The year has seen more heavy fines and penalty packages issued to operators from multiple European regulators – to large and small brands – for responsible gambling (RG), source of funds and anti-money laundering (AML) failings.
This year has also seen a number of documentaries highlighting gambling addiction and operator shortcomings in detecting and preventing these unfortunate incidences, most recently BBC1’s Panorama in August, go viral.
In this environment, there is a clear need for discussion and training around responsible gambling to be both free and accessible to the industry.
Following three successful years of WrB London, gathering gaming’s top executives and regulators for integrated discussion on best practise, Clarion Gaming now offers free training and regulatory advice looking specifically at how to mitigate gambling-related harm.
Looking at what can be implemented from the moment a customer signs up to prevent harm and increase customer education, Episode 1 took on the perspective of game designers and Episode 2 looked at the second step in the process, data collection and assessment of players.
Some of the conclusions drawn – we provide four headline takeaways below – are to be expected. No RG debate is complete without highlighting the need for a standardised system of analysing players, greater collaboration between operators and discussion over where responsibility lies. This series, however, aims to highlight some solutions to the industry’s biggest obstacles to implementing RG measures.
Takeaway 1: The responsibility we attribute to the game designer ends once the product goes B2C, but RG can be implemented from conception
More research than ever before is being conducted in to game design from a psychological point of view – in recent years, game designers have been receiving more training on harmful game design from behavioural experts.
Stefania Colombo, senior manager, CSR for IGT revealed the company was working “with expert Dr Jonathan Parke to provide training to designers on how we can minimise harm from design, and what we can leverage to lower risk”.
Designers now also use analysis of how the brain reacts to stressful game situations, spin speed, so-called ‘fake’ wins, reality checks and more to show how different features are designed to aggravate customers, said Christina Thakor-Rankin, 1710 Gaming.
Thakor-Rankin added: “It’s also incredibly difficult to know which features will be successful and which games specifically are going to be popular and in what markets – especially grey markets”.
Ultimately, the question becomes this: are these specific mechanics ultimately necessary – and would their modification greatly affect the overall gameplay?
Takeaway 2: The timeline of a player’s history required to identify risk level needs to shrink
In order for responsible gambling measures to be effective, they need to be faster to identify harmful habits and suspicious financial activity.
Paul Foster, speaking in his capacity as digital compliance and responsible gambling development director for Ladbrokes Coral owner GVC, told the audience that “previously, operators may have had to collect up to two years of data from a customer to be able to identify behavioural habits, changes, and markers of harm.”
Richard Wood, owner at RG research consultancy GamRes, added: “this period of time should even shrink down to one weeks’ worth of recorded play needed to assess a customer’s habits”.
Furthermore, we discussed what data must be collected and what can be omitted which could confuse your data – with a practical how-to from Richard’s intro to the Positive Play Scale.
Takeaway 3: All players need to be evaluated, not just the ones showing problems
According to GamRes’ Wood, who discussed his successful Positive Play Scale, sustainable play involves “only spending what is affordable to lose and sticking to personally allocated spend and time limits” and “recognition that gambling will always involve some degree of chance”.
By evaluating positive as well as negative play, the wealth of data is far expanded, allowing operators to identify different habits in different games and jurisdictions, instead of only the small percentage of players who are being harmed.
“Players can be at different levels of ‘responsible’ and smaller instances of harm can be avoided as well as full-blown addiction, contributing to overall safer gambling”, said Wood.
Takeaway 4: Industry collaboration across operators has been achieved already on a small scale and can extend further
All of our speakers discussed the migration of customers to alternate gambling sites and how to monitor and educate customers in different jurisdictions.
Foster, now managing direcotr his own consultancy Crucial Compliance, stated that “the industry needs a central database of players that can be used to prevent migration to alternate and foreign gambling sites – and it can be done in compliance with GDPR”
He added that organisations like Senet Group have already managed to achieve this on a smaller scale.
Christofer Hagstedt, chief business development officer for technology-focused addiction treatment specialist Sustainable Interaction, concurred that “a single operator in a single market cannot be completely responsible on its own.”
The fact remains, a single operator may not have the reach to make a positive impact on its own, but just one operator does have the reach to cause irreparable damage, making collaboration the key to the sustainability of the industry.
From the webinar discussion, it is clear that far more can be done to monitor players from the time they sign up with a gambling site, and monitor their play from day 1 to prevent and spot cases of harm.
The same tools can be used to re-assess the same players over time, including reanalysing old data, to help understand how industry strategies have lacked in this area in the past and what can be improved.
However, 1710’s Thakor-Rankin neatly summarised a recurring theme in our discussions so far with the observation that “we can bring the horse to water but we cannot force it to drink”.
Meaning that all the tools can be in place, but if they are not presented and executed effectively, some customers will continue to overlook them – and it’s exactly this type of customer that operators that must be able to reach.