Problem Gambling: Official: Rules Need Revisiting

9 December 2003

Almost five years after Nevada gaming regulators enacted rules tackling problem gambling, one of the state's leading problem gambling experts is calling on the Nevada Gaming Commission and the Nevada Gaming Control Board to revisit the subject.

The rules that took effect early in 1999 included provisions requiring employee problem gambling training and posted notices advising customers of problem gambling symptoms and toll-free telephone help numbers where they could seek help.

The 1999 regulations also provided a mechanism for problem gamblers to request that casinos not cash their checks, grant them credit or send them mail.

It's now time to take on the subject again, evaluating what's worked and hasn't worked in Nevada and elsewhere, said Carol O'Hare, executive director of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, after a Monday afternoon seminar.

Problem gambling researchers, gaming regulators and casino operators are meeting at the fourth annual National Center for Responsible Gaming conference on gambling and addiction, at the MGM Grand through today.

"I think it may be time to open the dialogue again," O'Hare said. "Change is a part of life and we may need to change."

Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander was not available to comment on O'Hare's call.

Her call for a renewed look at the efficacy of the existing rules is not a criticism of the regulations, the regulators who write and enforce them or casino operators, she said.

"I'm absolutely supportive of what we already have in place," she said. "But let's not get comfortable. We now have five years of history of these regulations, and we need to revisit them to find out what's working, what's not and why."

One rule she suggested may need some work covers the requirements for posted notices on problem gambling symptoms that include toll-free telephone help numbers.

The rules require brochures to be available in a "conspicuous" place, but O'Hare said a better standard may be to require them to be both conspicuous and accessible.

She cited a hypothetical example of a grocery store slot alcove where the problem-gambling brochures might be clearly visible to gamblers but are placed in a way that people can't get to them to take one.

"There's a big difference between conspicuous and accessible," she noted.

O'Hare is not calling on Nevada regulators to adopt some of the tougher problem gambling rules other states have adopted.

Missouri imposes a $500 per riverboat cruise loss limit on its casino gamblers; a handful of states including Missouri, New Jersey, Illinois and Michigan have problem gambler self-exclusion rules; some states limit advertising, credit and alcohol service; and most other states fund problem gambling treatment.

Harvard Medical School's Richard La Brie, the division of addictions' associate director of research, suggested that many states, including Nevada, fail to effectively implement what he calls "initiation regulations," rules that could help stop prospective problem gamblers from beginning destructive behavior.

"Consider alcohol regulation," La Brie said. "There's a whole slew of alcohol laws, restrictions on age, on time, where you can drink, open container laws. These types of rules are underused when it comes to (gaming)."

Also important, La Brie said, is to cost-effectively spend resources to help the most people. Signs, employee training, alcohol service restrictions, credit and loss limits are methods that can reach gamblers before their behavior passes from showing signs of problem gambling behavior to an actual gambling disorder.

Related Links
Nevada Online Gambling
National Center for Responsible Gaming 4th Annual Conference on Gambling and Addiction

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