LATAM: We must make sure governments take dangers of problem gaming seriously - Ochoa

LATAM: We must make sure governments take dangers of problem gaming seriously - Ochoa

Tuesday, May 3, 2016 Totally Gaming
Miguel Angel Ochoa said the industry has been working with health groups and charities

The gaming sector can help itself and its customers by convincing governments to treat problem gambling as an important public health issue, according to one of the Latin American industry’s most senior figures.

Dr Miguel Ángel Ochoa Sánchez, President of the AIEJA industry trade group in Mexico, said the sector has taken great strides in improving standards of social responsibility in recent years. Pointing to a number of collaborations between operators, charities, health authorities and other organisations, and the staging of forums devoted to responsible gaming, Ochoa said the industry is treating its responsibilities seriously.

However, with the possibility of gaming expansion in Mexico and legalisation in markets such as Brazil, Ochoa told TotallyGaming.com that governments – specifically the authorities in his home country - must prepare adequately for a rise in gambling, and a likely increase in associated problems.

“AIJEA is very concerned with responsible gaming in Mexico,” said Ochoa. “One of our main objectives is the prevention of gambling addiction, which has been neglected by the Mexican authorities and the health system of the country.

“We have been working across the sector, improving responsible gambling and giving information about player behaviour. In fact, we have signed an agreement with specialised clinics and treatment centres, psychiatrists, psychologists and other Mexican medical institutions.

“Gaming addiction has incredibly increased in Mexico during the last few years. There is not much data about this problem but statistics say that 1.2 per cent of the population attend casinos daily.

“The main goal is to make the Mexican government be aware that this is a matter of public health. At present the only addictions recognised by the government are those which include substance consumption. In contrast, gaming addiction is considered a disorder.”

Ochoa, who will be a panellist in a session devoted to responsible gambling at next month’s Juegos Miami event, said he was pleased that the gambling legislation currently being considered by Mexico’s Senate does contain clauses that are devoted to the prevention of addiction.

In terms of the industry itself, AIEJA has launched its Fundraising for Responsible Gaming campaign, while some of its members have their own foundations. Ochoa wants to see the industry form a united front in reducing the growth of problem gambling, with operators putting social responsibility at the core of their business plans.  

“The cluster of Mexican businesses should be more involved,” he said. “There are communities who lives close to their businesses and they need to be considered, with schools kept far away. Health centres and public institutions have to be considering responsible gaming as a priority for the health of the social environment.  

“In conclusion, the benefit would be building a generous and responsible society through a scenario of prevention, care and protection for those who have a problem related to gaming addiction.”

Ochoa will be joined by representatives from other trade groups, operators and legal firms in the ‘Responsible Gaming’ session at Juegos Miami, with matters for discussion to include the importance of self-regulation.

Looking ahead to the session, Ochoa added: “We would like to create a picture not just about responsible gaming but also about the industry, with an interesting insight for all the attendees to our session. Our intention is that the audience get the latest news and data to have a clear idea of how the Mexican gaming industry is working and how it has evolved over the last few years.

“Juegos Miami could be one of the most important events of this year for us in North America, specifically in the US. We have been to other events dedicated to technical aspects, but Juegos Miami will be an event that will speak to the whole industry this year and hopefully into the future.”

- Juegos Miami takes place at The Biltmore, Coral Gables from May 31 to June 3. For more information, visit www.juegosmiami.com. To apply for your invitation* visit www.juegosmiami.com to find out more, and follow @JuegosMiami on Twitter and visit the event’s Facebook page for further information and the latest updates. Attendance at Juegos Miami will be limited to senior decision makers (owner, director, C-Level exec) from operating companies (private and public including state lotteries), government and regulators from the Latin America and Caribbean region.

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