Isn’t “responsible gambling” an oxymoron?
Is there anyone who works in this field not heard that rhetorical query from someone who thinks they’re the first to have thought of that one?
But it is an interesting question …
I suspect the thinking for most who pose it is the belief that there is a certain inevitability that someone who gambles will eventually develop an addiction. Or that the very concept of gambling – spending money on a dream of winning big – would be pursued only by those whose world view is somewhat divorced from reality. Who else would invest in a one-in-10,000,000 chance to win?
But such a result is not inevitable. There are many who gamble and enjoy the thrill of risking something of value in hope of defying the odds. And some of these have the means to spend (and lose) lots of money.
For me Responsible Gambling incorporates several key elements:
- It seems to me the first responsibility we have in the world of RG is to encourage a realistic assessment of those odds. Knowing just how unlikely it is to be a big winner may help gamblers keep things in perspective and don’t wind up spending money they can’t afford to gamble.
- Secondly, we need to make sure that we challenge some of the beliefs that often become associated with gambling. Human beings have a natural desire to make sense out of completely random events. Games of chance are completely random in the manner in which wins are awarded. So gamblers often explain these events by suggesting things like some slot machines are “hot” while others (especially those away from the door) are “tight”.
- Third, there are ways to reinforce the need for all gamblers to retain control of their play. Tips and tools for managing budgets (both time and money) are important. In the past this has included requirements for highly visible clocks on gaming floors, discouraging use of credit cards, and providing logs for gamblers to record their gambling activity are all examples. Already available online at gambling sites like PlayNow.com, gamblers are asked to determine in advance how much they’re prepared to lose and the systems restrict their play accordingly.
- Finally, providing more information about how various games work helps make sure that for those who choose to gamble that choice is an informed one.
Of course should gamblers begin showing signs of problem gambling behavior, resources must be available to support them. These typically include a voluntary self-exclusion program, helplines, and access to counselling services (in all Canadian jurisdictions this is provided free of charge). And responsible gambling also means encouraging awareness of these resources.
Responsible gambling is all about providing a safer environment while encouraging personal responsibility. Indeed this reflects a broadly held social view that Canadians have the right to gamble if they choose to do so, and are responsible for their own behaviour.*
Some would see responsible gambling as little more than public relations intended to make gambling more acceptable to the public.
But I, and many of my counterparts around the world, see it as something quite different. We believe that by educating gamblers about the games they play, and about ways to approach gambling entertainment in a more thoughtful and deliberate manner, we can actually make a difference.
And gambling operators are increasingly aware that to build a long-term sustainable business they need to have a sustainable player base … players who will be around for years to come.
For gamblers, problem gambling is not inevitable.