Problem gambling is, well…a problem. How should casino employees (particularly hosts) deal with problem gamblers?

In many jurisdictions, there is a policy in place to provide expectations and guidelines for how casino operators handle situations where it looks as though gambling has become more of a problem than a diversion in a player’s life. There are, however, some jurisdictions where there are no clear-cut rules determining how casinos address patrons who may no longer have complete control over their gambling habits.

Where there are no clear-cut guidelines in place, it can be a tricky situation for those who find themselves facing the responsibility of letting a patron know that they are concerned for them. Truthfully, that concern should be where the process starts. Customer-centric solutions to customer problems seem like a no-brainer, but there are a lot of customers, many of whom have problems. Interestingly, casinos with active host teams already have just the tool they need to adequately address problem gamblers, and in much the same way they handle other patron problems.

Look at it this way: Who knows more about your players as individuals than your host team? Regardless of ADT, frequency, mail segment, or geography, if you have a patron who has a potentially problematic gambling habit, your hosts will likely have some knowledge of that patron. Casinos are social gathering places, and players talk to one another. Gossip about other patrons, their families, the casino’s employees and general rumor-mill fodder run rampant. And hosts who are engaged with their players hear the vast majority of it. Not only is it likely that they’ve heard about it, but they probably also have access to the most pertinent information in a situation like this: the best way to approach the guest in question.

Whether your property has addressed the potential for problem gambling or not, if you are a casino employee who is aware that the entertainment you provide has turned into something more problematic for one of your patrons, you have a moral (if no other) obligation to do something about it. It can be as simple as writing down the toll-free number for the most accessible problem gambling hotline and handing it to the player. Or it could be as complex as sitting down with their hands in yours as you tell them you think it’s best if they “take a break” from gaming altogether, while the re-prioritize it in their life.

Like it or not, it’s our responsibility in a post-9/11 world to understand the origin of the large sums of money that pass through our doors. Player development professionals are in a unique position to build relationships with patrons who regularly wager large amounts of money and have at least a general idea how the patron got it. Without being too intrusive, it is relatively easy to estimate how much gaming wallet a good player has and understand when it’s being exceeded in a troubling pattern.

If your property doesn’t have a problem gambling policy, here’s what you should do, regardless of your title:

•           Educate yourself to identify the signs of problem gambling and know what resources are available to problem gamblers in your area and farther afield.

•           Prepare yourself to tactfully handle each situation the same way you do your other duties. Know what you need to do, practice doing it, and stay vigilant for the signs that indicate trouble is brewing.

•           Work out in advance all the factors relating to the situation and present them first to your supervisor or a compliance officer, then directly to the player.

•           Be prepared for negativity and anger because addictive behaviors dredge up all sorts of difficult emotions. Don’t take it personally and keep reminding yourself that you are doing a good thing.

•           Arrange for the patron to stop receiving contact and/or offers from your property. Offer to do the same with other local properties (or use an existing process to help the patron self-ban).

•           Do all of this with a customer-centric focus, employing tact and diplomacy throughout all the interactions. Stand your ground, but do so with compassion.

 A host’s responsibility to a patron is the same whether they’re in the penthouse or at a penny slot machine… using the information you have about that guest to provide them the best possible service. This is true even when providing the best possible service means asking the guest not to play anymore.