Truth in gaming: Toward consumer protection in the gambling industry

Abstract

This article proposes a new regulatory regime, Truth in Gaming, designed to aid both recreational and problem gamblers alike, and based on the clear, accurate, and timely disclosure of the true costs of gambling. This proposal is based on research that indicates that pathological gamblers often engage in defective gambling strategies, misjudging their inability to control random events and evaluate their losses. The provision of accurate information about the true costs of gambling and the likelihood of losing may aid pathological and problem gamblers in their efforts to gain control over their gambling habits. Such information is crucial to providing consumer protection for gamblers, giving them the information they need to make informed decisions about whether, where, how often, and how much they gamble. Unfortunately, gamblers are rarely provided with accurate price information for slot machines, and such information for other electronic gaming devices is often difficult for gamblers to determine. This lack of price information prevents gamblers from shopping effectively and so makes the market for gambling inefficient as casinos do not compete based on an obvious price for slot machines. Without this information, even non-problem gamblers may unwittingly take risks they would deem excessive if they knew the extent of those risks. The article proposes a regulatory system, Truth in Gaming, that would require casinos to display accurate price information for slot machines and other gaming opportunities, in a way that is clear and meaningful, and that would be interactive so that it would reflect any changing costs based on, for example, how much money is bet. Each slot machine would display the hold percentage, the expected average loss percentage given the bet, for that machine and also a hold amount, which is the expected average amount lost given the bet. These are the true expected average cost of a bet, and should be disclosed to the gambler before the bet. The article also proposes that gaming devices be configured so that gamblers can track their wins, losses, and hold percentages using smart cards, giving them the ability to accurately determine the true cost of gambling to them. These proposals will force casinos to provide consumers the information that they need to bet rationally.

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