News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Rod Smith, Las Vegas Review-Journal
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Dec. 10, 2003 - The American Gaming Association on Tuesday announced a first-ever industrywide code of conduct for responsible gaming that will commit members to a broad set of problem gambling policies.
In announcing the program, association Chairman Phil Satre said the new code takes in existing policies at many major casino companies, including Mandalay Resort Group, MGM Mirage, Park Place Entertainment Corp., and, "I think," Harrah's Entertainment, of which he is also chairman.
"(But) for many (smaller casino operators), this is a huge leap. This is the first time for many companies," he said.
Association President Frank Fahrenkopf said the code builds on programs developed by individual companies since the association was formed eight years ago and cements the industry's commitment to responsible gaming.
Satre said the industry group adopted the new code to address image problems it faces as gaming proliferates into new jurisdictions and to attract added gambling customers.
He denied that the association was adopting its new policy to head off possible litigation along the lines that landed the tobacco industry in deep trouble.
"I'm much more concerned with the broader image of the industry because I want people to realize it is a responsible industry run by responsible companies because a lot more people will come through the doors," Satre said.
The new code of conduct, however, has no enforcement mechanisms and no teeth, he said.
"I don't believe the role of an industry association is to do some of this, such as levy fines. I think a carrot is much more effective than a stick," Satre said.
The next stage in developing an industrywide responsible gambling environment is to create a reward and recognition system to implement the new code, he said.
"There can also be consequences for not being recognized or, if you're a flagrant violator of the code, then we'll have to deal with them, even to the point of saying they can't associate with (the association)," he said.
Satre also said he sees an opportunity for regulators to create an environment in which adherence to a code of conduct is more readily accepted by the gaming industry.
Already, he said, regulators regularly question licensee applicants about their responsible gambling policies.
Kevin Mullally, executive director of the Missouri Gaming Commission, said the association's new code raises the ante on responsible gaming policies.
By defining acceptable conduct, the casino industry could be creating a situation in which member companies that lose lawsuits or are found to have violated regulations could be found to have done so with intent and malice.
"This raises the bar. If companies are not compliant, the consequences are greater," Mullally said.
Satre explained that the full code includes all aspects of member company's problem gaming programs, from employee assistance, advertising and marketing.
KEY PROVISIONS OF THE CODE INCLUDE
-- A commitment to train employees with regard to responsible gaming and responsible alcohol service.
-- A commitment to allow patrons who have gambling problems to get themselves barred from casinos.
-- A provision to help prevent underage gambling and unattended minors in casinos.
It also requires that association members continue to support research initiatives and public awareness programs related to responsible gaming and underage gambling.
The association is in the process of developing resources to provide members with best practices and materials to facilitate the implementation process.
All members have been given until Sept. 15 to implement the complete association code of conduct.
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