The CEO of online casino and sports betting operator Sky Betting and Gaming has outlined a four-point plan to help reduce rates of problem gambling among players and create a sustainable future for the industry.
Speaking at the ICE Totally Gaming Expo in London today, Richard Flint said that UK operators needed to take the initiative on reducing gambling harm.
He pointed to the need to create a sustainable industry, that builds trust among politicians, the regulator and among players directly.
The last 12 months has been difficult for the industry in terms of its image with the wider public, with increased scrutiny on practices by gambling operators, and also a much tougher stance taken by the UK Gambling Commission on responsible gambling.
Flint said that there was no one action or ‘silver bullet’ that would create this sustainable industry, stating that it would take time and a multi-faceted approach to deliver results.
He wants the sector to reclaim public and political trust and create a sustainable future for an industry which at its heart is about entertaining millions of people each year, while protecting them from possible harms.
To operate in the gambling industry means that some customers will experience gambling-related harm, Flint said.
For too long, Flint said, operators have not really gripped the issue of problem gambling, and allowed it to sit as a marginal issue.
He said: “The major online players in Great Britain, including Sky Betting & Gaming, now need to…become part of the solution rather than part of that problem. And to do so we will need to work together and we need to support the work of regulators and government.”
Technology, he said, has transformed online gambling, but he agreed with the UKGC that it has not yet been fully harnessed to reduce problem gambling rates.
His four point plan was as follows:
- 1. “We must use customer data to understand player behaviour, and monitor for signs of harm.”
- 2. “We have to promote safer gambling by improving the accessibility, awareness and understanding of self-help tools such as deposit limits and cool offs.”
- 3. “We must interact with customers who show signs of harm, discuss their gambling behaviour with them, and present details of their behaviour clearly.”
- 4. “Finally, we will have to increase our interventions with customers to stop them harming themselves in the most extreme cases.”
The ideas put forward are things that have been discussed in the industry before, and particularly in the last year. The very notion of intervening in customers’ play, Flint admits, is likely to lead to some disgruntlement from the player, and the possibility of lost revenue, but he said it was a price that must be paid if the industry is to be sustainable.
Flint said once problem behaviours had been identified, if apparent trends emerge, it could even be possible to have such behaviours enshrined in the licensing conditions set down by the UKGC, to make sure operators act on those behaviours.
He said: “At the moment we use a combination of telephone calls, emails, SMS messaging, onsite and in app communication to our customers.
“Across all of these channels we may highlight a customer’s behaviour, nudge them towards the use of responsible gambling tools, signpost them to treatment and support, and generally check they are comfortable with their spending. In extreme cases we suspend or terminate customer accounts.
“But the research regarding what a successful intervention looks like is limited. And guidance from the regulator is vague.
“Again, I believe the industry should play a role in helping to test different messages and interventions to customers.”
Flint also argued for a possible ombudsman service, to keep the way the industry deals with complaints consistent, and have a central body through which the sector can learn about issues affecting players.
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