Understandably, it has been a quieter seven days following the UK’s Safer Gambling Week, but that doesn’t mean things have stood still.
Betting on Sports America
This week was SBC’s Betting on Sports America Digital event, which dedicated a whole track on Wednesday to the issue of Problem Gambling.
The keynote speaker was Martin Lycka, who detailed more about GVC’s ‘Changing for the Bettor’ Safer Gambling strategy, which was launched last year. This revolves around a number of key pillars including gaining a better understanding of problem gambling, seeing greater education on the issue, the funding of research and treatment, as well as championing responsible product design.
He also detailed what this means for the US market and why it’s important to be socially responsible if you want to tap into the more discerning Millennial and Gen Z demographics. Furthermore, he says the technology and data is there to develop efficient tools that work on a more granular level, stressing that a personalised approach to problem gambling and treatment will deliver greater success.
He went on to highlight their increased focus on this issue when GVC becomes Entain next week. With a new Sustainability Charter and the aim to raise global standards in responsible gambling over the next five years, his speech provided the perfect segue into the other panel events.
It is also worth pointing out that the recent appointment of Dr Mark Griffiths to a Responsible Gambling role at GVC highlights their intent in this area.
The SBC track gathered together a wide range of experts across the Responsible Gambling ecosystem, including academics and those within the iGaming industry. The need for a nuanced approach was covered in the ‘Research – What Have We Really Learned?’ panel, which highlighted the fact that academics delve deeper into problems and ask questions whereas business tends to want answers that fix particular issues.
This highlights a differing approach, but it’s important that researchers and the industry collaborate with one another and understand their different methodologies. This is particularly important when it comes to trust. Gaming operators have high-value customer data which would be useful for research but is also commercially sensitive, while academics need to be transparent about the hypotheses under which that research will be taken. This transparency is key to get the information needed to combat gambling-related harm more effectively.
Collaboration was the key theme in the ‘Taking Responsibility – The Business Case for Addressing Problem Gambling’ panel, with consensus across the industry in the US being highlighted as the most important way to avoid the over-regulation that has been seen in many European markets. Paul Buck of EPIC Risk Management pointed out that prevention is better than cure when it comes to Problem Gambling, and highlighted that if 3% of gamblers have a problem, that would represent many people in the United States. Furthermore, a problem gambler doesn’t live in isolation – their behaviour has knock-on effects with family and friends too.
As mentioned in previous newsletters, there is a lack of regulation and funding on Safer Gambling in many US states, which means the industry needs to step up and make this their primary focus from day one. However, because of the lack of laws, it does mean AI and technology can be more easily deployed, with more creative solutions potentially being employed.
Despite this, there are simple things that can be done now, such as having a single national helpline for problem gambling in the US. The ability to set deposit and wager limits is seen positively by the public, as well as information detailing how much time is spent gambling on a site. The challenge is getting people to use these tools and this starts at registration. Responsible Gaming should be to the iGaming industry what seatbelts and airbags have become to the automotive sector.
Furthermore, a more coordinated approach in directing problem gamblers towards the services they can use to get help would also be welcome as the onus cannot be entirely on the customer to monitor their own behaviour, despite the efficacy of things like deposit limits.
Away from the SBC event, there have also been a number of smaller initiatives that have been announced which deserve our attention.
On Monday, Kindred Group signed a memorandum of understanding with Middlesbrough FC, enhancing the partnership with both the MFC Foundation and the club’s supporters.
This ‘community initiative’ will see Kindred dedicate at least 20% of LED advertising to safer gambling messaging, as well as digital marketing. Safer gambling messages will also appear in the logo on the team’s shirts.
Kindred also pledged to remove logos from any web pages that specifically target those under the age of 18, as well as only feature players who are older than 25 in their marketing materials.
EPIC Risk Management were praised at the Virtual Barclays Entrepreneur Awards 2020 for their work in the reduction of gambling-related harm. They were ‘Highly Commended’ in the ‘Social Entrepreneur of the Year’ category.
CEO Paul Buck said: “We’re delighted to have our work acknowledged in this way. It is important that gambling related harms are kept in focus and the premier national business awards are a great way to keep the spotlight on those across audiences who wouldn’t normally engage in this area.
“These awards will have raised awareness as we approach the new Gambling Act review, and we are very proud that EPIC has helped to do that.”
Meanwhile, Betsson AB launched their Betsafe brand in Kenya this week, stressing their ‘market responsibilities’ in the area of safer gambling.
They have partnered with Bet High Ltd, who have a licence from the Kenya Betting Control Board, and will introduce a number of ‘market firsts’ in the field of Responsible Gambling. These include being the first operator to reference and actively promote Kenya’s problem gambling treatment and support organisation, Gamehelp.
They will also be the first company in the Kenyan market to recruit a ‘Responsible Gambling Officer,’ who will provide oversight on the company’s safer gambling initiatives and customer care policies.
As part of their community focus, Betsafe have also signed partnerships with Kenyan Premier League football clubs Gor Mahia FC and AFC Leopards and will contribute to community and grassroots projects.
“Our responsible gaming program is unlike any other in this market with the safety of the Kenyan sports betting fans in mind. Our online site contains unique control and safety features directly on the site,” said Alex Kobia, Acting Managing Director of BetHigh Ltd.
Mopping up from Safer Gambling Week, there were two further articles as part of iGB’s series which focused on the importance of game design and how lockdown affected treatment services for gambling-related harm in South Africa. Both are important, in-depth reads.
Furthermore, Betway managed to get significant traction for Safer Gambling Week and its associated social media hashtag #SGWeek2020 through its partnerships with West Ham United and racing’s All-Weather Championship.
Initiatives included the incorporation of safer gambling messaging on West Ham’s app and club website, #SGWeek2020 branding on the players’ training kit ahead of the televised clash against Sheffield United, and the renaming of nine sponsored races to ‘Betway supporting Safer Gambling Week’ during the period of the campaign.
Betting and Gaming Council
Finally, the Betting and Gaming Council have released their Christmas Message this week, giving an update on their 10-point Covid-19 action plan.
With the number of safer gambling messages on operators’ websites more than doubling in the last six months, as well as significant increases in the frequency of safer gambling messages in direct mails to customers, things are certainly improving, particularly when combined with a 25% increase in direct interventions from operators to stop perceived excessive gambling.
BGC Chief Executive Michael Dugher says the UK Gambling Commission has yet to find evidence of the increase in problem gambling during lockdown but as this morning’s piece on Wired highlights, the pandemic is making people more vulnerable and the industry should not rest on its laurels.
Dugher accepts more can be done to tackle problem gambling and protect vulnerable and at-risk customers.
He said: “That is why we are looking forward to the Government beginning its Gambling Review so we can further improve standards, whilst ensuring that customers are not driven into the arms of the illegal offshore market where there are no standards or safeguards.”
In the meantime, Dugher also points out that “these latest findings show that the BGC has led the way and is achieving real results on safer gambling.”
This indeed was a common theme at the SBC event too, with the steps taken by the industry on Safer Gambling messaging during the pandemic both in the UK and the US being widely praised.
Andre Morgan, Director, Dam Mad Media