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CASINO MARKETING AND THE COMPULSIVE GAMBLER
by Dennis Conrad and Carol O'Hare

CASINO MARKETING AND THE COMPULSIVE GAMBLER
by Dennis Conrad


A small percentage of people who participate in gaming activities are problem gamblers. Their inability to control their gambling adversely affects their lives and the lives of their family and friends.
In this month's column, I have asked Carol O'Hare, a recovering compulsive gambler and Executive Director of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, to share some thoughts on how a progressive gaming organization should approach the issue of Casino Marketing as it relates to the problem gambler.
She knows a lot more about this than I do.

Casino Marketing and the Problem Gambler
by Carol O'Hare

As a guest to this column, I have decided to make my comments with as much tact, courtesy, and diplomacy as the truth will allow. Even so, what I am about to say may create as much comfort as an extended (and unwanted) visit from the in-laws. There is rarely a column written about problem gambling that causes the reader to feel good all over. This one is not likely to be the exception to the rule.
Problem gamblers, for the purpose of this writing, are those individuals who suffer some long term, negative consequence as a result of their gambling activity. In its most extreme manifestation, these individuals suffer from a psychological disorder known as pathological, or compulsive gambling.
Admittedly, this group of gamblers is not the majority. Estimates for prevalence of this disorder range from 1-6% of the adult gambling population. Although small in number, don't underestimate the size of their voice. Advocates for the concerns of the problem gambler are appearing all over the country, through treatment professionals, state agencies, private foundations and merely word of mouth. Remember, each compulsive gambler has affected the lives of up to 10 or more people during their illness. Each of those people also have opinions about how gaming companies should respond to this issue.
As a progressive company, you have probably already considered the political and social ramifications of NOT being sensitive to the issue. Perhaps that is why you are reading this article. I commend you. So, assuming that everyone reading this article is already sensitive to the issue, let's talk about action.
Marketing, as defined by Webster (a man I have learned a lot from), is all business activity involved in the moving of goods from the producer to the consumer, including selling, advertising, packaging, etc.
When we talk about the problem gambler and casino marketing, aren't we really then talking about the problem gambler and all business activity that is designed to bring in customers to your casino? This covers a lot of ground, yet, when asked about addressing problem gambling, most companies still want to push it off into only one or two areas of casino business, such as public relations, or community service.
"Oh, yes, we understand that some people can't control their gambling, and they are not the customer we want in our casino."
This is a great Public Relations response. Unfortunately, the reality is that you are always going to have some problem gamblers in your casino because you can't weed them out at the door. The very things you use to encourage, excite and attract the recreational gamblers (paycheck promotions, giveaways, frequent player bonus points) will also attract those people who have a problem, or are predisposed to developing a problem.
It is much like fishing for tuna. The tuna fishermen for years have used the best methods they know to catch tuna. For decades, tuna lovers everywhere enjoyed the benefit of their efforts with no other concern than the enjoyment they felt when eating a delicious tuna steak, or munching a tuna salad sandwich during a quick lunch break. Unfortunately, unknown to most who were enjoying the fruit of the fishermen's labors, there were an increasingly large number of dolphins who were being caught in the tuna nets and dying as a result. The tuna fishermen weren't intentionally trying to kill dolphins, they were simply trying to do the best job they could of catching the tuna. Their lack of intention, however, was no consolation to the dead dolphins.
There are two distinct lessons to be learned from the experience of the tuna fishermen. First, be prepared to deal with whatever the net brings in. This has been the primary focus of most Responsible Gaming efforts - placing signs in the casino with toll-free help line phone numbers, distributing brochures, financially supporting community resources who provide services to problem gamblers and their families. The opportunity and ability to direct information and assistance to these individuals is limited only by your company's willingness to commit their time and resources to the effort.
Second lesson of the tuna fishermen? If you really want to make a difference, design a safer net. Some companies are already doing so. Paycheck spins are not used by some companies who feel these promotions might mistakenly encourage customers to spend beyond their entertainment budgets. Some services provided for the sake of 'customer convenience' may actually increase the potential for problem gamblers to do harm to themselves and their families. Policies regarding extension of credit, check cashing, cash advance services on credit cards, and even some frequent player promotions are walking a fine line between improving customer convenience and enabling addictive behavior.
So now you are probably saying to yourself, "Wait a minute, we still have to compete with all those other guys out there who don't care at all. How can we do what you're suggesting and not lose our customers?"
Remember the tuna fishermen? Last time I shopped for tuna, I found three cans that contained just the kind of tuna I wanted. I purchased the one with the tiny little seal that read, "Dolphin safe".

DENNIS CONRAD is the president of Raving Consulting Co. which specializes in Common Sense, Customer Focused, Marketing Consulting for the gaming industry. He can be reached at: 475 Hill Street, Suite G, Reno, NV 89501  (775) 329-7864  fax (775) 329-4947  email: TheRadcon@aol.com.

Date Posted: 26-Jun-2001

DENNIS CONRAD is the president of Raving Consulting Co. which specializes in Common Sense, Customer Focused, Marketing Consulting for the gaming industry. He can be reached at: 475 Hill Street, Suite G, Reno, NV 89501  (775) 329-7864  fax (775) 329-4947  email: TheRadcon@aol.com.

 
 
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