MGM Resorts International by the end of the year will introduce a new program to reinforce responsible gambling among its players in a bid to normalize the conversation about compulsive play.
The company on Wednesday is announcing a partnership with the British Columbia Lottery Corp. to license its GameSense responsible gambling program at all of MGM’s U.S. properties, including its 10 Las Vegas resorts.
MGM also will donate $1 million over five years to UNLV’s International Gaming Institute to conduct research on compulsive gambling using data collected through the GameSense program.
UNLV will share its findings with compulsive gambling researchers at the University of British Columbia and Harvard University with whom UNLV has had long-term relationships.
Addiction experts say about 2.5 million gamblers suffer a compulsive gambling disorder, with 3 million more considered problem gamblers and 15 million more at risk of becoming problem gamblers. That’s about 2.9 percent of the adult gambling population, although percentages are greater in Nevada where it’s estimated that between 2.2 percent and 3.6 percent of players suffer some form of addiction.
DEFINING COMPULSIVE GAMBLING
Compulsive gambling is defined as having a preoccupation with gambling and the uncontrollable urge to gamble despite the negative consequences it may produce. Addicts often play to recover their losses and will lie, steal and cheat to support their habit.
When MGM was licensed to build its MGM Springfield resort, due to open next year in Springfield, Massachusetts, the state’s gaming regulators ordered MGM to institute GameSense at the property as a condition of licensing. When MGM reviewed the program, executives were so impressed with it that they decided to integrate it in all its U.S. locations.
Initially, MGM will set up signage and kiosks at its properties with personnel to counsel players about addictive gambling behaviors. As the program develops, MGM officials hope to integrate it into the company’s mLife loyalty card program to enable players to set time and spending limits on play to alert them when they are approaching the levels they set.
The partnership announcement was scheduled to be made Wednesday afternoon at the three-day New Horizons in Responsible Gambling conference in Vancouver.
OK TO STOP
Alan Feldman, executive vice president of global government and industry affairs for MGM, said the core of GameSense is reinforcing healthy gambling behavior.
“If the customer believes that this program is the problem-gambling police coming to get you, they’re going to run and hide,” Feldman said in a telephone interview. “If the public, on the other hand, sees this as we’re just here to remind you that you’re supposed to be having fun, it should help.
“If at any moment it’s not fun and it’s not affordable, it’s totally OK to stop,” Feldman said. “We’re not going to be upset. We’re going to still appreciate you and value you as a customer, in fact, maybe even more because you’ve made that decision and good for you.”
Feldman said GameSense signage and collateral material giving facts about gambling and slot machines will be available on the casino floor. He said it’s too early to determine how many GameSense advisers will be hired, but he added the company is planning for 24/7 coverage and the size of a casino floor may determine how many advisers there will be.
BETTER INFORMED CHOICES
For the British Columbia Lottery Corp., which operates GameSense in Canada’s casinos as well as in lottery ticket sales locations, the company will receive an undisclosed licensing fee from MGM as well as a relationship with a well-known U.S. operator.
The use of the system at MGM properties should help enhance the effectiveness of the program, said Jim Lightbody, president and CEO of the British Columbia Lottery Corp.
Lightbody said the GameSense concept is to be more inviting and transparent with players to encourage them to make better informed choices when gambling.
“In each of our gaming facilities — we have 36 of them here in British Columbia — we place GameSense information centers within the facilities and they have advisers in them. The centers are bright and attractive where people can come sit down and talk to somebody about their own behavior, or maybe a friend of theirs is having a problem or needing some counseling.”
Staff members are trained to look for players who may be in distress and to counsel them about taking breaks from play if they are spending too much time or money in their play.
Bo Bernhard, executive director of UNLV’s International Gaming Institute, said it’s too early to determine what kinds of problem gambling research will emerge when a team of scholars gets access to GameSense data.
Bernhard said an interdisciplinary team will be formed with policy, regulatory, operations and addiction specialists working together with the quantitative and qualitative data UNLV expects to gather.
He said he hopes the research will better educate playing customers with information that will enable them to make better consumer decisions, much like nutrition labels that provide information on consumable products.
WYNN AND PENN
Wynn Resorts, which operates Wynn Las Vegas and Wynn Encore, and Penn National Gaming, operators of the Tropicana and the M Resort in Southern Nevada, also are being licensed in Massachusetts and will be required to implement the GameSense system at their properties in Everett and Plainridge Park, respectively.
Wynn and Penn National officials did not respond to inquiries on whether GameSense would be used by them in Las Vegas.