Responsible Jewelry

13 August 1999
Participating in the ongoing battle against problem gambling is a necessary task for all gaming-related businesses, and new ways of fighting the beast are constantly on the burner. The latest swipe comes from a couple of Canadian companies and it comes in the form of a bracelet that's meant to keep its wearers away from electronic slot machines and VLTs.

The PAGIS System, designed and developed by M.Power Innovations Limited of Truro, Nova Scotia and COM DEV International's Wireless Group of Moncton, New Brunswick, consists of a board installed inside electronic gaming machines and a mobile unit worn by problem gamers, which can take many forms - the most popular being a bracelet. The board is easy to install and requires no alterations to the machine.

When wearers of a mobile unit enter a casino equipped with PAGIS, they will still be free to enjoy everything in the establishment, with the exception of slots or VLTs. If they come within three meters of a slot or VLT, the machine will emit a tone to let them know they have entered a 'risk' area. If they ignore the warning and attempt to play, the machine will automatically suspend play. As soon as they move more than one meter away, the machine will switch back to play mode without any special adjustments.

At no time will other players be interrupted while playing, because the problem gamer would have to be very close to the player - almost sitting on the player's lap. The idea of the system is to discourage problem gamblers from entering a risk area, and the tone, which is audible up to 25 feet, should keep the wearers from staying near the machines for long, said Percy A. Paris, chief executive officer of M. Power Innovations Limited.

The system can work without the tone, Paris said. For those establishments who feel the tone is an annoyance to other players, the system can simply work by suspending play if a wearer attempts to play. In addition, Paris predicts that the PAGIS System will be adaptable to all kinds of gambling - machines and tables.

"Right now, in Canada at least, there is a huge crisis with VLT addictions," Paris said. "Individuals are paying huge social costs and many families are being broken up due to addictions to VLTs."

The system will be implemented as soon as there is an interested buyer, Paris said. M.Power is approaching regulators and manufacturers. If regulators (government) take PAGIS into their hands, the system will be installed in machines already present at gambling establishments. If manufacturers take the job, it will be available in new slots and VLTs and will slowly work its way into the world's casinos.

Kevin O'Neil, deputy director for the Council on Compulsive Gambling of NJ, Inc., doesn't think the PAGIS System is the answer for problem gamblers. "Compulsive gamblers shouldn't be in a casino at all, and if they are, they're not going to go in with a bracelet on. They just wouldn't," he said. O'Neil suggests having a code for problem gamers that can be found during credit checks at casinos. That way, the casino will know who the problem gamers are and not grant them credit to play.

Paris said he is not sure what kind of results will come from the system, but "if one person is helped by this, that's one hell of a start."

"I'm not sure the market's there for that (PAGIS)," O'Neil said. "The best way to combat compulsive gambling is through education, but credit checks and databases carry much more power than thinking someone is going to wear a bracelet."

As for online gambling, a bracelet's not going to do much, other than look pretty, but a database could be the ticket. O'Neil suggests, "If all the casinos who are, for example, members of the Interactive Gaming Counsel, create a database of players who ask to be banned from their casinos, it would be an effective way to keep compulsive gamblers from playing online."