Toronto organization checking for 'responsible gambling' in Vancouver

12th and Cambie

OK, play along please…

Gut check?

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I think we all know what that means.

Mic check?

Occupy people are hip to that one.

RG check?

Uh…?

Unless you’ve got an addiction to gambling jargon, which I can honestly say I don’t, you probably have no clue what an “RG check” is.

So I found out.

I did so because it relates to the Edgewater casino and other gambling facilities in the province, which generate big cash for their owners and governments.

This province, as provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall pointed out in his report released last fall, also has a problem with severe gambling addicts.

So here it is: RG check is a voluntary accreditation program created by the independent non-profit Responsible Gambling Council in Toronto to assess the quality of a facility’s responsible gambling programs.

According to the council’s website, the check is based on eight standards with more than 40 criteria. I won’t get into all 40 criteria but here are the eight “core responsible gambling standards” examined in a check:

• Corporate policies.

• Self-exclusion programs.

• Advertising and promotion.

• Informed decision making.

• Assisting patrons who may have problems with gambling.

• Access to money.

• Venue and game features.

• Employee training.

To get accredited, a facility must achieve an overall score of 70 per cent or more and accreditation is valid for three years. So far, 22 have received RG check accreditation, including Richmond’s River Rock Casino, Burnaby’s Grand Villa Casino and Edgewater, which got accredited April 27, 2012.

Edgewater was audited again in September 2013 and is due for another one in May. Edgewater’s owners Paragon Gaming, by the way, are moving ahead with plans to relocate its gaming licence into a new $535-million complex adjacent to B.C. Place Stadium.

So what to make of the accreditation and what kind of weight does it hold for those in the industry and the critics?

Let’s begin with Tamara Hicks, spokesperson for Paragon.

“It is a big deal,” Hicks said. “It’s quite a rigorous process and it’s a third-party endorsement.”

Now let’s hear from Jon Kelly, the CEO of the Responsible Gambling Council, which was started 30 years ago by problem gamblers.

“We decided a few years ago that one way to influence the industry and government to create high standards and a strong social safety net was to set out what we independently think are a strong set of standards,” said Kelly, noting his organization has accredited more than 50 gambling facilities in Canada. “The industry takes it very seriously. So the weight in the industry and on the regulatory side is very strong.”

The critics?

“I don’t know that the critics are very familiar with this process,” he said. “A lot of critics of gaming are not people who are very knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the way the industry or accreditation process works.”

That, apparently, includes Sandy Garossino of Vancouver Not Vegas!

“What’s an RG check?” she said in reply to my question of whether she was familiar with the program.

I gave Garossino a day to do some research and called her back. Here’s what she said: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We’ve more than doubled our gambling addiction since we introduced slot machines and it doesn’t seem like there’s really anything that’s being effective.”

I’ll stop there and pick up on more of this issue in my next entry, including who paid for the RG check of B.C.’s 22 gambling facilities.

mhowell@vancourier.com

twitter.com/Howellings

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