Senior Viejas executives and a majority of all front-line employees participate in Viejas-sponsored training sessions by the California Council on Problem Gambling. In 2007, Viejas became the first casino in California to be certified as a responsible gambling facility by having 75% of Viejas Casino’s frontline casino employees go through training to learn how to identify and assist problem gamblers. This marks the first time an entire casino has been certified in responsible gambling by the California Council on Problem Gambling (CCPG).
Responsible Gaming Education Week is part of the Responsible Gaming National Education Campaign, a long-term, comprehensive program spearheaded by the American Gaming Association, the commercial casino industry’s trade association.
A study by Harvard University showed that approximately one percent of gamblers are compulsive.
“We believe that one problem gambler is one too many,” said Bobby Barrett, Viejas Tribal Chairman. “Viejas Casino has long made it a priority to keep employees, customers and the general public informed about disordered and underage gambling.”
“We want people to come to Viejas, but only to have fun, dine and be entertained. But,” cautions Barrett, “if anyone knows of someone who needs help to stop gambling, or needs help themselves, just call the casino, and we’ll point them in the right direction.
There are many facets to the Viejas Casino Responsible Gaming Program, which has been in force since June 1999. The Viejas Tribal Council recognized that along with the growth of the casino, a responsible course of action included intensifying the focus on the realities of compulsive gaming and ways to fight it.
Responsible gaming covers many pages of the casino’s policy manual, and is also incorporated as elements of the Viejas Gaming Ordinance and Gaming Commission Regulations.
The Viejas policy is clear: “To protect individuals, families, employees and communities, Viejas Casino tries to identify problem gamblers, encourage them to seek assistance, and in appropriate cases may exclude them from casino property.”
Viejas Casino management and casino floor personnel follow the policy of the Viejas Tribal Council, to promote responsible gaming and combat underage gambling 24-hours-a-day – every day.
“At Viejas, we see our job as one to constantly educate the public in general, and those who may be compulsive gamblers, or their families, friends and associates, that there is help available and point them in the right direction,” said Barrett.
Throughout the casino signage is strategically placed advising patrons to call the gambling assistance hotline, 1-800-GAMBLER, if they need help.
Each Viejas casino shift has an intervention team of managers who are certified by the California Council on Problem Gambling – http://www.calproblemgambling.org/ -, after taking a 60 hour training course, to deal with customer and/or employee problem gamblers. They are trained to spot signs of compulsive gaming, and are authorized, pursuant to formal policy, to gently approach a patron and discuss what may be a problem over a cup of coffee or complimentary meal.
At times, casino officials advise the patrons to leave and come back only after they have thought about the consequences to themselves and others if they are a problem gambler. In some cases, Viejas Casino permanently excludes those identified as problem gamblers and honors requests when a compulsive gamer asks to be barred from the casino.
For each casino employee, the initial orientation period includes responsible gaming education and training by certified professionals. Topics include how to identify the signs and symptoms of compulsive gamblers and how to point them towards getting help.
In addition to Responsible Gaming Education Week, the gaming industry continues to fund various studies to determine causes and ways to combat compulsive gambling. Over the years the Viejas Tribal Council has authorized donations of considerable sums to organizations that fight compulsive gambling. Viejas produced and funded a responsible gaming infomercial that appeared regularly for several months on local cable television channels.
In California, eventually millions are paid annually from tribal government gaming revenues from tribes operating casinos on September 1, 1999, are paid to the state into the Special Distribution Fund. Funds each year, as appropriated by the Legislature are available for “grants, including any administrative costs, for programs designed to address gambling addiction.”
Nationwide, the gaming industry has spent millions to research problem gaming. The National Center for Responsible Gaming – http://www.ncrg.org/ -was incorporated in 1996 to operate as a nonprofit organization engaged in the support of research on pathological gambling and the development and promotion of educational programs on pathological and youth gambling. The board of director’s membership is balanced between representatives of the gaming industry and leaders from the civic, charitable, educational, community, and public service sectors.
According to the American Gaming Association, “More than $3.7 million in grants have been awarded to prestigious research universities and medical centers in the United States and Canada in support of 19 investigations in neuroscience, behavioral and social science and epidemiology. These groundbreaking research projects will expand our knowledge of one of the least understood behavioral disorders and lead to effective prevention and treatment programs. NCRG-funded research has already resulted in the most reliable statistics on the prevalence of the disorder, according to a report by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.”
