Advancing Responsible Gaming: It's the Right Thing To Do

10 January 2002

Question: What do the Caribbean, the Far East, Australasia, Africa, Central America, Europe, Russia, and South America have in common?

Answer: They have passed, or are in the process of passing, legislation allowing Internet gaming companies to operate online casinos or other types of online wagering under license; and they have need of responsible gaming services to help keep a lid on problem gambling and underage gambling.

Balancing Benefits & Burdens

Interactive gambling has expanded rapidly over the past four years from 50 online gambling Web sites in 1997 (located primarily in the Caribbean), to more than 1,400 worldwide. Some analysts project that by the year 2015, worldwide revenues from online gambling could top $177 billion (Hunter, Offshore Finance USA, 2/2002). While interactive gambling generates obvious and important economic benefits, there is no question that it also carries certain costs--two of which are problem gambling and underage gambling.

Small Numbers. . . Big Problems

Although research indicates that less than 1.5 percent of the adult population in the United States will develop a gambling problem (with similar statistics from other countries), no gaming operator--no matter how small or large--will benefit from a customer with a gambling problem. The fallout from a person with a gambling problem affects the addicted gambler, but does not stop there. One addicted gambler affects an average of 11 other people, including his spouse, his family, his employer, and the community. And the fallout doesn't stop there. One addicted gambler can have a powerful and negative public relations impact on the interactive gaming operator who may not have integrated responsible gaming services into their mix of business plan objectives.

Fallout from a Powerful Addiction

The addiction to gambling is so powerful that an addicted individual will place at risk all that is important to him or her--family, self respect, professional ethics, financial security and personal freedom. Once an addicted gambler goes through all of the money he or she can get legally, the gambler will turn to illegal means to continue betting. People who have never in their lifetime had a brush with the law will steal from their family, embezzle from their employer, torch a business that has been in the family for generations or commit tax fraud, which will place their spouses, as well as themselves, in legal and financial hot water. People who were law-abiding citizens prior to their addiction may find themselves convicted felons facing decades of incarceration. That's powerful stuff!

If you believe that desperate actions by desperate addicted gamblers will not have a backlash on the gaming operation at which he or she frequently gambled…think about the backlash from alcoholics who drink at a bar, drive, and then hurt someone.

Proactive & Progressive

Online gambling operators have the most important role to play in increasing the positive perception of interactive gaming for players, potential players, regulators, and their own business stockholders. Advancing responsible gaming is a win-win way to do just that.

Elizabeth George is the chief executive officer of the North American Training Institute ( For more than a decade, NATI has provided responsible gaming programs for the gaming and wagering industries throughout the world. Its programs include a 24-hour compulsive gambling Helpline service with language translations, conceptualizing of company responsible gaming mission statements, policy statements, employee assistance programs, program collaborations and customized responsible gaming multimedia programs. For further information, contact: North American Training Institute, 314 West Superior Street, Suite 702, Duluth, MN 55802, USA or (218) 722-1503.