A Comparison of Two GameSense Implementation Approaches: How Program Awareness and Engagement Relate to Gambling Beliefs and Behaviors

Abstract

Despite the size and scope of responsible gambling (RG) programs in the U.S., relatively few studies have evaluated these programs. Using survey data from 4795 subscribers to a casino loyalty program, we examined respondents’ awareness of and engagement with the GameSense RG program, and gambling beliefs and behaviors. We compared how differences in the implementation structure and visibility of the GameSense program (i.e., state-regulated with a standalone, branded GameSense center vs. corporate-integrated as part of loyalty program desks) was associated with GameSense awareness and engagement, perceptions of gambling operator RG practices, three Positive Play subscales (i.e., behavior, personal responsibility, and gambling literacy), understanding of gambling concepts, and use of RG strategies. More respondents who had visited the property with a state-regulated, branded center were aware of GameSense (36.5%), compared to respondents who visited other properties (7.4%). Perceptions of the operator’s RG practices were generally high for all respondents. Multivariate analyses revealed no relationship between GameSense awareness and gambling belief or behavior outcomes, yet showed that respondents who picked up a GameSense brochure used slightly more RG strategies. Our findings suggest that the visibility of an RG program might influence program awareness and engagement but not certain RG-related behavioral outcomes.

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Availability of Data and Materials

Data underlying this study is available on The Transparency Project website (www.thetransparencyproject.org), which is a repository for scientific data.

Notes

  1. 1.

    In addition to their greater visibility, GameSense information centers provide a designated location to distribute RG materials (e.g., brochures about RG resources, information about odds of winning) and are a convenient location for patrons seeking help or resources to get advice from a GameSense Advisor.

  2. 2.

    In the corporate-integrated model, GameSense is part of the casino's customer service approach through their own employees. The majority of GameSense Advisors are also M life loyalty desk Supervisors. This version of the program focuses on offering help and assistance to those who need it in the same manner as any other customer service inquiry, even if that help/assistance is simply in the form of providing information.

  3. 3.

    It is possible that the MGM Springfield’s location in Massachusetts could make its customers more likely to have a better understanding of gambling concepts (e.g., basic probability, independence of events). Massachusetts residents have higher average levels of educational attainment than all other U.S. states (DHE 2019), which may enhance their knowledge of gambling-related concepts. Casino gambling was only recently legalized in Massachusetts (in 2011, with the first land-based casino opening in 2015; MGC 2020), so MGM Springfield customers might have different gambling beliefs and behaviors due to their relatively recent access to legalized gambling. However, we did not view this rationale as strong enough to specify a directional hypothesis for research question 4.

  4. 4.

    To ensure that all valid responses to survey questions were included, we included respondents who skipped one or more questions in this response rate calculation and in the data analyses. We report the number of valid responses and the number of missing responses for each variable in Table 1.

  5. 5.

    The potential MGM properties that respondents could select from included: (1) Bellagio, (2) Mirage, (3) Beau Rivage, (4) Aria, (5) Monte Carlo, (6) Gold Strike, (7) Vdara Hotel and Spa, (8) New York New York, (9) Borgata, (10) MGM Grand Las Vegas, (11) Luxor, (12) MGM Grand Detroit, (13) The Signature at MGM Grand, (14) Excalibur, (15) MGM National Harbor, (16) Mandalay Bay, (17) Circus Circus, (18) MGM Springfield, (19) Delano Las Vegas, (20) The Park, and (21) Grand Victoria.

  6. 6.

    For participants who did not indicate that they had visited the Springfield, MA casino, we included this special instruction: “GameSense Advisors are MLife Agents who are specially trained to provide information on how to keep gambling safe and fun.”.

  7. 7.

    Because frequency of gambling in the past 12 months and total number of MGM properties visited in the past 12 months might be highly correlated, we tested for multicollinearity in each model with Variance Inflation Factors (VIFs) as described in our pre-registered research plan. None of the VIFs were above 4 (Hair et al. 2010) with all explanatory and control variables included for any model, so we did not remove the number of properties visited in the past 12 months as a predictor variable in any of the multivariate models.

  8. 8.

    This correlation was very high in magnitude, but not equal to ρ = 1.00, because it is possible that a respondent could be aware of GameSense more generally but not aware of the specific components that comprise the program.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to acknowledge and thank the anonymous survey participants who took part in this research study.

Funding

This research was supported by MGM Resorts International under contract number AWD-02–00000764. MGM Resorts International is a large international gambling operator. MGM consulted on the sample recruitment procedure and some of the survey items. The researchers formulated the research questions and designed the analysis plans. The researchers independently conducted all analyses, data interpretation, manuscript preparation, and manuscript submission without any input from MGM.

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Correspondence to Eric R. Louderback.

