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Winning big can lead to changed behaviour among poker players

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It is said that a big win, early on in a persons gambling career, could lead to false expectations of future wins. This in turn could lead to increased gambling, which consequently increases the risk of becoming a problem gambler.

We took a closer look at this phenomenon by studying how players behave after a big win.* We compared their gambling activity and how much money they spent gambling, one month before and one month after the event.

FIRSTLY, we found that, after a big win, players increase their gambling activity on average by 30 %, although with big variations.
One could have expected this number to be even greater, or at least we did – the interesting part is that instead of an even higher gambling activity, we see differences in behaviour between different families of games.

SECONDLY, players who prefer games of chance tend to slightly increase their level, but do not increase their betting amounts and therefore manage to keep a big portion of their winnings.

THIRDLY, we note a low correlation between the size of the win and the change in gambling behaviour, with one exception: the poker player. Poker players are more likely to increase their betting amounts and even if some of them actually manage to continue their winning streak, some lose their winnings rather quickly.

So, is a big win a risk factor for developing problems? Well, by analyzing this particular set of data, we find that a big win does have an impact on future gambling behaviour – even if the effect seems to differ depending on what family of games you prefer.

Reaching the right player with the right intervention, at the right time, might be the one of biggest challenges we face in the industry, since we do not wish to disturb players without a cause. However, with this information it is fairly safe to say that one should pay extra attention to the aftermath – and stop players from crashing after a big win. So on we go by A/B-testing specially designed messages; warning players if they suddenly increase their spendings after a big win. We will then study how this information impacts future behaviour – hoping to see more players keeping their scoop after winning. Stay tuned for the results.

 

Do you want to know more? Drop us an email!

 

 

*A “big win” in this case is 50 000 SEK on one gametype in one day.

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Technology alone cannot diagnose someone as a Problematic Gambler

 

On Wednesday 10th December 2014 at the Responsible Gambling Trust Harm Minimisation conference a number of findings were presented from recent commissions research ”An investigation into gaming machines in licensed betting offices: exploring risk, harm and customer behaviour.”

The objective of the research was to see if industry data could be used to identify harmful patterns of gambling on machines in bookmakers. By simply analyzing the data and using the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) score as an index to classify a player as a Problematic Gambler.

But as will be argued in this article, can you diagnose problem gambling through behavioral data by itself, i.e. labeling someone as a problematic gambler– and is the UK gambling market reinventing the wheel in doing this?

 

Technology that provides intervention at the right time.

Vast amounts of data is being generated every minute of the day when players gamble both online and within land-based facilities like Casinos, eGaming machines and retail points of sales. Selectively collating all those data points and combining them with data mining technology, artificial intelligence, gambling psychology and cognitive behavioural modification through targeted communications, provides the player with a unique, player centric solution that offers them an informed choice about the status of their gambling and invaluable player information for the operator and regulator’s.

 

Behavioural tracking provides information back to the operator about their player population, enabling them to be more proactive in reducing potential risks that could manifest itself into problematic gambling. Understanding the player’s journey is paramount, not only understanding where the player is heading but where they are coming from. “Green Marketing” is such a way, identifying those higher risk players and removing them from the operator’s regular sales and marketing campaigns. If a players journey is one of increased ”at-risk” behaviour then implementation of this green marketing process will ensure they are no being bombarded with marketing to increase their gambling, likewise if a player has decided to change their gambling habits and reduce their gambling then the last thing that player needs is frequent reminders and marketing materials to entice them back to gambling.

 

The information provided from these systems enables the operator to show the regulatory bodies how they are working within the areas of harm minimization, and provide full accountability for those actions.

 

Can behavioural tracking identify a player as a problematic gambler?

This becomes almost a semantic question or at least a question of what we put in the words “problematic gambling”, because one very important thing to mention is that behavioural tracking technology cannot identify problematic gamblers reliably enough with data only.

Behavioural tracking solutions can see how you are playing, how you are increasing your various risk levels between different types of games and understand from the player’s own perception of their own gambling behavior, but what behavioral tracking solutions does not know is the players own social or economic circumstances.

