Promoting and Managing Responsible Gaming Initiatives

One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes…and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.—Eleanor Roosevelt

How many of you are proud of your efforts to promote safe and ethical gaming at your facility? Hopefully, all of you. As an industry we have been getting better and better at this each year, yet we fail to capitalize on it.

Let’s talk about the amusement park industry for a moment. Now, that is an industry that does a great job promoting the safety and enjoyment of its parks. Did you know that it even has its own association—the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA)? It was founded in 1918 to ensure all members kept up on their safety requirements and provided a fun and exciting experience in a safe and controlled environment. Sound familiar? Today, the IAAPA represents more than 4,300 amusement industry members in more than 97 countries. We could certainly learn a thing or two from its marketing initiatives.

How many people enter our facilities thinking that using a player card makes them an easy target for us to fleece? Or, if they actually start winning, they think we will use the mythical “crank” to tighten the game up? It is necessary that we find a way to change people’s perceptions of our industry.

Negative bias is the psychological phenomenon by which humans have a greater recall of unpleasant memories compared with positive memories. People, by nature, are predisposed to avoid perceived negative experiences. Humans are much more likely to recall and be influenced by the negative experiences of the past. As a rule of thumb, if you witness a negative action on your casino floor, your players witnessed it as well. This ultimately effects your bottom line.

Perception is everything. We are going to make some recommendations that are almost certainly laws in every gaming jurisdiction. While we know you would follow these rules perfectly, your staff might not. And when it comes to bringing people into our facilities we all have goals we must meet to create the revenue stream necessary to achieve our budget. The more pressure we exert to meet these goals, the more corners our staff will cut in an attempt to meet our expectations.

Inebriated State
We cannot allow patrons who are visibly inebriated to continue to game after we realize they are not in full control of their faculties. If this is the case, why do we comp alcoholic beverages in the majority of commercial casinos in this country? Because we want to ensure our patrons are happy, relaxed and willing to take a chance on luck. The customers we try to attract are those who are less risk-adverse than the general population. We want them to feel they are in an environment where anything can happen. We also want them to remember us the next time they want to go gaming, and what better way is there than giving away free alcohol?

That said, there is a distinct line between responsible service and over service. While we would like to say our employees never intentionally over serve patrons, it would be a lie. Servers that are well tipped will often serve a drink when they know they shouldn’t. Pit supervisors will push a server to bring another drink for a customer if they are wagering large or if they are trying to keep the patron in play. There are more than a few over-serving issues a day in any casino that could be prevented through simply monitoring our guest’s behaviors.

While we want our clients to have a fun and exciting experience in a safe and friendly environment, over serving doesn’t fit in to this model. Patrons who are visibly under the influence of drugs or alcohol are considered to be gaming in an altered state. We understand that protecting a patron from themselves is an unrealistic expectation in many circumstances, but it doesn’t alleviate our responsibility to protect the property against claims that a player suffered damage to himself or herself as a result of visiting our facility. Even if the claim is unfounded, avoiding possible damage to our reputation is worth the effort and expense.

Underage Gaming and Drinking
If someone looks to be under 30 years of age, your staff needs to ask for and examine that person’s picture ID. If the customer doesn’t have one, don’t allow that person in. Allow your staff the leeway to contact a manager or security officer if they have further suspicions. This is especially important when it comes to specialty events such as ladies night. Makeup can make a teenager look like she is in her late 20s. It only takes a single mistake to lose both your liquor license and sully your reputation.

Disreputable Patrons
There will always be people who come to your casino with the sole intent of preying on others. They come in all shapes and sizes. They all have plans to remove funds from your pockets and the pockets of others. Be on the lookout for individuals who have no specific intent on your floor. Do not allow panhandling on your floor or individuals who exhibit threatening behavior. At best, these individuals make your customers uncomfortable, at worst, they drive your clientele to other establishments. Those individuals we used to call “silver miners” haven’t gone away; they adapted to tickets quicker then the rest of us. Make sure that these folks are dealt with immediately. Most will leave quickly when approached.

Gaming Fairness
Our games are on the up and up. We clearly post our games’ rules, and there are avenues available for all of our patrons to report unfair or corrupt behaviors in both our facilities and our industry. There is more to this though; players need to understand that we are equally responsive to paying a win as we are at collecting a losing proposition.

If you walk around your slot banks or tables, you will hear plenty of complaints that the games “hold too much.” While we are not about to get into a long conversation with our patrons regarding our philosophy on hold percentage, we can combat this by celebrating customers’ wins together. Our players may realize they are going to leave with lighter pockets, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to win. Celebrating a win creates an exciting environment and gives players hope that they can be next.

Ethical Marketing
We cannot market services that we do not offer, nor may we promote a prize that is not available. We have many promotions that must be made available to all people that enter the facility, but we must do a better job at promoting this if we want to grow our market. While we don’t normally shop at Albertsons, we’ll certainly go there when it runs its Monopoly promotion. We know the grocery store is reputable and has great products. This in turn leads to additional visits on our part.

Our facilities need to be well-lit, patrolled and secured. An effort must be made to allow and install Wi-Fi in areas such as parking garages and casino floors. Almost all players rely on the security of their mobile devices, and the lack of Wi-Fi coverage inhibits their sense of well-being and connectedness.

None of us wants to ruin another human being or their family by uncontrollable gambling. Turning our heads to this behavior isn’t good for our business or our conscience. Our widespread use of self-exclusion programs and processes, offering advice and support to problem gamblers and allowing players to set limits as to how much they spend, elevates our industry’s resolve to provide a safe and normalized entertainment environment.

Customer Satisfaction
Here is a topic we all promote with training, diligence and exceptional effort. If we placed the same effort into promoting the rest of this list, we would have many more patrons frequenting our facilities. As an industry, we play right into the perception by not marketing our efforts to provide a safe and fun entertainment option. Early in my career, a general manager shared a truism that I think of almost every day: “The establishment must always receive recognition for each and every thing we do on behalf of the customer. Don’t give away something you don’t receive credit for.”

Make every effort to greet your players when they come in to your casino or play on your games. There is no better way to gauge the condition and mindset of your patrons than actually interacting with them at every opportunity. This will not only help you identify potential high-risk patrons, it will also help you identify new potentially high-value patrons. Don’t hide the efforts you make to help keep your facility safe and fun. Celebrate your efforts, and you’ll be amazed how much your players appreciate your concern.

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