An additional $2.3 million in industry funds led to the establishment of the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders at Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addictions. A landmark 1997 Harvard study, funded by the NCRG, estimated that approximately one percent of the adult population can be classified as pathological gamblers. This estimate is now widely accepted as the most reliable statistic about the prevalence of gambling disorders.
One of the first indicators that gambling is becoming a problem in an individual’s life is when the gambling “just isn’t fun anymore.” If you are wondering about your own gambling behavior or that of a loved one, consider the following questions:
1. Did you ever lose time from work or school due to gambling?
2. Has gambling ever made your home life unhappy?
3. Did gambling affect your reputation?
4. Have you ever felt remorse after gambling?
5. Did you ever gamble to get money with which to pay debts or otherwise solve financial difficulties?
6. Did gambling cause a decrease in your ambition or efficiency?
7. After losing did you feel you must return as soon as possible and win back your losses?
8. After a win did you have a strong urge to return and win more?
9. Did you often gamble until your last dollar was gone?
10. Did you ever borrow to finance your gambling?
11. Have you ever sold anything to finance gambling?
12. Were you reluctant to use “gambling money” for normal expenditures?
13. Did gambling make you careless of the welfare of yourself or your family?
14. Did you ever gamble longer than you had planned?
15. Have you ever gambled to escape worry or trouble?
16. Have you ever committed, or considered committing, an illegal act to finance gambling?
17. Did gambling cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
18. Do arguments, disappointments or frustrations create within you an urge to gamble?
19. Did you ever have an urge to celebrate any good fortune by a few hours of gambling?
20. Have you ever considered self destruction or suicide as a result of your gambling?
Most compulsive gamblers will answer yes to at least seven of these questions.
Source: Gamblers Anonymous
Symptoms of the Problem Gambler
1. Has repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling. Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
2. Lies to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling. Lying becomes a way of life.
3. Borrows from family and friends and often lies about the true cause of the financial crisis. Refinances mortgages or loans; cashes in life insurance policies, CDs. 401K’s.
4. Commits illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, theft, or embezzlement to finance gambling. Loses a sense of the value of money as currency, and sees it only as a way to play longer.
5. Has jeopardized or lost significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunities because of gambling. Has considered or attempted suicide as a result of gambling.
6. Feels shame, guilt and remorse after gambling. Becomes manipulative and controlling. Changes in personality: angry; irritable; critical; sarcastic; depressed; argumentive.
7. Makes excuses about whereabouts. Poorly explained absences from home and work. Uses gambling to cope when life seems overwhelming.
8. Gambles when there is a crisis. Gambles to celebrate good fortune.
9. Brags and lies about winnings and is evasive about losses.
10. Has an unrealistic sense of entitlement. (The world owes me.) Has a something for nothing mentality.
Where to go for help
Gamblers Anonymous (GA) is a self-help organization made up of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other in order to solve their common problem of compulsive gambling. The only requirement for membership in the program is a desire to stop gambling.
In order to accomplish this, GA follows the principles of the 12 Steps of Recovery, which have been utilized by thousands of people who are recovering from gambling addictions. Although these principles are spiritual in nature, Gamblers Anonymous is NOT a religious program. The word spiritual can be said to describe those characteristics of the human mind that represent the highest and finest qualities such as kindness, generosity, honesty and humility.
Upon entering the Gamblers Anonymous program, new members with compulsive gambling addictions receive a warm welcome from others who have experienced the pain of a gambling addiction, and often discover for the first time that they are not alone in this problem.
While GA is not a treatment program in itself, if it is required, various gambling treatments can be suggested.
Gam-Anon is a support group for the spouse, family or friends of compulsive gamblers. Many come into the group feeling frightened, helpless, desperate and ashamed, afraid to share their problems and failures, certain that no one could possibly understand. In Gam-Anon, the family member or friend of the gambling addict will experience relief from anxiety by accepting the fact that they are not responsible for the problem in the family. The energy wasted in attempts to stop loved ones from compulsive gambling can be channeled into more useful methods of problem solving.
Gam-Anon’s purpose is three-fold:
1. To learn acceptance and understanding of the compulsive gambling illness.
2. To use the support and problem solving suggestions of the program to rebuild lives and give appropriate aid to the gambler.
3. To give assistance to others who also suffer from the effects of gambling addiction.