Calling on the Gambling Industry to Refocus CSR

By definition, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a business concept that holds an organization accountable to itself, its stakeholders, and the public, when it comes to a number of issues. Harvard Business School delineates these issues into environmental, philanthropic, ethical, and economic categories. The scorecard on these categories varies significantly across industries, with failing grades typically reserved to companies that cause and/or contribute to categorical problems. For example, Big Oil faces an uphill battle in environmental CSR in the same manner that Big Pharma fails in the ethics surrounding substance abuse disorders. Consequently, each industry spends millions (if not billions) of dollars per annum on public relations to communicate their more positive contributions across other categories. The public doesn’t buy it. For instance, U.S. consumer trust in Big Pharma remains low, despite the industry’s reported contributions to ending the COVID-19 pandemic. Data shows that only 15% of U.S. consumers say they trust pharmaceutical companies more than they did before the pandemic. Meanwhile, 60% of Americans blame oil companies for the climate crisis.

Since the already fast-rising proliferation of online gambling was bolstered by the removal of the federal ban on sports betting in 2018, a number of regulators along with the American public are now refocusing their attention to corporate social responsibility in the gambling industry. Although, the CSR dimensions for the gambling industry are somewhat different. The four primary dimensions consider the i) workplace, ii) environment, iii) community, and iv) responsible gaming. Unfortunately, the industry is failing in a big way. The country is currently witnessing record increases in problem gambling helpline contacts across regulated U.S. states, with youth accounting for an alarming number of the calls. As a result, a stern finger is being pointed in the direction of gambling operators.

While it’s probably too late for Big Oil and Big Pharma to paint a favorable picture of themselves to the American public, it’s not too late for gambling operators to do the right thing. Below is a breakdown of why your casino gaming and/or sports betting company must prioritize problem gambling support when redefining its CSR program in 2024 and beyond.

4 Reasons Why Gambling Operators Must Make Problem Gambling Support the Top Priority in Corporate Social Responsibility Programs for 2024

I. RG and SE is Not Enough in CSR

Every gambling operator in the U.S. has Responsible Gambling (RG) messaging on-site at land-based operations and in the fine-print footers of their websites, but this is generally done to accommodate state regulations and little more. Moreover, it’s not effective, as research shows that non-gamblers are the ones most likely to look at RG messaging, than actual gamblers.

Gambling operators are also required by law to offer players the option to self-exclude. Self exclusion (SE) programs can be effective in keeping problem gamblers away from land-based operations in their respective locales but it does little to no-good when it comes to online gambling.

“They tend to provide only limited information for external resources for help and for self-limit access programs for responsible gaming. This can be evaluated as being passive because it is the customers that recognize their problems and decide to ask for help. However, companies publishing CSR reports behave more actively. In addition to providing information about helplines and self-limit access programs, they have appropriate philosophies and systems for responsible gaming. They tend to educate their customers, employees, and the public to prevent problem gambling.”

Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting in the Casino Industry

Simply put, RG and SE are not even close to cutting it for CSR. If you really want regulators and the public to applaud your efforts in accountability, more needs to be done. Impending backlash awaits those who wait any longer to do so. Please keep reading.

II. Public Relations and Regulatory Backlash is Coming Fast

The backlash against gambling operators is coming in fast from the public and the government, including some of the same state regulators who once supported the legalization of sports betting. In a recent New York Times article titled “First Came the Sports Betting Boom. Now Comes the Backlash.” it was cited that regulators are cracking down hard on the industry regarding advertising and player acquisition practices, citing harm to the public and even to athletes (which we’ve reported on extensively). U.S. states are taking notice of moves made north of the border, where athletes and celebrities can no longer be used to endorse gambling.

As a gambling operator, you need to get ahead of this backlash and show that regulated gambling can coexist with community mental health. Only those who commit to providing more robust problem gambling support in their CSR programs will rise from the dust of the regulatory bombs that are about to be dropped in 2024. This should be accomplished by tacking the issue head-on, instead of using smoke and mirrors to divert attention elsewhere:

“Controversial companies can improve their reputation by aiming to reduce their innate harm rather than performing philanthropic activities. Stakeholders demand and expect that controversial companies strive to address their inherent negative impacts associated with their business. By remedying their innate problems and meeting the prospects of stakeholders, companies’ reputations can be enhanced.”

Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting in the Casino Industry

In fact, in being more accountable, operators can play a role that even the government has not been effective in:

“Although governments have tried to reduce the potential harm of problem gambling with policies and regulations, results have been limited [22]. In this regard, casino companies’ acknowledgement of problem gambling and their active involvement in responsible gaming is necessary.”

III. Assists with Employee Retention and Acquisition

In addition to showing commitment to sustaining a healthy player base, any effort to enhance CSR can mitigate employee turnover while concurrently attracting talent. Research shows that more community-minded organizations with robust CSR programs experience greater levels of employee engagement and subsequently, higher retention rates. Nearly 60% of employees today say they hold their employer to a higher standard than other organizations when they take on greater social accountability, while job-seekers also prefer to work at companies that value CSR. Maintaining a long-tenured and trusted staff is exceedingly important in the often tumultuous HR environment of the gambling industry

IV. Because Industry Leaders Are Already Doing It

Initiating problem gambling support systems for staff and customers/players isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s required if your company expects to keep up with leaders in the industry. Both BetMGM (view details) and DraftKings (view details) have teamed up with Kindbridge Behavioral Health services to pioneer mental health access programs for problem gamblers, beginning in the state of Colorado (a model of gambling support). Your company can become a part of this movement in your state by working with Kindbridge today, or you can leave it to the competition to set the new standard in CSR in the gambling industry.

What Your Gambling Company Can Do Today

Gambling operators can take a more proactive role in protecting players from problematic gambling behavior today. Beginning immediately, make the following a part of your CSR program:

  • Feature pre-registration messaging about problem gambling vulnerabilities due to pre-existing and cooccurring conditions.
  • Fund causes that support problem gambling research and treatment.
  • Invest in AI to monitor for problem gambling behavior amongst players.
  • Partner with gambling disorder treatment providers across regulated U.S. states.

View more details on these four initiatives right here or simply reach out to Kindbridge Behavioral Health right away. Kindbridge is the first-of-its-kind platform in the USA that will work with your gaming organization to create and manage a program that protect players from problematic gambling. Contact us today to discuss options.

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