In Excess

Gambling, Gaming and Extreme Behavior

Central Tendencies

A brief look at dedicated gambling venues and social responsibility

One of the more noticeable trends in the land-based casino sector is the growing shift from dedicated gambling casinos to a more generalised entertainment complex where gambling is part of the overall entertainment mix. One of the issues to consider is whether this makes problem gambling and social responsibility a more diffuse issue to track and remedy.

Dr Richard Wood and I did some consultancy for the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation on ‘centralised gaming models’ (CGMs). Along with an international panel of experts in the gambling studies field, we defined a CGM as a model providing gambling opportunities within dedicated gambling environments and where there was a restriction to one or two major gambling environments within a large city or major populated area. We made an assumption that CGM venues would have strict codes, policies, and guidelines in relation to access and control. We also assumed that no gaming opportunities would exist in areas peripheral to the outlets’ main purpose (e.g., no gaming machines in retail outlets, restaurants, bars, etc.).

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We argued that non-dedicated gambling venues have the capacity to encourage players to do other things and have a break (and a reflective time out) from gambling. However, dedicated gaming environments may be more likely to minimize impulsive decisions to gamble. This is because players must travel to a specific dedicated gambling environment (depending upon location) having made a predetermined decision to gamble. Offering non-gambling entertainment may lead to vulnerable customers spending less time gambling overall. If a customer goes somewhere to gamble then they have the option of gambling as much as they want, or until the venue closes. However, if other services exist, there is at least the option of a break from gambling being taken. Engagement with non-gambling activities could be encouraged through offering prizes relating to non-gambling activities (e.g., a free meal).

There is always a chance that a person who entered the premises to do something other than gamble (e.g., watch live entertainment, have a meal, socialise with friends, etc.), could be encouraged to gamble (i.e., via intrinsic association of the other activities). However, it could also be argued that anyone who enters the premises of a dedicated gaming environment (even one that houses other entertainment activities) almost certainly knows that the primary purpose of the venue is for gambling. Impulse gambling by non-gamblers who knowingly enter a gambling environment still constitutes a predetermined decision to enter the environment.

Dr. Wood and I have also argued that the marketing of the gambling venue as a general entertainment site promotes the notion of people congregating for social activities in a social environment where gambling is also readily available. This may increase the likelihood that some groups or individuals may participate in gambling as an ancillary activity to their other social behaviors. Patrons may also feel less stigmatized going to gamble in an entertainment establishment that houses some gambling activities rather than a dedicated gambling environment (e.g., a casino).

At present, there is currently no evidence to determine whether offering other non-gambling activities encourages responsible gambling, or encourages more excessive gambling by attracting vulnerable players drawn (initially) to those non-gambling activities. In essence, there are two schools of thought about the mix of gambling with other activities. The positive view is that patrons who frequent establishments that have a range of activities can spend their time engaged in many non-gambling activities without the need to gamble. The more negative view is that getting patrons to enter the establishment to engage in the non-gambling activities may in fact stimulate the desire to gamble because of the proximity of the gambling and non-gambling activities. If peripheral activities are ‘loss leaders’ and are incorporated as a way of keeping patrons in the establishment, it could be viewed as an exploitative marketing and socially irresponsible tactic. Clearly, this is one area where research is needed.

In our study for the NSGC, our experts reached the view that CGM appears to be the best model for harm minimization by considering both the positives and negatives of dedicated gambling environments versus other types of environments. Many of the negatives of a CGM venue can be minimized or eliminated through appropriate pre-planning. In summary, the main advantages of a CGM that we found in our study are that:

• CGM environments can be well regulated and have more rigorous procedures in relation to social responsibility in gambling and player protection (e.g., control and monitoring).

• CGM environments have the infrastructure to introduce player card technologies that will help in terms of preventing underage access and aiding self-exclusion schemes.

• CGM environments can have effective age controls. This makes gambling by minors more difficult than in non- gambling environments (e.g., retail outlets, bars and restaurants).

• CGM environments are most likely to be frequented by people who have made a pre-determined decision to come to that environment to gamble (unlike gambling in non-gambling environments where the gambling may be an impulsive and unplanned behaviour).

• CGM environments have the flexibility to introduce socially responsible practices that may be harder to do in other non-gambling environments such as no ATMs on the gaming floor (which may be more difficult and/or impractical to do in a retail environment) and not drinking alcohol at the gaming tables, gaming terminals and gaming machines (which may be impossible or impractical in a bar).

References and further reading

Griffiths, M.D. (2009). Casino design: Understanding gaming floor influences on player behaviour. Casino and Gaming International, 5(1), 21-26.

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Internet gambling, player protection and social responsibility. In R. Williams, R. Wood & J. Parke (Ed.), Routledge Handbook of Internet Gambling (pp.227-249). London: Routledge.

Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2003). The environmental psychology of gambling. In G. Reith (Ed.), Gambling: Who wins? Who Loses? pp. 277-292. New York: Prometheus Books.

Griffiths, M.D. & Wood, R.T.A. (2009). Centralised gaming models and social responsibility. Casino and Gaming International, 5(2), 65-69.

Zangeneh, M., Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2008). The marketing of gambling. In Zangeneh, M., Blaszczynski, A., and Turner, N. (Eds.), In The Pursuit Of Winning (pp. 135-153). New York: Springer.

Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit in the Psychology Division at Nottingham Trent University (UK).

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