Shelley White is one of Canada’s foremost visionary leaders who has dedicated her life and career to empowering organizations that create better futures for thousands of people in their communities. In 2017, she became the new CEO of the Responsible Gambling Council (RGC), an independent non-profit organization dedicated to problem gambling prevention.
Over the last 30 years, White has also held a variety of executive positions in the non-profit sector for the country’s most recognized and trusted national institutions, including United Way, Kidney Foundation of Canada and the YMCA. Earning a reputation as a champion of social change, White has received United Way Worldwide’s Common Good Award, the Queen’s Jubilee Award for outstanding achievement in voluntary service, and Ontario’s Leading Women Building Communities Award.
What areas of your role as CEO of the Responsible Gambling Council are the most challenging for you personally and what are you most looking forward to accomplishing in the near future?
As CEO, my number one priority is raising RGC’s profile to ensure that individuals throughout Canada, as well as internationally, know and value the leadership role we play in the prevention of problem gambling and reducing its impacts.
I am humbled to say that 15 months ago I had not heard of RGC — and that is quite unusual given that I have been working in the human services sector for more than 20 years. However, I soon learned that many people in my network also had not heard about RGC and the vital work that it does. The lack of public awareness about RGC is one of the issues that keeps me awake at night. RGC has been a leader with a wealth of knowledge and responsible gambling expertise, for over three decades — 30 years of progressive research that informs the development and implementation of responsible gambling policies, practices, standards, and training. We conduct accreditations for online gambling sites and every casino in Ontario and in jurisdictions across Canada and internationally. Added to the support RGC provides to the industry, we also deliver evidence-based problem gambling prevention programs to youth and other at-risk populations.
I want to ensure that within the next five years, RGC is known as a trusted RG resource for both the industry and players. I want every player to know how to gamble safely if they choose to gamble, in the same way that people learn how to drive responsibly.
What are the most personally rewarding aspects of working in a leadership role in the Canadian gaming industry and why?
The responsible gambling sector is broad and I find it very rewarding to work with a cross section of stakeholders who are all committed to the reduction of problem gambling. From regulators, operators, and academics to treatment providers and community organizations, each group is passionate about responsible gambling and supporting people who may be experiencing some level of gambling harms. Together, the industry is committed to providing customers with a safe, fair and enjoyable entertainment experience that does not expose them to unnecessary financial or psychological risk.
In what ways has your past experience prepared you for your role at RGC?
We have a significant change and growth strategy that we are implementing at RGC and this requires clear direction, strong governance, a high performing team, building collaborative, cross sectoral partnerships, and a commitment to evaluating our progress. In my 20+ years of experience, this was exactly the type of leadership and management I provided to the teams I led. As a result, we were able to increase the positive impact on people’s lives and the community our organizations strived for.
What’s your vision for the future of RGC and its role in the gaming community in the province and Canada?
RGC’s vison is a world free of problem gambling. Within the next 10 years, I would like to see problem gambling become a negligible issue and the stigma associated with gambling become non-existent. These are audacious goals. However, over the past year, I have met many industry leaders throughout the world, who are committed to preventing and reducing problem gambling and providing a customer-focused experience. I believe that by collectively making a commitment to this common vision, together we will accelerate the implementation of the architecture required to achieve these goals.
What are the greatest challenges facing the Canadian gaming industry today and how do you think they should be addressed?
The greatest challenge facing the Canadian gaming industry is its ability to adapt to the significant technological, demographic, social and political changes that are disrupting the sector. These changes are having a significant impact on consumer expectations and behavior. Online gambling is growing significantly. Players want the convenience of playing their favourite games online and on their mobile devices, whenever they want. Players are faced with an abundance of choice with what they play and how they play it, and this leads to a very competitive market. Regulators are demanding more stringent standards for operators to implement to prevent harm, build public trust and increase the integrity of the industry. And organizations are clambering to develop costly and complex data strategies that will enable them to protect and leverage their data, to enhance customer engagement and their responsible gambling strategy.
The growth and diversification that is taking place in the gaming industry means that people have greater access to more gambling options. Without question, this increases the possibility of risk. The old RG rules of “leave your credit card at home” does not apply to a gambler playing on their mobile phone on their lunch break. To increase public trust and confidence, and create sustainable players, the industry must proactively protect players against risks – from both traditional gambling and emerging technology and products. Building safeguards into the organization’s culture such as a customer focus, a data strategy, leading human resource practices and implementing performance management are essential strategies for high performing organizations.
What have been some of RGC’s most recent developments and how do you think these developments will impact the gaming industry as a whole?
RGC is committed to build upon the legacy created by its founder Tibor Barsony and long-time CEO Jon Kelly to be a leader in responsible gambling.
Research has been the cornerstone of RGC’s work since its inception over 34 years ago. Under Janine Robinson’s leadership, the organization has developed a three-year research strategy that is focused on leading responsible gambling practices, as well as training to put the research into practice.
RG Check is a highly respected RG Accreditation program. It is based on a comprehensive set of RG standards, criteria and metrics and provides organizations with a tangible roadmap for successfully implementing a RG culture. In 2018, RG Check will introduce a levels program to recognize those organizations who exceed the basic standards as well as encourage all organizations to aim for the gold standard.
Between November 2016 and June 2017, RGC has partnered with the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) on the conversion/re-branding of 55 Responsible Gaming Resource Centres (RGRC) across both gaming and c-gaming sites, and the build of a brand new PlaySmart Centre creating a modern space that appeals to all levels of players. PlaySmart has been a huge success in engaging players with game education and smart play strategies and we have supported this shift from traditional RG at gaming venues through the PlaySmart Centres. To that effect, the PlaySmart Centre staff’s role is evolving to be an on-floor resource for players. RGC staff have participated in advanced training to provide responsible gambling information to players on the casino floor and will be more accessible to players than ever before.
With over 30+ years of experience in research, evaluation and education, RGC is branching out to offer its services to businesses internationally, via our new consulting service RG Plus (RG+). Acting as advisors to the industry, RG+ is working with organizations in Asia, Australia, Europe, and across North America to achieve growth and excellence by enhancing existing programs, developing leading RG operating policies and procedures, creating effective self-exclusion programs, developing and implementing staff training, and designing impactful player communications. Canada is the preeminent leader when it comes to responsible gambling practices and research and we are really excited to bring this expertise to the world.