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Feb 13
The Responsible Gambling Council and the PlaySmart Centres

Contributed by Sasha Stark, PhD, Manager, Special Research Projects and Lorelle Muller Lumsden, Senior Project Manager, PlaySmart Centres, both with the Responsible Gambling Council


Many Ontarians gamble. They play the lottery with the hope of cashing in on that big dream. They plan nights out at casinos and slots – and even have their favourite gambling spots. Some enjoy playing bingo and hanging out with their friends in between play sessions.

Since many Ontarians gamble, it only makes sense to ensure that those who choose to gamble have access to accurate information to help them make informed decisions about their play. And if anyone has a concern about their gambling, they should have access to assistance and support.

PlaySmart Centres are an onsite source for facts, tools, and advice about gambling for all levels of players. Whether someone’s new to gambling or more of a regular player, PlaySmart Centres provide gambling information in a fun and interactive manner. The Centres are designed to promote and encourage conversation.

Players can:

  • try a hands-on interactive slot demo
  • participate in interactive educational events that have players popping a die to learn about gambling concepts or busting a popular gambling myth
  • take a play break – chat with other players or a PlaySmart Centre staff.

And if someone is looking for ways to get help, the PlaySmart Centre and its staff are a good place to turn for support and information about help options.

The Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) has been managing and operating PlaySmart Centres (formerly Responsible Gambling Resource Centres) since 2005. PlaySmart Centres are located at casinos, slots, and charitable bingo and gaming centres across Ontario. RGC works collaboratively with Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) to bring education, and assistance when needed, directly to people who are gambling.


PlaySmart Centre at Shorelines Casino Belleville

What do clinicians in Ontario need to know about the services provided through PlaySmart Centres?

In January 2017, OLG and RGC began introducing a new generation of PlaySmart Centres, with the first of its kind at Shorelines Casino Belleville (pictured). The new PlaySmart Centres have decreased responsible gambling messaging stigma and moved towards being more integrated into the player’s overall experience – and here’s how:

  • Continuing to place PlaySmart Centres in high traffic, highly visible locations
  • Increasing PlaySmart Centre visibility off the gaming floor
  • Introducing PlaySmart Centre staff presence on the gaming floor – interacting with interested players and gaming staff to increase awareness and build rapport
  • Delivering interactive demos and activities to players on the floor – raising awareness about how gambling works, and bringing helpful tips and facts right to players
  • Creating opportunities to promote and encourage conversation at the PlaySmart Centres with a “coffee house meets science centre” philosophy
  • Broadening the PlaySmart message to speak to different levels of players – making PlaySmart Centre staff and the space friendlier for all players

This increased integration means that PlaySmart Centre staff are more readily accessible to players when they are needed – for information or for support – and that responsible gambling messages will reach more players.


How can a PlaySmart Centre help a person in distress at a gambling venue?

Recognizing that gambling has associated risks, it’s important that those who are concerned about their own or someone else’s gambling have access to support. The PlaySmart Centre is a place where someone can find ways to get help right onsite – be it through a brochure about local counselling or a PlaySmart Centre staff who helps get them connected to the support they need. PlaySmart Centre staff do not provide ongoing counselling to individuals, but are trained to provide immediate support and explore appropriate help options.

PlaySmart Centres continue to be a support to anyone wishing to self-exclude or reinstate at casino and slot venues. When someone is self-excluding, PlaySmart Centres offer helpful contacts to local problem gambling and credit counselling, along with helplines for mental health and drug and alcohol concerns. PlaySmart Centre staff can walk someone through the help options to see what might best suit the immediate needs of the individual.

At the time of reinstatement, PlaySmart Centres provide tips on how to keep play low-risk and information on warning signs to look for that would tell someone that their gambling may be becoming a problem.

More recently, PlaySmart Centre staff have been working with gaming staff to effectively respond to players on the floor, who may be experiencing problems with gambling.


What is new and emerging from RGC?

The RGC’s Centre for the Advancement of Best Practices recently developed best practices for youth gambling prevention. These best practices are based on evaluations of youth prevention programs, the experiences of those who work with youth with gambling problems, and a quantitative survey of youth in Ontario. Insights from this work will be used to inform RGC’s ongoing youth prevention programs, GameBrain – an educational game show about the risks of youth gambling – and Know the Score 2 – an interactive problem gambling awareness display and social media campaign for college and university students.

The Centre regularly conducts Insight projects, which examine a particular problem gambling issue in detail. The current Insight project focuses on video lottery terminal play in Canada and Keno play in British Columbia. It looks at how people play these games, what risky and responsible play looks like, and the available responsible gambling resources. The final Insight report will be publicly available in March 2018.

Results from the Insight project, and many other interesting topics, will be covered at this year’s Discovery conference April 11th and 12th in Toronto. RGC has organized sessions on a variety of topics including the impact of gambling on Indigenous communities, the differences between gaming and gambling, and the psychology and biology behind risk taking. You can register now or submit a poster presentation to be part of this engaging two-day conference.

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