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Why cross-industry, cross-market collaboration on Responsible Gambling has never been more important.

Sustainability is the hot topic of the decade. Whether it is climate change, the destruction of the natural world or plastic waste, today’s generation is more concerned than ever about how the human race should be more considerate, sustainable and take responsibility for a cleaner, brighter and more ethical future.

A 2016 survey found that 76% of millennials said they would rather take a pay cut than work for a company with unethical business practices. This is a generation of conscious consumers and while many businesses have begun to take steps towards addressing the issues they care about, the gambling industry has been among the slowest to react.

Gambling operators regularly talk about the challenge of attracting new audiences but often fail to embrace the technology that can drive that growth. The power of the data that technology can give lotteries cannot be underestimated.  Going digital provides a depth of information not readily available via retail channels. Behavioral activity is closely monitored and recorded, showing invaluable information which can be used, and shared cross industry, for better practices both in terms of engaging audiences but also insightful data both around problem gambling triggers and better Responsible Gambling practices.

New audiences expect more

The new audiences that lotteries are trying to attract are from a much more conscientious generation, which also extends to a brand’s attitude and practices when it comes to social responsibility. The gambling industry is not always seen favourably in this light so the more we can do, as a whole industry, to go all in on responsible gambling, the quicker a new generation of players will be formed, who embrace the industry as it should be – fun and safe.

Cross-market, cross industry best practice data sharing is key. Lotteries are generally more open to sharing data because they are not directly competing with each other but the big public company operators are reluctant to be as open. And it is cross-vertical and sector that needs to be encouraged more, not just within lotteries. We don’t mean individual player data that is highly sensitive but the general observations, analytics and play behaviours as a whole. Casino and sports operators could learn a huge amount from lottery practices and vice versa.  If the whole industry opened up to each other, how much more best practices could be born? What are others doing that is promoting Responsible Gambling and is successful with their customers? What initiatives haven’t worked?

And it’s not just from a customer point of view but also a staff one. How many talented people are we missing out on as an industry who don’t want to be associated with gambling?

Promoting and practicing more responsible gambling cross industry and being vocal about it will only serve to help attract more talent, better informed audiences and ultimately more responsibly minded players.

Working together

What more could we achieve by working together as in industry as a whole? We could be sharing more studies, better practices and working with problem gamblers themselves to understand what and when they were at highest risk of turning from a regular player into a compulsive one. We can advise the authorities on best policy, best practice and must-have tools to ensure a responsible industry for all.

At last week’s UK Gambling Commission Raising Standards conference, the importance of cross-industry collaboration was emphasised both by regulators but also by chief executives of some of Europe’s leading operators.

An example of improved co-operation between some of the biggest companies was the Affordability Workshop, led by the Remote Gaming Association but including operators such as Bet 365, Paddy Power Betfair, GVC and SkyBet. This group aims to create strategies to allow operators to accurately assess what level of spend customers can afford for their gambling, using publicly available data such as customer credit ratings, values of houses in their postcode (zip code), national deprivation data and average salaries for the job the player is employed to do. This allows operators to help filter which customers may have problems with the affordability of their level of staking, at which point there can be a manual intervention to check that the player is not having Responsible Gaming issues.

Many of the automated tools that are in use across the financial industry for identifying whether customers can afford to take out loans and whether they will struggle to repay them could be adapted for the gambling industry, according to several of the speakers at Raising Standards.  But as the financial industry discovered 10 years ago when regulators were pressuring them to make sweeping changes, especially relating to payday and car title loans, if you don’t have the underlying technological capabilities then it is very hard to put these processes into place.

The helping hand of technology

The core aim of Responsible Gaming is to ensure players are safe and supported. If someone develops a gambling problem then we, as an industry, spot it early and get them the help they need. But how do we spot it early? Through technology.

Digital tools provide a plethora of information, so much more than the retail environment ever can. A virtual footprint is never behaviourally-anonymous and the data vastly more accessible to lotteries. Patterns, changes in betting habits or location and an increase in customer service contact can all indicate problem behaviour and where in retail it might more difficult to identify individual players, digital information clearly states what your players are doing. It gives a truly holistic view, leading to a better understanding of customers.

Using increasingly sophisticated AI-driven tools and platforms that learn and adapt by monitoring player behaviour,  tools are being developed to make a huge difference to both reducing problem rates and the stigma surrounding gambling.

Digital platform providers, like Bede, are experts in it and are well equipped to help lottery providers deliver world class Responsible Gambling tools. Digital is trackable, traceable and data can be used in real-time. Unlike the alcohol industry, for example, that has no way of knowing who is having a drink at 10 am and whether they are exceeding their limits, there is no excuse for digital gambling companies to not know who is depositing when, where, on what, with what source of funds and whether they are spending within or above their means. Through our highly technological approach, we can track and trace everything down to the millisecond and raise instant red flags, and advances in technology will only help to improve this. And the other side of it is, we can also monitor the responsible player practices and guide those that show signs of problem behaviour back into safety.

With PAPSA’s repeal and the US potentially opening up to the gambling industry, we have the best chance to create a player first gambling market. With data and lessons learned from older markets where mistakes have been made and better practices are being developed, the US could take this information and apply it.

Changing attitudes – industry wide

The industry as a whole is slowly changing. The lottery and bingo sectors have led the charge and others are following. Keen to show themselves in a transparent manner, engaging and entering honest and open conversations with customers. This is an increasing trend in our industry with predominantly large brands acutely aware of the dangers of losing brand trust, and thousands of customers, the conversation has been around attracting new audiences and embracing new channels, like digital. The new conversation is about how responsible gambling actively affects brands’ bottom line in a positive way and what more can be done to include these practices in the wider industry not just from the operations side.

Sky TV, a large British TV network and the largest sports channel and sportsbetting brand in the UK, has recently announced it will restrict gambling advertising to one per commercial break in programming, while its customers will also be able to to ‘self-exclude’ from watching any further gambling publicity.

Becoming the safest place to play is about ensuring players spend within their means. This is absolutely key. Self-exclusion is a preventative measure but does little to manage behaviours before it becomes a problem. Hugely popular UK bingo brand, Tombola, ensure that their customer service and responsible gambling teams work closely together to monitor players and their activity; any slight deviation from normal play is reported, VIPs are contacted frequently and questions are asked about money sources, activity and behaviour. All might be well but the point is they are using technology to intervene at the early stages and creating a safe environment which players respond to positively.

The safest place to play – the beginning of a journey

We are certainly on the road to better practices but there is, as ever, always room for improvement and working together for better data, better policies and better execution.

Bede’s vision is to be the safest place to play, to use our platform to provide lotteries with advanced tools and data to create environments for their customers which are fun and safe, personalised and secure.  We made it a vision because we will always be striving for ways to improve and it’s part of our mission with OLG, to support their Responsible Gambling strategy and to transform their online and mobile offerings, the two go hand-in-hand.

A change of mindset across the industry is needed; we must recondition ourselves to be open to collect and share more data in a more joined-up approach, not just in our own sectors; we have a duty to our customers and players to use our data-driven, machine learning technology for a more sustainable future; to educate our staff and to think long-term.

One of the biggest UK bingo brands actively intervenes when players spend more than a certain amount and encourages them to stake less and also rewards players (with non-monetary items, like a Kindle) for their use of Responsible Gambling tools. Now this might be too extreme for some, but ultimately they are going for the longevity and loyalty of their customers and it’s extremely successful.

Gambling has successfully thrived for centuries but for this to continue within today’s globalised and regulated environment, we must all be more responsible. And with more and more distractions in this digital entertainment age, it has never been more important to use the tools available to you to ensure your customers are having a great time, spending within their means and ultimately staying  safe and loyal.

If you want to talk more about how digital can help improve your responsible gambling

practices, please get in touch today.



Alistair Boston-Smith, Chief Strategy Officer