One of its efforts is a guide compiled by a Purdue University professor to help the industry deal with those addicted to gambling.
"Compulsive gambling is the Achilles' heel of the gaming industry," says Carl G. Braunlich, assistant professor of restaurant, hotel, institutional and tourism management.
He says the gaming industry has successfully combated most other objections raised against casinos, race tracks and other forms of betting. For instance, surveys show that attitudes about gambling have changed. "It's gone from something that's wrong to an acceptable form of entertainment," Braunlich says.
He says fears of organized crime and increased street crime associated with gambling establishments have not proven substantial. "You do see an increase in crime, but that's because you have more visitors in town, not because you have gaming," he says.
"The only persuasive argument against gaming right now is the problem of compulsive gambling. Knowing that, the gaming industry has decided to follow the example set by the makers of alcoholic beverages."
Braunlich says the alcohol industry recognized the problems associated with its product and has worked to reduce them. For example, beer and alcohol manufacturers fund programs against drunken driving and train bartenders how to spot patrons who have had too much to drink.
The Responsible Gaming Resource Guide is a comprehensive compilation of responsible gaming ideas, policies and programs that can be followed by gaming establishments. The guide was compiled by Braunlich and Marvin A. Steinberg, executive director of the Connecticut Council on Compulsive Gaming. The guide was initiated by the American Gaming Association's Task Force on Responsible Gaming.
"The guide is a 'tool kit' for introducing or improving responsible gaming programs," Braunlich says. "This is the first time that such an extensive effort has been made to compile all the information available on dealing with compulsive and under-age gambling." The guide was sent to the top gaming regulators in all 50 states, and more than 500 copies were distributed to gaming establishments nationally and internationally.
Braunlich says up to 6 percent of U.S. residents have problems with gambling, slightly less than the 9 percent who abuse alcohol. About 1 percent of the people in the United States are compulsive gamblers. Compulsive gambling is an impulse control disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.
"Compulsive gamblers will bet on anything," Braunlich says. "They exist even when legal gambling isn't available." He says in such instances they'll seek out bookies, private card games and sports pools.
However, Braunlich says it's difficult to spot a compulsive gambler. "When someone has had too much alcohol, you can physically see that," he says. "But when someone gambles away more than they should, are they addicted or just foolish? When it comes to problem gambling, it's not how much you lose, but how it affects your life."
He says there are some possible signs of compulsive gambling that an observer could spot. "If someone looks disheveled, if they've been at the table for hours and say they aren't having a good time, and if they argue with others or are emotionally high-strung, then you might have a compulsive gambler," Braunlich says.
He says casino operators -- unlike bartenders -- stop short of "turning off the spigot" so to speak, when it comes to compulsive gamblers. "At responsible casinos they will suggest to customers that they walk away from the table for a while. They will also give out information on groups that help problem gamblers. But generally they don't intervene," Braunlich says.
Of course, even good intentions can backfire sometimes. "In Connecticut they started putting the phone number of a compulsive gambling hotline on the backs of lottery tickets. Unfortunately, the people who needed help couldn't get through because the line was tied up with callers trying to find out what the winning lottery numbers were," Braunlich says.
Among responsible gaming recommendations included in the guide:
Source: Carl G. Braunlich, (765) 494-8031; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Beth Forbes, (765) 494-9723; e-mail, email@example.com
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
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