what the gaming industry has done here,” he said.

“We’ve identified opportunities to strengthen our own efforts on responsible gaming, to adapt to the new technologies that are available and to make sure we account for the online interactive environments of today.”

The association's members, such as MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment, are expected to commit to the code. On Thursday, Cronan as well as industry representatives and a regulator participated in a panel discussion at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Alan Feldman, MGM's executive vice president of global industry affairs, said the industry over the past two decades has focused on tackling the issue "when the fun stops" -- also the name of a problem gambling awareness campaign -- but the company is expanding its efforts to address the concerns even before the activity stops being fun and affordable.

"... What we should be doing is having a regular ongoing dialogue with our customers to make sure that what they're doing is safe and fun for them and their families," he said. The company later this year will roll out a new responsible gaming program at its properties in Las Vegas and other states.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.