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Rasmus Kjærgaard, CEO of Mindway AI shares his thoughts on the transformation of sustainable gaming as a discipline.
The winds of change have been blowing throughout these past years.
When we went to ICE London in 2019, in our very early days, the Consumer Protection Zone was small and almost hidden away in a far corner of the exhibition. Some operators stopped by intentionally, others had gotten lost and accidentally roamed into the quieter area where we, Mindway AI, had our stand. But mostly, what everyone had in common was that the notion of responsible gambling was a ‘nice to have’ rather than ‘must have’. Responsible gambling was a feelgood thing to talk about, but not necessarily a strategic area of focus.
Let’s fast forward to 2021: a little less conversation, a little more action, please.
Responsible gambling, aka sustainable gambling, has a different status and has reached a different level of importance. A few examples showcase this. Leading operators such as Kindred have committed to having zero revenue from problem gamblers by 2023. Another example is Entain, who have launched their ARC program (Advanced Responsibility & Care) as a fundamental part of their future strategy for sustainability and growth.
Industry leaders are setting the benchmark for responsible gambling strategies and raising the bar substantially, and as a result, they’re putting pressure on the rest of the industry to match them.
What has happened in the meantime?
There have been numerous stories in the media of people losing everything through gambling and operators failing to intervene. Fines in the gambling industry have reached a record high of 44 million GBP in 2020. Operators are prosecuted for shortcomings in their player protection initiatives.
In Denmark, for instance, signatures are collected to ban gambling ads. In Spain, gambling ads are restricted to be shown between 1 am and 5 am to minimize exposure, particularly to young gamblers. In the UK, everybody is awaiting the outcome of the Gambling Act Review. Public opinion of the gambling industry needs to be improved. Maintaining a strong brand and a good name in the industry is not just a given. Last but not least, regulators are keeping a close eye on operators and adjusting legislation as they see fit.
And then came COVID-19, which resulted in an online gambling surge that saw many experts voice their concerns about a rise in the number of problem gamblers. Research on the impact of COVID-19 on problem gambling is still very limited. As a result, the effect is still unclear. However, social distancing coupled with the fear of contracting COVID-19 alongside increased screen time are stressors and factors that influence our brain’s decision-making ability; these hypothetically can lead to worse decision-making in gambling and other aspects of life.
So, in a very short period of time, a lot has happened, and I would go as far as calling it the beginning of a paradigm shift. Kindred and Entain have already started by integrating responsible gambling into their core strategies, also indicating a higher level of transparency.
These major players lead the way, going from a reactive approach to a proactive one. It is this proactive approach that the industry needs in order to ensure safe and sustainable gambling. Even though change takes time, a spill-over effect on other major players in the industry might be right around the corner.
It is a fast industry and these shifts can occur quickly. Just as the past years have been interesting to follow through the lens of responsible gambling, the coming ones will be even more so.