With the Cheltenham Festival in full swing and Problem Gambling Awareness Month going strongly in the US, it has been an incredibly busy week in the world of Safer Gambling.
On Monday, there was an interesting article published in the Irish Times about the Cheltenham Festival and why this week is amongst the most difficult for those who are recovering from gambling addiction.
Reviewing ‘The Cheltenham Survival Guide’ episode of ‘The Problem Gambling Podcast’, which is hosted by addiction counsellors Tony O’Reilly and Barry Grant, perspective was given about the sheer proliferation of gambling messaging during the course of the week and the problems this can cause.
With offers across TV, print and digital media, the piece looks at the ineffective nature of responsible gambling advertising and why gambling addiction is far more hidden than its equivalents concerning alcohol and drugs. Ultimately, in the media at large, there is not enough coverage of the issue as gambling addiction is far easier to conceal than alcohol or drug addiction.
In the United States, it is Problem Gambling Awareness Month and a number of operators have announced new initiatives designed to amplify Safer Gambling messaging.
One of those is William Hill, who stressed their commitment to “responsible gaming year-round” by devising new training tools for all employees as well as increasing the visibility of responsible gaming messaging across both its retail and online sportsbooks.
Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill US, said: “March is a great time of year to bring awareness to the issue of problem gambling.
“Our goal is to educate new and existing customers about how to identify problem gambling and the resources that are available to help them and their families.
“Sports betting should always be about fun and entertainment, and we’re taking the extra steps in our communications and our products to ensure that we always put protecting our customers first.”
In the states of New Jersey and Mississippi, Hills have funded and created public service TV announcements highlighting the issue of problem gambling and the resources available to combat it. These videos, entitled ‘Through a Child’s Eye’, aim to show how a child is affected by a parent gambling.
This week, Kindred Group became the first US operator to offer Gamban’s gambling blocking software. The software will be made available to Unibet customers, enhancing a four-year partnership between the two companies that has already seen the software be made available to customers in Europe and Australia.
Maris Catania, head of responsible gambling and research at Kindred, said: “It has always been our ambition to bring our European know-how and expertise in responsible gambling to the US and our long-standing successful partnership with Gamban perfectly aligns with this ambition, as well as our journey towards zero revenue from harmful gambling by 2023.
“We are proud to be the very first operator in the US to offer inter-state protection to our customers and we strongly believe this will be an important step for the industry.”
Sticking with Kindred and they have just published their 2020 Sustainability Report, which has seen them become the first online gambling company to incorporate a ‘Sustainability Council’ at boardroom level. This will place social responsibility at the heart of the company’s operations alongside corporate governance, risk, compliance and auditing. All divisions at Kindred including tech, marketing, product management, HR and customer service will also have a sustainability focus.
Kindred Group CEO Henrik Tjärnström said: “It is my firm belief that sustainability needs to be an integrated part of our corporate strategy, governance process and business model.
“To ensure we move in this direction we have set up a Sustainability Council and a Governance, Risk and Compliance Council. These groups work to establish cross-functional integration across Kindred and ensure we continue to make progress on our sustainability commitments.”
Kindred will also develop new tech resources including ‘behavioural research and predictive artificial intelligence’ to enhance their proprietary built PS-EDS player intervention and at-risk gambling detection system.
Betway have renewed their relationship with esports organisation Berlin International Gaming (BIG), with a heavy focus on responsible gambling. This will see a number of esports stars across major titles promoting betting responsibly, with Betway using YouTube and Twitch to promote the message globally.
With the question of betting in esports being particularly salient right now, we think the move is a positive one, particularly as esports tend to be enjoyed by a younger audience. This latter point was the thrust of SBC News’s interview with Head of Sports Management at EPIC Risk Management, Mike Holinski, who discussed the importance of safer gambling messaging in esports and how it can be achieved in detail.
Loot boxes were also mentioned in this discussion, with Holinski saying more needed to be done by the UK Government to regulate them. This chimes with the view in Spain, where a public consultation has just been launched on this tricky issue. Guidance is being sought on how to modify the country’s Gaming Law to accommodate loot boxes as a gambling vertical and whether loot boxes can be regulated within the legislative framework set by Spain’s current Gaming Law, which was last updated in 2011.
There is also discussion about whether video game publishers would have to apply for licenses if their games contain loot boxes. The in-game rewards that can be defined as a gambling function is also being considered, as well as whether a levy should be charged to publishers on their customer’s transactions.
The consultation document stated: “The loot box phenomenon can have potentially dangerous effects on certain groups of players.
“The evident connection of some random reward mechanisms with gambling also brings with it the negative consequences traditionally associated with the latter, which affect, in particular, certain vulnerable groups.”
Moving to the UK and Bristol City Council have banned gambling advertising in the city as part of an effort to clamp down on promoting vices like alcohol, high-fat and high-sugar food, and payday loans.
“We take the health of our residents seriously and have been working with our local public health experts for some time to find ways to support the health of our citizens,” said Councillor Asher Craig, the Deputy Mayor for Bristol who is also responsible for public health in the city.
“One of the ways we intend to do this is to restrict the most harmful types of advertising from city centre banners, digital screens and bus stop adverts.”
This forms part of the council’s ‘Health in all Policies’ strategy, with specific rules about what is and is not permitted, as well as where it is not permitted. This could cost the council £150,000 in lost revenue.
On Monday, the Betting and Gaming Council released a new animated video highlighting their commitment to the prevention of underage gambling while over at Entain, the former Governor of Gibraltar, Lieutenant General Ed Davis (CBE), was appointed the first independent chair of the Entain Foundation. Meanwhile, Olympic swimmer Franziska van Almsick will act as an ambassador representing the Entain Foundation within the newly regulated German market.
The Foundation’s primary aim is to commit £100m to support its CSR objectives which include responsible gambling, sports integrity, education and research, as well as supporting local projects.
“I am delighted to have been asked to become the first Chair of the Entain Foundation,” said Lt Gen Davis, who will lead the governance and oversight of the Foundation.
“This great initiative clearly demonstrates Entain’s commitment to making a positive contribution to wider society by investing in the future of its customers, colleagues and communities. I am excited at the opportunity to help shape this journey.”
Speaking to the Financial Times, the Chairman of the English Football League, Rick Parry, has warned that the banning of gambling sponsorship would be “catastrophic” for smaller clubs who are already struggling in the wake of the pandemic.
Sponsorship curbs are likely to be one of the primary recommendations of the current review of the 2005 Gambling Act, but Parry has warned that “there’s no evidence to suggest that banning sponsorship will reduce the prevalence of problem gambling.”
Furthermore, he says that the EFL could make a “very good case” when it comes to highlighting how a rise in gambling sponsorship has not resulted in a rise in problem gambling. He also said more than £40m of annual revenue for the EFL’s 72 clubs comes from shirt sponsorships with gambling firms.
There were two interesting long reads this week too – the first highlighting how immigrants are at a greater risk from problem gambling in the US as they are unable to access the support they may need in a language they understand while they are also more likely to be socially isolated.
Safer Gaming Tools
Finally, there was a fascinating interview with Rasmus Kjaergaard, the CEO of Mindway AI, in iGaming Future that covered how the industry can create more effective player protection strategies and the objective criteria that must be devised to determine their efficacy.
The key role third party solutions will play and what we can expect in the future were also discussed. It’s definitely worth checking out.
Andrew Morgan, Director, Dam Mad Media