Even though it is a big chance that a player with high-risk behaviour is a problematic one, there is still a requirement for numerous other factors to be taken into consideration. What is still unknown about the player is the social, economic and psychological status. For instance the player could be an owner of a company with a high level of disposable income and available time or they could be a minimum income, family person with low disposable income and minimal available time to spend.

Behavioural tracking solutions can only identify changes in risk levels based on their actual gaming data from that operator and players own psychological belief of their gambling habits through the various system Self Reporting methods. Claiming otherwise could be very detrimental in lowering the trust towards these types of tools. There is always a non-trivial risk that any player that is identified as increased or high risk is really not – which is why one must be both cautious and humble.

 

So what wheel is now being reinvented?

This technology has been active within numerous Scandinavian, North America and European gaming operators for nearly a decade now. It has taken many years to understand gambling behaviour, to analyse the data correctly and how to effectively communicate with those individuals who show signs of increased risk. Therefore, it is vital for UK gambling industry in their journey of discovery, to work more closely together with various segments of the industry (such as established technology providers within this sphere, other private operators, state owned operator, researchers and regulators). There is vast information being held in all segments and combining this knowledge will inevitably benefit the industry, players as well as reducing the social impact on families and state.

 

Data answers what – but not why someone is at-risk.

The challenge head lies not in how to identify an at-risk gambler in gambling data; on the contrary we need to understand more about what their journey looks like – and their needs. What circumstances contributed to this? And when we, meaning the operator and regulators, have all this information, what should we do with it?

 

Currently State owned lotteries are leading the way over the private sector in adopting this type of technology and answering this kind of questions, which changes their responsible gambling attitudes from being a reactive one to being more of a proactive one towards the potential harmful effects of gambling.

Some of the positive effects from this are that we finally can discuss and act on topics such as reduced impact on the society, sustainable long-term revenue gain and healthier, informed players in a true, meaningful way.

What does the gambling industry know about increased risk players?

 

A while ago we attended a meeting with the customer relations marketing (CRM) team at a gambling company. The team had been working on creating customer segmentations, which within marketing is one well-used idea.
The concept refers to creating groups of people with common behaviors and characteristics that you want to reach with messages or offers. The team we met had done a careful segmentation based on money, game types and combination of games people play and demographics.

 

The head of this project explained that they had identified one segment of players that they chose to call the “high spenders” and that is obviously where most the high-risk players could be found. They continued telling us how they work on helping that group by unsubscribing them from all promotional marketing campaigns.

 

From a responsible gambling perspective this is a reasonable and logical course of action. Not to encouraging a player with risky behavior to gamble more. But the team looked at us and asked: is it really fair to stop sending promotions after just one week in the high-risk zone? What if the high-risk behavior is just a coincidence? Maybe some of these players have saved up some money to gamble, lets say, during The World Cup?

 

The CRM team had raised a very interesting question: When is the appropriate time to intervene?

 

INTERVENTION AT THE RIGHT TIME 

It is true that we find a lot of high-risk players in the high spenders segment. They are a frequently discussed topic at conferences and in research. And the industry is taking great leaps in their work with responsible gambling by offering tools like help and support for these players: self-exclusion, panic-buttons, contact information to help lines and support groups, educated customer support team and so on.

 

The point is that players do not become high-risk players over night.

It is often a long process of escalating behavior and change in attitude, which includes increased tolerance towards gambling.

 

We believe that the key is to meet the needs of a player early on, before they turn high risk and it becomes a problem. The goal should be to figure out what we can do for the increased risk players – so that reactive tools like self-exclusion and blocked marketing are not to be needed in the first place.

 

MOST PLAYERS ARE NORMAL PLAYERS

Chances are that you, much like us, are used to hearing about the big group of normal or low risk players and a small group of high-risk players. Many of the high-risk players are hard to reach with warnings of risky behavior because of the probability that they can’t bring themselves to care about the consequences of that behavior. For these players, offering hands-on actions is more effective and helpful.

 

However, what comes to mind is that we need to keep the low risk players at low risk. We try to inform them, enlighten them, provide them with tools and educate them all about this thing called gambling problems.

