As the iGaming industry continues to grow and spread in popularity to new markets, responsible gaming has been a continuous issue running alongside that we, as an industry, are yet to perfect. Regulatory limitations and negative PR have been direct results of our industry’s struggles in implementing robust problem gaming strategies and many industry commentators believe that the market will never reach its full potential until we take more responsibility and implement more forward-thinking strategies.
Matthew Curtis, Head of Responsible Gambling at L & L Europe believes that self-regulation is the solution to our industry’s problems. We spoke with him to hear more about the importance of self-regulation frameworks, future player protection strategies and how they can be practically integrated into your operations.
How important is self-regulation in today’s market? What role does it play in the future success of our market?
“Very important. Self-regulation shows the Gambling Commission, as well as our customers, that we are following the guidelines which have been provided to us. The steps we take internally to ensure that the risk of a customer experiencing gambling harm is minimised is key in demonstrating the industries drive to benefit all, rather than just the bottom-line of individual businesses.
“Self-regulation also helps operators to stay creative with regards to their policies and procedures, as opposed to being forced into a specific box. Unfortunately, this goes both ways; while I strongly believe that most operators are constantly trying to stay ahead of the curve, L&L Europe included, some bad apples will try to only do the bare minimum in aims of marginally increased revenue. These bad apples are subsequently fined, bringing the industry down as a whole, whether or not it is warranted.
“The more fines that are dished out by the regulators will only lead to them to consider alternative measures, such as the outright removal of an operator’s license. Once this happens, I fear it sets a precedent for which could be difficult to overcome. So, I feel as though self-regulation is very important to both consumers and operators alike.
“Should all operators continue to network and share best practice, with the ultimate goal of achieving zero harm, this can be avoided. That’s why I feel as though events such as these are so helpful, and in fact necessary to achieving the longevity of the gaming industry going forward.”
What steps can operators take to identify the more subtle behavioural indicators to intervene on problem gamblers earlier on in their lifecycle?
“Firstly, education and research. While I am not referring to the need for a degree, or some other qualification, keeping up to date with current research from behavioural psychologists will ensure that you and your staff will be able to identify any indicators of potential problem gambling, whether they be subtle or not. The Gambling Commission regularly cites articles of scientific research with regards to gambling in the UK, although there are other sources of acquiring this type of information.
“In addition to the above, having some specific risk triggers set up based on research similar to described above, and for which are active in real-time from date of registration will help you to get a better understanding of the potential risk for each customer. Triggers related to payment methods, deposit sizes/frequency, bet values, as well as the ‘riskier’ times for gaming activity taking place (late at night, early morning), are all great places to start.
“Finally, all staff within the business should be trained equally with regards to potential RG concerns, especially those for which are customer-facing, such as CS. This will assist in identifying any potential concerns from contacts you have with your customers, such as generally unhappiness, traumatic life events, or anything else which could imply the customer is not in a good state of mind to continue playing, such as if they are intoxicated.
“While not a means of identifying concerns early on, a good way of minimising this risk is to promote RG from the beginning of the relationship, whether that be via pop-ups/reality checks, full RG interactions, or even a well-constructed website for which makes RG tools clear etc.”
Many believe that self-exclusion should be the last resort when intervening with a problem gambler. What are some steps that can be taken before this stage is reached?
“I believe a self-exclusion is considered a last resort as it is not an effective means of helping a customer with a gambling problem, nor preventing it from happening again with another operator. We need to tackle the source of the issue directly, provide a means of introspection in terms of their gambling, and provide real compassion and information for how they can improve their situation.
“The best means for achieving this is similar to what I mentioned in the previous question. Promote RG from the beginning of the business relationship, whether that be via pop-ups/reality checks, full RG interactions, or even a well-constructed website for which makes RG tools clear.
“Past research, although likely to be outdated now, has shown that a lot of gamblers in the UK were unaware of the Self Exclusion function, or what it does. This is likely to have gotten better due to the work done by the operators, as well as from the UKGC themselves, however, it really shows that we can’t rely on customers already being aware of the tools for which are available to them, or why they are beneficial. It is the operator’s responsibility to ensure these are promoted at all appropriate possibilities, but also in a way for which remains interesting to the customer. A constant barrage of pop-ups or emails will only serve to bother the customer and ensure that future RG communications are not taken seriously.
“At L&L we have opted for a mixed approach, using pop-ups, reality checks (for which is based on a timeframe of the customer’s choosing), as well as early RG interactions in order to best inform our customers. In addition to that, we have low thresholds for CDD checks, which means that we can interact early on, review the relevant affordability information, then decide on the next steps before allowing customer activity to continue at a level for which may be unsustainable.”
Some industry commentators believe that soft intervention is the key to future success in responsible gambling. What are some examples of good soft intervention techniques and what are the main benefits of it?
“You can count me among them. Soft interventions, coupled with affordability information, are key factors in the ultimate level of success for RG. Research shows that those who have had an RG interaction will generally have a marked reduction in their overall activity, and therefore the risk that comes with it.
“Human psychology suggests that people are more likely to be receptive to suggestions for which benefit them, as opposed to forced demands which would only serve to annoy them or make them feel as though they have an issue.
“In terms of specific techniques, I will take another page from psychology; positive reinforcement. This is such a helpful and pleasant way to promote RG, without coming off as insincere. If a customer has already taken some positive action, such as setting up a limit or utilising the Timeout function, they should be commended for doing so. This helps to reinforce the idea that it was a good decision to make.
“If they haven’t done something already, there are always other factors which you can use in this manner. Perhaps they agreed with something you mentioned in your interaction, such as their intention to use an RG tool, or that they will give some thought to a personal budget.
“Additionally, the types of interactions which are made should be reviewed frequently to determine whether it is effective or not. You may not see any changes in activity, but sending out 1000 emails and receiving 0 replies from a customer is a good sign that your current method is not working. At L&L we have changed everything in our interactions, from the title/subject of a specific email, the name of the mailbox it was sent from, to the signatures of the staff member who sent it. From my experience, it’s better to keep these short and sweet, almost coming off as completely informal. The lengthier, more formal type of interaction is usually too much of an eye-sore for a customer to read or take into account.”
Editor’s Note: From speaking with Matthew, it’s clear that there is still much work for us to do as an industry to win the ongoing battle against problem gambling. However, with the introduction of increased self-regulation and focus on more subtle problem indicators, this can certainly be achieved in the near future. This will be a great step forward for the sector and hopefully, will finally allow us as an industry to reach our full potential. Facilitating the most fun and enjoyable gaming experiences responsibly.