PROBLEM-GAMING TAMING:  Caesars Entertainment properties mark three decades of initiatives to curb gambling addiction  

When the alluring machines and enticing tables on the casino floor become an unhealthy addiction, when money for a mortgage or car or tuition payment is part of the action, gambling stops being fun.

That’s why it’s important that casino employees keep alert, and why Caesars Entertainment Corp. has led the industry with its Responsible Gaming program.

In 2019, Caesars marks 30 years since it began creating employee-training initiatives and investing in cutting-edge technology and research to advance techniques and tools to prevent underage gaming and stem problem gaming.

It began with Project 21 in 1989, developed after an underage boy drank beer he acquired through room service and gambled undetected in a Harrah’s New Jersey casino for several hours. The CEO and management team devised a plan to be more proactive in identifying underage guests and to train all new team members to keep their eyes open.

“Anytime anyone sees anybody who looks under 30 years old, they should approach the individual and ask for identification to ensure that individual is 21 and older,” says Carolene Layugan, Caesars’ director of responsible gaming/property engagement.

Operation Bet Smart, instituted four years later, educates Caesars team members about problem gambling and lays out protocols for them in case they hear a troubling statement.

Dealers and other employees are trained to be sensitive to comments such as “I lost all my money” or “My wife is going to be very upset because now I can’t pay the mortgage.”

 Such phrases, Layugan says, are examples of what she calls “triggering comments,” adding that employees “are not looking for behaviors because we’re not trained to detect problem-gambling behaviors. We are training our team members to listen to these comments or statements that guests make.”

Employees alert their supervisors, who then contact a Responsible Gaming Ambassador, who approaches the guest. Typically, the ambassador waits until a play is completed and directs the guest away from the casino floor to have a conversation, Layugan says. About 1,300 Responsible Gaming Ambassadors throughout Caesars properties nationwide have been trained in half-day sessions to deal discreetly with potential problem-gaming situations.

“What we don’t want to do is anger the customer. We don’t want to be judgmental toward these customers,” Layugan notes. “What we are simply doing is providing these individuals with resources or tools if they do identify with having a potential gaming problem.”

Each conversation with a guest is logged into an app, and each Caesars property is audited quarterly — examples of how Caesars has made responsible gaming a part of its culture.

Judge Cheryl Moss of the Eighth Judicial District Court, who attended one of the Responsible Gaming Ambassador training programs, says she was impressed by Caesars’ work to promote responsible gaming.

“Their influential ambassador training program sets them apart from competitors and instills a standard for how RG programs should operate,” says Moss, who presides over the country’s only active problem-gambling diversion court.  “I need partners like Caesars Entertainment who have an unparalleled track record of supporting the communities in which they operate and are committed to leading the industry as gaming offerings expand across the country.”

Among other aspects of Caesars’ Responsible Gaming program:

  • Helpline: In 1995, Caesars partnered with AT&T and the National Council on Problem Gambling to establish the industry’s first national toll-free helpline: Call or text (800) 522-4700, for gamblers who might need assistance. 
  • Self-exclusion: In 1999, Caesars became the first gaming company to offer a nationwide self-exclusion and self-restriction program. Guests can request to have all privileges, including play privileges, denied at all Caesars properties. If a guest who has chosen to be self-excluded inserts a players’ club card into a machine, for example, security is immediately pinged and will go to the machine to remind the guest of the restriction.

“We have Responsible Gaming programs available on our online products as well,” Layugan says. “It’s a multi-touch opportunity for an individual who identifies with having (a) gaming problem online to have that opportunity to initiate a self-exclusion. It will lock you out from our online gambling products and also our brick-and-mortar facilities.”

Caesars has also pledged $1 million to the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRC) and other institutions to fund research and develop more tools to advance the cause. One donation of $150,000 went to the NCRC to expand the scope of what responsible gaming means and to support more robust academic research on the topic.

“Responsible gaming is a core component of responsible business,” says Gwen Migita, Caesars’ global head of social impact, equity and sustainability. “It’s a broad approach to what a company’s responsibility should be or could be when looking to support value in the community but also to support and identify social safeguards and manage to them.”

To offer feedback on this story or suggestions for future stories on Las Vegas Newswire, contact Managing Editor Steve Bornfeld at SBornfeld@lvcva.com.

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