New program for responsible casino play gets look in Las Vegas

Updated August 3, 2017 - 8:50 pm

The American Gaming Association on Thursday brought its new code of conduct for responsible casino play to the West Coast with a panel of industry representatives explaining how they want customers to have fun without falling into a compulsive gambling trap.

The new four-page policy pledges to promote responsible gaming to customers, prevent underage gambling and unattended minors in casinos and to serve alcohol and advertise responsibly.

The code also guides casino operators to educate employees about their responsibilities and promises the public to continue to research problem gambling and annually update the code with each technological advancement.

The association is a collection of commercial and tribal casino operators, suppliers and other entities affiliated with the $240 billion-a-year U.S. casino industry, which supports 1.7 million jobs in 40 states.

The new code was first distributed Tuesday in Atlantic City. Representatives from the association, MGM Resorts International, Everi Holdings, William Hill and the state Gaming Control Board were brought together for a panel at UNLV’s International Gaming Institute on Thursday by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., and Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani.

The biggest difference in the upgraded code of conduct from the previous one-page version is the inclusion of policies on all forms of mobile and interactive gaming as well as land-based casinos. The new code also includes new consumer protection measures with enhanced transparency on casino game odds and payouts as well as ensuring that advertising and marketing don’t misrepresent the probability of winning.

But the code enhancement is not without its challenges.

An estimated 10 percent of the commercial casino industry and 67 percent of tribal casinos aren’t gaming association members, but Elizabeth Cronan, the association’s senior director of gaming policy, said most nonmembers follow its policies.

There’s nothing to force casinos to observe the code, and evolving technology moves faster than policies can keep up.

The association has pledged to provide data for universities to continue research on compulsive gambling. Researchers have found that policy changes occasionally have unintentionally backfired and made a problem worse.

An effort to slow down the spinning reels of slot machines to slow play and give patrons “a breather” resulted in gamblers playing longer instead in Australia, UNLV International Gaming Institute Director Bo Bernhard said during the panel discussion.

There also are skeptics who believe casino companies are incapable of turning away players who might be compulsive.

Control Board member and panelist Terry Johnson said Nevada gaming regulators are starting discussions about how to spot patrons affected by marijuana use.

The association’s code says casinos should not knowingly serve alcoholic beverages to visibly intoxicated persons nor permit gambling by a visibly intoxicated person. But spotting a patron high on marijuana might prove more challenging.

Johnson said discussions would start this month on several issues related to Nevada’s new recreational marijuana law.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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