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Conflict of interest

During the past five years, the International Gaming Institute (IGI) has received research funding from MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts Ltd, Las Vegas Sands Corporation, Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Ainsworth Game Technology, U.S.-Japan Business Council, State of Nevada, Knowledge Fund, and State of Nevada Department of Health and Human Services. IGI runs the triennial research-focused International Conference on Gambling and Risk Taking, whose sponsors include industry, academic, and legal/regulatory stakeholders in gambling. A full list of sponsors for the most recent conference can be found at https://www.unlv.edu/igi/conference/17th/sponsors. When this article was published, the Division on Addiction was receiving funding from the Addiction Treatment Center of New England via SAMHSA; EPIC Risk Management; the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (FAAR); the Gavin Foundation via the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA); Entain, PLC (formerly, GVC Holdings, PLC); The Healing Lodge of the Seven Nations via the National Institutes of Health (National Institute of General Medical Sciences and National Institute on Drug Abuse); Health Resources in Action via the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Office of Problem Gambling Services; The Integrated Centre on Addiction Prevention and Treatment of the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, Hong Kong; St. Francis House via the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Bureau of Substance Addiction Services; and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas via MGM Resorts International. During the past five years, the Division on Addiction has also received funding from Aarhus University Hospital with funds approved by The Danish Council for Independent Research; ABMRF—The Foundation for Alcohol Research; Caesars Enterprise Services, LLC; the David H. Bor Library Fund, Cambridge Health Alliance; DraftKings, Inc.; Fenway Community Health Center, Inc.; Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Substance Addiction Services; Massachusetts Gaming Commission, Commonwealth of Massachusetts; and University of Nevada, Las Vegas via MGM Resorts International. During the past five years, Eric R. Louderback has received research funding from a grant issued by the National Science Foundation (NSF), a government agency based in the United States. Dr. Louderback’s research has been financially supported by a Dean’s Research Fellowship from the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences, who also provided funds to present at academic conferences. He has received travel support funds from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to present research findings. During the past five years, Heather M. Gray has served as a paid program evaluator for Duffy Health Center, served as a paid grant reviewer for the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG; now International Center for Responsible Gaming [ICRG]), received travel funds from the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals/The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, received honoraria funds for preparation of a book chapter from Universite Laval, received travel funds and honoraria from the ICRG, and received course royalty fees from the Harvard Medical School Department of Continuing Education. Dr. Gray is a non-paid member of the New Hampshire Council for Responsible Gambling. During the past five years, Debi A. LaPlante has served as a paid grant reviewer for the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG; now International Center for Responsible Gaming), received travel funds, speaker honoraria, and a scientific achievement award from the ICRG, has received speaker honoraria and travel support from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (USA), received honoraria funds for preparation of a book chapter from Universite Laval, received publication royalty fees from the American Psychological Association, and received course royalty fees from the Harvard Medical School Department of Continuing Education. Dr. LaPlante is a non-paid member of the New Hampshire Council for Responsible Gambling. During the past five years, Brett Abarbanel has received funding from the Manitoba Gambling Research Program, GP Consulting, U.S.-Japan Business Council, Wynn Las Vegas, Victoria Responsible Gambling Foundation, Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, Bermuda Casino Gambling Commission, the States of Nevada and California, Canadian Partnership for Responsible Gambling, iDevelopment and Economic Association, GLG Consulting, Majestic Star Casinos, MGM Resorts International, Marina Bay Sands, ProPress Germany, and Caesars Entertainment. Dr. Abarbanel has received reimbursement for travel from Association Cluster Sport International, Kansspelautoriteit, Gamification Group (Finland), British Columbia Lottery Corporation, International Association of Gaming Advisors, GambleAware, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Ultimate Media Ventures, Canadian Partnership for Responsible Gambling, IGT Latin America, University of Salford, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (USA). During the same time period, Dr. Abarbanel was a member of the Singapore National Council on Problem Gambling International Advisory Panel, for which she was reimbursed for her time. During the past five years, Bo J. Bernhard has been funded by the U.S.-Japan Business Council, Wynn Resorts, Atomic 47/ePlata Banking, Las Vegas Sands, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services Governor's Advisory Panel on Problem Gambling, the State of Nevada Knowledge Fund, and MGM Resorts International. He has received travel and/or honoraria for presenting his research in more than two dozen countries.

Ethics Approval and Informed Consent

All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. The study was approved by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Institutional Review Board (IRB) and was assigned Protocol #1111182–2. All participants provided informed consent before taking part in the study.

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Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 6 and 7.

Table 6 Survey items used to operationalize measures
Table 7 Unplanned exploratory analyses comparing GameSense awareness and engagement for respondents who only visited the MGM Springfield and respondents who only visited similar MGM properties

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Louderback, E.R., Gray, H.M., LaPlante, D.A. et al. A Comparison of Two GameSense Implementation Approaches: How Program Awareness and Engagement Relate to Gambling Beliefs and Behaviors. J Gambl Stud (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-021-10013-6

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Keywords

  • Gambling
  • Responsible gambling
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Positive play
  • Gambling beliefs and behaviors