Problem Gambling Awareness Month is an opportunity for the entire industry to come together and tackle the issues of problem gambling head-on. The initiative has long surpassed its early-day symbolism to transform itself into not the culmination – but the continuation of rigorous problem-solving in the gambling industry insofar as responsible gambling is concerned.
Today, we have with us two preeminent experts on safe and responsible gambling, with both Maris Catania, SG:Certified SG consultant, and Martin Lycka, an Entain Foundation US trustee, agreeing to answer a few of our questions about the meaning and significance of Problem Gambling Awareness Month.
Q: North America is completely different today than it was 20 years ago when Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM) was first introduced. Has the impact of PGAM and the initiative’s relevance grown more important in 2023?
Maris Catania (MC): I think the more focus we place on problem gambling, the better. The more we speak about it, the less stigma is involved around gambling-related harm. Like this people who may be experiencing gambling problems may feel better to seek help, but also the industry can focus more on the importance of proactivity and prevention.
Martin Lycka (MLY): Responsible gambling is gaining ever more significance and prominence in the US as well as wider North America. PGAM is designed to celebrate the good work the industry and others have done throughout while giving us all an opportunity to ponder what’s next as RG is an all-year-long effort, not just a flavor of the month.
Q: What has made PGAM a successful project over the years even when the legalized landscape looked so much different?
MLY: PGAM has originally been associated with the land-based industry that has of course been around for a while. The initiative has been gradually extended to cover all forms of legalized gambling. The project has been made so successful by means of the tireless work of a large group of unsung heroes from within RG advocacy groups as well as the industry who help us put consumer wellbeing at the very heart of what we do.
Q: Is PGAM able to involve all stakeholders as it stands today, or is there still work to be done in convincing industry parties that PGAM is a cause worth backing?
MC: My experience is more in Europe, so I am still a novice when it comes to PGAM in the US. Nonetheless, from what I have seen online, this does look like a great initiative to involve different stakeholders.
MLY: PGAM is backed by the licensed industry as a whole. Everyone does their little bit. At the same, we need to be mindful that the illegal black market is still going strong and we need to continue actions to identify it and drive out, including by means of offering our patrons the best available protection and care.
Q: From a consumer standpoint, does PGAM really have a positive impact on helping people understand problem gambling, how to avoid it, or worse comes to worst – address it head-on by seeking help and support from relevant specialists?
MC: I think the more promotion and information there is on gambling-related harm, the more individuals will feel less stigmatized to discuss and express if they have problems from gambling.
MLY: Yes, it does. PGAM-related initiatives highlight the vagaries associated with gambling and supply patrons with information about how they can protect themselves and gamble within reason, if of course, they choose to gamble in the first place.
Q: How prepared is PGAM to address the fast legalization of gambling in all of its forms and is the initiative still an effective tool when online gambling is becoming such a significant part of the industry?
MLY: The industry has demonstrated its commitment to responsible gambling, for example by committing to the 12 Principle RG Pledge the leading operators published last year. It is also needless to say that individual operators continue developing their respective RG programs, tools and protocols to provide even more robust protection to their patrons. This applies across the product portfolio the individual members of the industry have on offer.
Q: Are the core principles of PGAM upheld as guiding principles for the gambling industry in North America or is there a certain "seasonability" to problem gambling awareness initiatives?
MC: Although I am not that familiar with this, I can speak from a European perspective when it comes to SG week. Although it’s a good initiative, I feel that this topic should be discussed all year round.
MLY: PGAM is one of the opportunities throughout the year to highlight the great initiatives the industry has launched. At the same time, as already mentioned, doing good RG is a year-long commitment; meaning we must remain vigilant and continue doing our very best to protect our patrons.
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