No Longer Resonating, The Term 'Responsible Gambling' Is Under Fire

May 26, 2023
Critics have said it is time to jettison "responsible gambling", which is not working and may be causing more harm than good to the gaming industry and its customers.


Critics have said it is time to jettison "responsible gambling", which is not working and may be causing more harm than good to the gaming industry and its customers.

A new and more comprehensive approach is needed to focus not only on preventing gambling addiction, but rewarding customers who are gambling the right way, according to panellists who spoke Thursday (May 25) at the International Conference on Gambling & Risk Taking at the Park MGM casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

“When you ask anyone about … responsible gambling, they will tell you [it’s] a person playing within their limits, a person setting [a] budget, and it’s all person focused,” said Jay Robinson, who oversees safer gambling programs at JR Consulting in Toronto.

“So we have this ostensible framework that is shared responsibility [between the customer and the gambling industry]. But in practice, it comes down to the individual way too often,” Robinson said.

Responsible gambling has stigmatized problem gamblers, Robinson said, by forcing them to take a “walk of shame” when they join self-exclusion lists.

Michael Wohl, a psychology professor at Carleton College in Ottawa, Canada, said responsible gambling has become “a pejorative”.

“There’s been a conflation between what is responsible play and disordered play,” Wohl said.

Wohl cited seat belts as a good example of the positive results which could result from a new policy promoting safety for all gamblers.

“Before they were required by law, some people would not wear seat belts because they believed they were only for bad drivers. Now, everybody wears seat belts,” Wohl said.

“Driving is a risky behavior and gambling is an inherently risky behavior.”

Alan Feldman of the International Gaming Institute at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said many casino executives do not understand responsible gambling.

“We’ve got policymakers around the world who are convinced that if they implement a responsible gaming program … we are going to eliminate problem gambling,” Feldman said.

“I’ve heard them say it. They’re out of their minds.”

Responsible gambling is almost always being done in the context of crisis mitigation, according to Brianne Doura-Schawohl, an independent gaming consultant in Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

The gaming industry is more concerned about “how do we just make everything appear OK; not how do we see a return on our investment”, Doura-Schawohl said.

“We need to move away from customer acquisition to customer retention. And how do we utilize responsible gambling to get our players to keep playing with us long term.”

Jamie Wiebe, an executive with Crown Resorts Limited in Australia, advocated an entirely new business model to achieve the goals of responsible gambling.

“As we go forward, it has to be about … putting customer well-being ahead of revenue,” Wiebe said.

Wohl, the Carleton University professor, said the complaints about responsible gambling are not a case of academics skewering the gaming industry.

“We want to have answers that will help, so please engage with the academics,” Wohl exhorted gaming executives attending the Las Vegas conference.

“We really need to work together to help improve the experience of the gambler and ideally reduce the results of disordered gambling."

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