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New Research Evaluates the Effectiveness of a Casino’s Responsible Gaming Training for New Employees

by: NCRG Staff | Jul 8, 2011

The people who work in casinos and other gaming venues are an important and under-researched group in the pathological gambling literature. Gaming employees constitute a unique group not only because they interact daily with customers in casinos, but because they are slightly more vulnerable to gambling disorders than the general population (Shaffer, Vander Bilt, & Hall, 1999). Because of these and other factors, most states and casino operators in the U.S. require gaming employees to go through training on the specifics of disordered gambling and responsible gaming.  However, there has been very little published research done on the effectiveness of employee training programs used by casinos. In fact, the first study of an employee training program by a U.S. research team was recently published in the Journal of Gambling Studies (Laplante, Gray, Labrie, Kleschinsky, & Shaffer, 2011). 

The researchers first used a survey to evaluate 217 new employees of an unnamed casino in three major areas: employee characteristics (e.g. “How long have you worked in the casino industry?”), gambling-related opinions (e.g. “In your opinion can a gambling machine be lucky?”), and gambling- related knowledge (e.g. What percentage of the population has pathological gambling?). Then, the employees participated in the casino’s employee responsible gaming training program. Finally, one month later, the researchers contacted the employees to complete the survey a second time. Almost 55 percent of the employees completed the second survey, and the researchers compared the two sets of data to determine how well the training program had educated the employees about gambling and gambling disorders.

The researchers concluded that the casino’s employee training program significantly increased new employees’ responsible gaming knowledge. For example, the accuracy of scores for gambling- related opinions went from 74.2 percent to 87.4 percent.

However, this improvement was driven primarily by the new knowledge that the training provided, not by correcting inaccurate beliefs the employees held prior to participating in the training. This finding that it is easier to teach someone something new than to change a belief they already hold has been found in many psychological studies and is referred to as the “perseverance effect” (because incorrect beliefs persevere in the face of contrary evidence) (Ross, Lepper, & Hubbard, 1975).

The perseverance effect poses a challenge to employee responsible gaming training programs, especially when the belief in question is generally accepted as “conventional wisdom.” For example, a statement such as “addiction has to involve some type of chemical, such as nicotine” may once have been conventional wisdom, but modern research has abandoned this notion and now recognizes behavioral addictions. If an individual grew up believing that an addiction must involve a chemical, it can be very difficult for a training program to change that idea. The researchers recommend that future employee training programs devote more time to correcting these false pre-existing beliefs. Further research that identifies common false beliefs about gambling held by the public would also be useful in designing more effective casino employee training programs. 

For more information about this article, please visit the website of the Journal of Gambling Studies. Have thoughts or questions about this study? Let us know in the comments section below.

References

Laplante, D. A., Gray, H. M., Labrie, R. A., Kleschinsky, J. H., & Shaffer, H. J. (2011). Gaming Industry Employees’ Responses to Responsible Gambling Training: A Public Health Imperative. Journal of Gambling Studies / Co-Sponsored by the National Council on Problem Gambling and Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming. doi:10.1007/s10899-011-9255-z

Ross, L., Lepper, M. R., & Hubbard, M. (1975). Perseverance in self-perception and social perception: Biased attributional processes in the debriefing paradigm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32(5), 880-892. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.32.5.880

Shaffer, H. J., Vander Bilt, J., & Hall, M. N. (1999). Gambling, drinking, smoking, and other health risk activities among casino employees. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 36(3), 365-378.

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