Advancing Responsible Gaming - You Heard it Here First, Part 2

8 January 2003

Part 2 of an Interview by Elizabeth George with IGC Executive Director Rick Smith

[View Part 1.]

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).

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: What elements should be included in a longer-term and proactive approach to responsible gaming?

Rick Smith: I believe that education and prevention is as important as treatment when looking at a longer-term proactive approach to responsible gaming. If anything can be done with regard to minimizing the possibility of problems arising, again including but not limited to education, then hopefully the treatment side of the equation can potentially become more focused and effective.

I find the following areas of responsible gaming particularly interesting, and needless to say, challenging:

  • Agreement and consistency in identifying what constitutes a problem.
  • The origins of gambling problems and the demographics of those who develop problems (socio-economic relationships).
  • Does someone with a gambling problem have other mental health problems (e.g. another addiction/s)?
  • Effectiveness of treatment for a gambling addiction in terms of quality of providers and use of treatment by problem gamblers.

In my view, information and concrete analysis from these above areas should be considered during development of educational and preventative tools. Specifically, where do problems lie? Is there any particular indicator or trend, and, if so, can these be identified with a view toward assisting with prevention? The introduction of stringent regulatory regimes is vital to creating an avenue for research to be performed and, in conjunction with the industry, for greater progress to be achieved in this discipline.

From a visible, tangible perspective, there is obvious merit, as with many land-based regulatory jurisdictions, for operators to contribute to a fund wherein the money can be applied to this field whether in the form of treatment assistance or research. Some online operators already contribute directly to selected groups.

Technical aspects, including player-determined bet limits, account controls and player self-exclusions, could be linked with programmed warnings addressing concerns such as underage gambling and jurisdictional legality. The use of filters, such as the ICRA self-labeling initiative, is already in place, but needs to be further advertised and promoted. I would like to see, as part of a promotional campaign, online operators take part in some type of problem gaming awareness promotion. The promotion could include sending informative, educational information to all players about responsible gaming. Again in my view, an educational awareness week for the Internet Gambling industry, as with the AGA and casinos could be useful, as could warnings during player registration and possibly intermittently during ongoing activity.

In terms of research, there is the obvious "data" that can be collected, but how much information is gathered with the assistance of operators with a view toward behavioral issues and so on. There is also the good corporate citizen element wherein the industry can put something back into the community as well as potentially provide benefit to the industry (e.g. an educational scholarship and the ensuing research benefits, training/education programs).

Problem gambling does not serve anybody, let alone the industry, any good. But, that being said, in my experience there have been instances where genuine hardship cases appear to have been identified and where the operator is desperately keen to assist but is caught in a quandary as to how best to help.

The issues above only scratch the surface when it comes to the challenges that face the online gaming industry with regard to responsible gaming. How operators approach these issues will be an important indicator of the future of online gaming.

EG: Elizabeth George: Looking back, what do you believe was the most compelling reason for the IG industry to so quickly jump onboard with advancing responsible gaming?

Rick Smith: Let me start out by reiterating that operators do not benefit from problem gambling, as it is no good for them in the longer term, nor is it in the public interest. It does help online operators to have the benefit of lessons learned from land-based gaming with regard to proactive responsible gaming efforts.

Problem gambling is a very emotive issue, one that has a high profile in the public domain. Provided that responsible gaming is such an emotive issue, how operators deal with issues related to problem gaming will be closely monitored and help to sort out credible operators from among the many operators in the online gaming space

Critics of online gaming--both in the U.S. and in Australia--have alleged that it exacerbates compulsive gambling problems. The allegations appear based on sparse anecdotal evidence, with no substantive research to support the claims. Nevertheless, it was imperative that the online industry got out in front on this issue.

Worldwide, throughout the gaming industry, there is an ever-increasing focus on responsible gaming, and the compelling component in online gaming is the technology. Technology provides a ready medium for developing new tools to assist with responsible gaming initiatives, an area where online operators can differentiate themselves and perhaps be more successful, than traditional gaming companies, at monitoring players and promoting 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.

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.