Should You Have a Policy for Gambling in the Workplace?

Present-day employers are finding themselves in a position to take action against a growing number of concerns that pertain to the health and wellness of staff. There is no longer a luxury to turn a blind eye to what employees do, and how they feel, before they clock-in and after they leave for the day. While certain behaviors have always followed staff into an office to reverberate throughout the culture of an organization, companies are now called upon to bear some of the corrective responsibility. It’s not an unreasonable expectation given that 56% of Americans spend more time with their “work family” than they do with the one at home.

Modern developments in digital transformation (social networking, gaming, etc.) and the sociopolitical environment have contributed to changes in human resource behavior. In some cases the two combine to compound threats to the wellness of employees. One very recent instance of this is with respect to problem gambling. After the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on sports betting in 2018, access opened up to millions of at-risk Americans. It was like the end to the Prohibition Era, and the whiskey has been pouring accordingly. Meanwhile, digital transformation was laying in wait, ready to arm the millions of new gamblers with apps and sites that allow them to wager from anywhere at anytime, workplaces included. Even those who draw the line between where they conduct their personal activities (i.e. gambling) are not always able to check their psychological responses to them at the front door.

Knowing this, organizations are adding problem gambling to the growing list of employee mental health concerns to be aware of. However, awareness is rarely ever enough, which is why many are stepping up to create an official policy regarding gambling in the workplace. Of course, taking action is about more than doing the right thing. Having one or more people on staff who exhibit problematic gambling behavior can directly impact productivity. Further, should individuals find themselves in financial dire straights, temptation for embezzlement, fraud, and misappropriation may arise.

No matter how you look at it, your company needs to create a plan to protect staff and stakeholder interests alike. Below is a breakdown of what your organization can do to make that happen.

5 Things Your Company Can Do to Protect Staff and Stakeholders from Problematic Gambling in the Workplace

Ban Office Betting Pools and Fantasy Leagues

With a greater number of U.S. states opening the gates for legal sports betting, gambling is more accessible than ever before. Is there really a need for your organization to encourage participation? Given the litigious nature of modern society you don’t want to find your company in the position of being an enabler.

Many companies enable sports betting by permitting (some promoting) in-office betting pools for NFL Super Bowl, NCAA March Madness, and other professional sport playoffs. Some companies have season long fantasy leagues. Professional recruitment companies even suggest it as a means to attract talent and increase employee satisfaction. They’re not seeing the big picture because they’re not accounting for the number of at-risk gamblers within an organization. If you knew that you had someone on staff with a substance abuse problem, would you install a wet bar in the break room? Before you dismiss this as hyperbolic, please note that a significant percentage of the U.S. population are at-risk gamblers. In Massachusetts (which just legalized sports betting) 8.4% of the adult population are at-risk. That number is even higher for other states. In Nebraska, the  Commission on Problem Gambling finds that over 15% are either problem gamblers or at-risk gamblers. The odds of one or more people in your employ being at-risk are higher than the odds of retaining talent by hosting seasonal fantasy leagues.

Block Betting Apps and Sites On-Site

This tactic has been around for as long as the first “adult” themed website hit the internet in 1995. If your company already has an internet-use policy (if it doesn’t start one) be sure to have your IT team add casino, sportsbook, and daily fantasy sports (DFS) to the list of blocked platforms.

Restrict Betting on BYOD and COBO

As alluded to above, the legalization of sports betting has spawned dozens of gambling platforms. While you can block access over desktops and laptops used on the company network, it’s a different story on mobile devices that use private data and/or are in use outside of the building.

You can ban the access of gambling sites for corporate-owned business-only (COBO) mobile devices without issue. However, it becomes problematic when your company follows a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) model. Recent data finds that 75% of employees use their smartphones for work, with 83% of companies having a BYOD policy in place. Remember that BYOD is a privilege for staff, and as such you have the right to restrict certain uses during business hours. Making online gambling one of those restrictions.

Foster an Environment of Support

Some companies have chosen to institute punitive measures for staff who violate their gambling in the workplace policy. Whether or not you chose to do the same depends upon your corporate culture. Regardless, you must foster an environment of support. After all, if an employee knows that there are consequences to gambling in the workplace and yet they still do it, they may indeed have a behavioral health problem. A “one strike and you’re out” policy doesn’t do anyone any favors. Instead, open up dialogue for healthy non-judgmental discussion. Provide members of your company with access to online resources to find out if they have a problem, such as this short questionnaire.

In addition, find out if treatment for gambling disorder may be covered under your corporate insurance plan for employees. If so, communicate this to staff so that they know they may qualify for therapy. This act alone shows them that you care about their mental health. From there, they may even approach HR to report their struggles in search of help, even before it’s discovered.

Connect to Kindbridge Behavioral Health

Carrying over from above, you want to support impacted staff in their recovery. Connect them to virtual treatment providers that specialize in gambling disorder therapy in a safe, confidential, and welcoming environment. You can take this initiative a step further by creating a Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Kindbridge Behavioral Health will tailor an EAP specific to tackling problem gambling and related anxiety, stress, and depression. We provide fast initial consultation and expert support for your employees, with confidential, online therapy available from anywhere in the U.S.. There are options for one-on-one and group counseling, and we can customize a program based upon your company’s unique needs.

Concerned Organizations:

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