UNLV, San Manuel tribe join together on new responsible gaming project

This undated photo shows Alan Feldman with the International Gaming Institute. (UNLV)

UNLV researchers and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians are teaming up for what they believe will be a transformative project in responsible gaming.

The university’s International Gaming Institute and the tribe look to establish a unique program that applies “next generation” responsible gaming best practices in the tribe’s gaming operations, according to an announcement Monday.

The program seeks to promote responsible gaming through training, education, research and integration at San Manuel’s Yaamava’ Resort and Casino in Highland, California, and eventually in its new property, the Palms in Las Vegas.

While responsible gaming initiatives often target the roughly 5 percent of U.S. adults who struggle with unhealthy gambling behaviors, the program announced Monday encourages continued responsibility from the vast majority of adults who do not share those struggles.

“This is a fundamental recasting and redefinition of what responsible gaming means,” said Alan Feldman, a distinguished fellow at the International Gaming Institute who is involved in the effort.

Feldman said the tribe is a leader in the field of responsible gaming, as the San Manuel Tribal Gaming Commission offers a rare third-party exclusion rule where family members can lobby the commission to prevent someone from being allowed to gamble at Yaamava’.

The new program expands upon San Manuel’s work and will benefit from a customer-first culture that’s “deeply ingrained in who they are and what they do, how they relate to community,” Feldman said. “This just made sense.”

Steering guests toward good habits

The San Manuel Entertainment Authority, which operates Yaamava’, expects the collaboration will help casino guests to develop and maintain healthy gambling behaviors as technology and legislation reshape the gaming landscape. The multiphased research program also aligns with San Manuel’s longstanding values of community stewardship and people before profits, Yaamava’ general manager Peter Arceo said.

“(The authority) is pursuing programming that meets our casino guests where they are and where they are going so that they can be empowered to make responsible decisions,” Arceo said in a statement.

The authority is eager to help customers enjoy gambling in a healthy and safe environment, one that embodies tribal values like respect and caring for one another, said Jacob Coin, the San Manuel tribe’s spokesman on history, legislation and issues. He said the authority wants to equip customers with the knowledge they need to navigate new gaming technology and trends that could increase addiction risk levels.

“As indigenous people we know firsthand how addictions can destroy generations of families and communities and we have worked tirelessly to improve conditions by investing in resources that will rebuild heathy and resilient communities,” Coin said.

While the program is in its infancy, Feldman expects it will help employees spot warning signs in customers and steer players toward good habits. Employees at Yaamava’ have great pride in where they work and for whom they work, he said, adding that the culture will promote “a very different level of buy-in” than one might see at a commercial gaming enterprise.

Research will center on the relationship between the gaming operator and the player, program effectiveness and the different attitudes, perceptions and awareness about healthy gambling.

Program likely to expand to Palms

San Manuel, which bought the Palms last year, is expected to open the property on April 27, the first time since the pandemic. Feldman said the program will likely expand into the Palms sometime after it opens.

The authority said the initiative will help prepare for sports betting and online gaming to expand into tribal gaming. San Manuel has funded research and training efforts with the California Council on Problem Gambling, UCLA and other responsible gaming institutions, the authority’s release said.

The Global Gaming Awards in 2021 named San Manuel its Responsible Business of the Year for its philanthropic efforts during the pandemic and its commitment to socially conscious business practices. San Manuel also donated a combined $9 million to two UNLV colleges in 2020 to help expand the university’s tribal gaming education curriculum.

“We look forward to a collaboration that we believe will introduce a new level of research-based programs that reflect centuries of cultural commitment to community by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians,” said Bo Bernhard, executive director of the International Gaming Institute.

Contact Mike Shoro at mshoro@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter.