Why acting responsibly is a good business strategy
When I initially started researching responsible gambling around a year ago, corporate social responsibility didn’t seem to be a particularly established area for the gaming sector. The shift I have noticed over the last 12 months has been quite remarkable and it seems that the current regulatory climate surrounding responsible gambling is now encouraging a more modern approach to social investment and sustainability.
Needless to say the financial impact of self-exclusion means the operators are forced to create long-term integrated solutions. However there is still a lot of work to be done.
Some of the industry’s most well-known brands have felt the financial burden of self-exclusion, largely due to a huge part of their customer base taking timeouts, a worrying outcome for the whole industry to say the least.
So, how effective is self-exclusion on the player protection side? Lee Willows, Founder & Chief Executive of YGAM, who has experience on both sides of the debate, has an interesting take. As a former problem gambler, Willows is now working with the education and gambling industry to try and minimise the harm it can cause.
Willows believes that ‘although self-exclusion is a must, preventive education around the potential risks of gambling, particularly for young people / adults under the age of 24yrs will add further value to player protection measures’.
Peter Murray, Head of Gaming at GBG, also has a view on the functionality self-exclusion must provide: “An effective Self-exclusion solution is vital for a regulator if they are to genuinely support a player when they are at their most vulnerable.
Nobody really self-excludes on a whim so the process of identifying symptoms early, offering a robust self-exclusion service and then providing effective on-going support must be in place for gambling to counter some of the negative perceptions that linger around us. A half-hearted or ultimately ineffective attempt to introduce a solution means there will be no long term confidence in our sector or meaningful support when a player needs it the most.”
Responsible Gambling Innovation
Once someone has self-excluded, they have already reached a high risk situation, and the operator has lost a customer; so what is the key to preventive interaction?
KYC is a high priority for regulatory bodies not only as part of their regimes but also as an internal asset keeping consumers at the core of their legislation and values.
At a recent meeting I attended, the UK Gambling Commission publicly pledged to do more consumer research, as although the industry has access to a lot of academic papers, we are lacking the value collected from the end user.
The Responsible Gambling Trust has also launched plans to embark on cross jurisdictional benchmarking. Director of commissioning Jane Rigby explained at the launch: “Understanding how our treatment data compares with that held by other services and jurisdictions is a key part.”
So clearly data analytics are playing a bigger role with regulators and associations. It also seems their agendas are set to favour equilibrium between market viability and player protection.
However for the real consumer data collectors - the operators - consumer insight is king. Kira Mendelsohn, Head of Regulatory Affairs at Sky Betting & Gaming told me: “In measuring and analysing data, we are able to broaden the range of people we engage with and begin to understand individual customer behaviour.
“This means we are able to further identify those players who may be at risk, interact with them at key points and minimise this risk. With these analytics, we can build our knowledge and share this within the industry to work together to help protect those vulnerable players at risk of harmful play.”
What value can operators take from Responsible Gambling?
No one is denying the social duty of the industry to invest in the prevention of gambling addiction, however most industries in the world will agree the most effective way of sustaining social impact is by creating shared value for all stakeholders involved, players, operators, government, society and shareholders alike.
One could even suggest: the more effective and innovative an operator’s RG strategy becomes, the more financially competitive an operator will be, from things like increased customer satisfaction to sustainable, brand loyal consumers and shareholder engagement.
Equally organisations which are proactively implementing transparency measures and a robust CSR strategy are also more likely to gain trust from their customers.
Laura Da Silva Gomes who founded Silver Fish CSR Ltd - an organisation that advises companies in the gambling sector, explained that in an era of increased transparency, businesses need to behave like children being watched by their parents. In other words, don't do something you wouldn't do in front of your mum because sooner or later, you risk getting exposed. Once this happens, you will lose trust from customers but also from your regulator who will impose tighter oversight on your business.
She added: "Gaming should be a business of entertainment, innovation and creativity. I strongly believe that the industry can use the strengths it has at its disposal do grow their businesses by doing good. Not doing good as an add-on. But growing your sales by doing good."
So, clearly more work is needed to harmonise the modern facets that make up a smart responsible gambling strategy; an achievable goal with continued discussions between regulators and operators and of course industry facilitators and associations. Self-exclusion and other responsible gambling tools are incredibly important safety features, however encouraging positive play should help a variety of industry objectives fall in to place.