Implementing responsible gaming standards and practices is an often thankless but essential part of all casinos’ core business plan. However, the effort’s actual value is often lost on both patrons and staff who either don’t understand why we perform these measures, or worse, don’t realize what responsible gaming even means. There is true value in getting your staff’s buy-in on responsible gaming and promoting those efforts to the people that will most appreciate it: the customers.
When professionals in the industry refer to responsible gaming, they are often discussing at least one of the following:
• Gaming in an altered state – Patrons who are under the influence of drugs, alcohol or depression are considered to be gaming in an altered state. While we understand that protecting a patron from themselves is an unrealistic expectation in many circumstances, it doesn’t alleviate our responsibility to protect the property against claims that a player suffered damage to themselves 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.
• Protection against underage gaming – Let’s be frank. Kids are not responsible for their actions in our society. It doesn’t matter that they sneak onto the floor consciously and their behavior indicates poor impulse control with no concern for others. In the eyes of the media, “boys will be boys,” and it’s the evil casino operator that is luring them into the casino like the witch in Hansel and Gretel.
• Disreputable patrons – We actively patrol for and remove people who enter our facilities with no intent to game. Instead, these disreputable patrons often wish to compete against us with their own offers of solicitation or services that conflict with our legally sanctioned activities.
• Prompt and accurate payouts – Patrons need to understand that we are equally responsive to paying a win as we are at collecting a losing proposition. While we do this very well, it’s very difficult to market the concept of doing the right thing without the patron wondering what we are doing that isn’t aboveboard.
• Fair gaming practices – Our games are on the up and up. The rules of our games are clearly posted and there are avenues available for all of our patrons to report unfair or corrupt behaviors in both our facilities and our industry.
• Ethical marketing – We market the truth about our games. 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, regardless of their financial worth to the establishment, yet we do not promote this out of fear our facilities will be overrun with base opportunists that show up for the drawing, steal our catsup and sugar and leave without placing a bet.
• Safe environment – Our facilities are well-lit, patrolled and secure.
• Vulnerable players – 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.
When our patrons think of gaming, responsibility is usually the last thing on their mind. They recall the news stories about dramatic shootings on the Las Vegas Strip, thieves bilking their local casinos or movies like Ocean’s Eleven that show the little guy getting satisfaction against the soulless mega owner.
I myself am automatically drawn to the memory of the National Lampoon movie Vegas Vacation. If there was ever a better example of the antithesis of responsible gaming practices, I haven’t witnessed it. What makes this movie so relevant to the topic was the public’s casual acceptance that the behaviors in the movie—fake IDs, rude employees, inattentive supervision and rigged games—were the norm in our industry. To be clear, while we know this is not the case, public perception is far more powerful than the truth, and that creates some daunting issues for our industry.
How many people enter our facilities with the notion that when they use their player card, it 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? Even though our players want to believe they get a fair shake, the media and movie producers of the world revel in capitalizing on the misinformed notion that our industry is a seedy and corrupt antagonist to help sell ads and admission tickets.
A line in Vegas Vacation sums up the public perception when blackjack dealer Marty tells Clark, “Here’s an idea: Why don’t you give me half the money you were going to bet, then we’ll go out back, I’ll kick you in the nuts, and we’ll call it a day!” What is surprising to me is not that the public has this perception, but that they continue to frequent our casinos.
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 GM told me 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.”
We spend a great deal of resources each year to promote customer service in the form of greeting players but simply ignore promoting our efforts to protect our player base.
The issue isn’t our lack of effort but the nearly complete lack of marketing regarding these essential services. Caesars Entertainment has recognized this lack of coverage and utilizes Gary Loveman and a host of its employees to promote responsible gaming. Its website features areas on the company’s code of conduct and responsible gaming that outline its efforts to protect patrons from both themselves and others. This is a great start.
While not all of us have the means to utilize television coverage and a media campaign to inform the potential player base, there are solutions available to help you accomplish your goal.
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. Make it your goal to greet your higher-tier players on their arrival and find a way to accomplish this. This goal should apply to those players who are deemed by your system as hot, un-carded players. This will not only help you to identify potential high-risk patrons, it will also help you identify and reward new high-value patrons to your property.
Educate your entire staff on the benefits you provide to customers outside of awarding free meals, points and hotel stays. Make a game out of it and reward your staff for their efforts to educate your players.
Don’t hide the efforts we make to help our “troubled” patronage. Celebrate your efforts and allow yourself to be amazed by the fact that your players will appreciate your concern for them in the process.