An Interview by Elizabeth George with IGC Executive Director Rick Smith
In the world of interactive gaming, leadership on the issue of advancing responsible gaming has emerged from all over the globe. If you look for the leadership-within-the-leadership you will spot the Interactive Gaming Council (IGC).
The IGC, an international trade association committed to the advancement of the interactive gambling industry, has done the bulk of the self-regulatory work for Internet gaming operators. In 1997, the association promulgated a code of conduct and launched the ICG Seal of Approval program in 2001. Progressively, the ICG has included responsible gaming practices to address social concerns as well as to strengthen consumer confidence in interactive gaming.
Rick Smith has been at the helm of the IGC since March 2000 and has advanced the self-regulation model during his tenure. Prior to his position with the IGC, he served for 15 years as a gaming regulator with the Queensland Office of Gaming Regulation and the Department of Internal Affairs in New Zealand. While with the Queensland Office of Gaming Regulation, he was responsible for drafting rules and regulations for interactive gambling, based on the draft model for the regulation of interactive gambling revamped as the "AUS Model."
I caught up with Rick during his global travels and asked him to comment on the hot-off-the-press, revamped Responsible Gambling Guidelines and Helping Hand program promulgated by IGC.
Elizabeth George: I know that there are new developments on the topic of responsible gaming for the interactive gaming providers. Are there any hot new developments that you would like to make public?
Rick Smith: As you know, the IGC is in the process of finalizing the revamped responsible gambling guidelines. My personal opinion is that in looking at responsible gaming in the context of Internet gaming, there is an importance to recognize the potential portability of the problem and to address this potential issue.
When dealing with the global nature of Internet gaming, remaining inwardly focused on "your own geographical area and jurisdiction" does not address the matter fully. While I see reactive measures as important, I see the need for a longer-term, proactive strategic approach. In addition, it is important to determine methods to target those affected by the problem, such as family, friends and employers. It is my desire to formulate such a plan for the IGC to encompass a more holistic approach.
In short, I believe there is a need for a cooperative approach from within and among the gaming industry, government and those involved in providing responsible gambling services.
While there has been a start, for example, the IGC's Responsible Gambling Guidelines and advocating IGC membership take up of the Internet Content Rating Association (ICRA) self-labeling initiative, I think that more constructive work can be done.
EG: How can interactive gaming operators--both IGC members and non-IGC members--learn about the IGC's Helping Hand program and Responsible Gambling Guidelines?
RS: While IGC programs are designed for the IGC membership, initiatives such as the Helping Hand program and Responsible Gambling Guidelines are of such importance to the general IG community that there has not been a concern with non-members utilizing and referring to the documents. As with all IGC initiatives, the Helping Hand program and the soon-to-be-released updated Responsible Gambling Guidelines can be found on the IGC Web site (www.igcouncil.org).
EG: You mentioned the importance of "portability." From your point of view, what would an outward focused and portable responsible gaming program look like?
RS: My reference to portability is more in the context of recognizing that people with problems do not always reside solely within the confines of the jurisdiction where an operator is licensed. This also applies to land-based gaming operators. People travel interstate and overseas to visit casinos (and cross borders to purchase government-run lottery tickets) and if they happen to develop a gambling problem, that problem goes with them when they return home. Interactive gambling creates an environment where the likelihood is that most people playing will be from outside where an operator is licensed. In this context, and despite where the supposed majority of players (currently) come from, I believe there is the need for something more than a North American 1-800 help-line number or a 0-800 U.K.-based help-line number. The industry and regulators need to have a common focus and, ideally, share resources.
More to come...
The second half of my interview with Rick Smith, to be published in IGN next month, will include responses to hot questions such as:
- What elements should be included in a longer-term and proactive approach to responsible gaming?
- Looking back, what do you believe was the most compelling reason for the IG industry to so quickly jump onboard with advancing responsible gaming?
More About Rick Smith: In his current role with the IGC, Rick Smith manages the resources of the association in its dealings with regulatory, governmental and political representatives. Ongoing responsibilities include drafting guidelines, codes and policies for the Internet industry and providing input to industry white papers and government reviews. This work includes, but is not limited to, drafting of all policies and programs for the IGC, including those that deal with issues surrounding responsible and underage gaming, advertising code of practice, money laundering and suspicious transactions, financial industry issues, Internet content labeling, and the IGC's Seal of Approval program.
[ Part 2.]
is the chief executive officer of the North American Training Institute (www.nati.org). 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.