 

The problem is that most people are not that interested in talking about what could become a problem – in fact; it is really difficult for humans in general to relate to a “potential problem”. We want normal players to take part of this important information about responsible gambling but at the same time we do not want to scare them away from our gambling site. What makes this really difficult and complex is that normal players are there to play and enjoy themselves and setting limits or reading about problem gambling simply is not that entertaining.

 

So, we have a big group of low risk players that are not truly interested in responsible gambling. And then we have the high risk ones who are already at high risk. What to do? Well, lets look into what happens in-between when the player is at low risk and the moment they turn high risk.

 

Again: players do not become high risk over night.

 

There are more than enough chances to intervene.

 

PREVENTION IS ABOUT GETTING THROUGH BEFORE

Most of the low risk players do have a positive attitude towards responsible gambling tools – they don’t really mind setting a limit for time or money. But as mentioned, they do not necessarily see why they should put their time into it. However, somewhere along the line of a player going from normal to high-risk their level of interest and activity goes up. Some get curious, some get concerned and some just want to know more.

 

And, in fact, we do see that these players are just as active as the high-risk ones. They click around in the interface, examine every bit of information, complete self tests, setup limits, answer surveys and so on. Here is our chance to meet that curiosity, to face their concerns, to provide answers to their questions.

 

Also, this is the group that most urgently needs prevention. It is important to keep in mind that the increased risk player is not necessarily a problematic gambler. In many cases these are the customers an Operator wants. They are active, they are engaged and they play a lot. They are good for business – as long as they stay out of high-risk zone.

 

MEET JOHNNY AND WILMA

One way of understanding the increased risk players is to look into their risk behavior and how it changes over time.

 

Let us explain by introducing Johnny. He is a young, easy-going person that recently started playing online-poker. And he likes it, he likes it a lot. He is learning the rules quickly and winning more and more games. Increasing his bets. Playing longer hours. Staying up late at night. His risk level goes up in just a few weeks.

 

Johnny is not familiar with problematic gambling. He has heard stories of people gambling away their homes, kid’s savings accounts, employers money but that wouldn’t happen to him, right? Johnny would most likely say that he doesn’t have any negative feelings about his gambling.

 

So what does Johnny need? He needs to become aware and convinced about the risk that is associated with his gambling behavior. Exposure of the information is crucial since Johnny is unlikely to search for it himself, he simply does not know what to look for.

 

She knows that she has spent more money on gambling than she ever intended to. Late nights with bingo, long sessions with lottery ticket after lottery ticket. One day she decided that enough is enough and her risk level decreased.

 

What does Wilma need? Well, one thing that Wilma probably does not need is to begin receiving promotions, bonuses and commercials from her gaming company once again.

 

IT IS A COMPLEX ISSUE

The Operator’s marketing team sends out a message that gambling is fun. The selling point being a moment of entertainment, or a dream of the next big jackpot, or the skill of betting on the winning team. But at the same time responsible gambling means taking into consideration that too much of that fun can lead to problems for some players. A marketing message that is appropriate for a low risk player might backfire if the player has an increased risk. The same goes for a promotional banner on the operator’s game site or an appealing headline in a promotional e-mail.

 

We know a lot about the high-risk player, but now we must challenge ourselves to get to know the increased risk player.

 

A first step is to take into consideration the player’s risk level in all forms of communication, throughout all communication channels and within all touch points where a player meets the gaming operator. To succeed with that, the increased and high-risk players cannot stay a headache of the CSR-department alone. The risk level must influence the whole chain within the organization, from game design, marketing and user experience to management and business development all the way to customer support.

 

So, what was our answer to the CRM team that day? Simply this: That in some cases, they should stop sending promotions even before they turn high risk.

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Players do not become high risk overnight and there are more than enough chances to intervene

 

 

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Responsible gambling-tools in e-gaming machines

There are several ways to help players make responsible decisions when gambling. These ways are gathered under a (pretty big) “responsible gambling”-umbrella. However, this umbrella looks different depending where you are gambling – if you gamble online or in a land-based environment; in your retail store or at your casino. The politics and regulations leaves the gambling industry with a lot of opportunities to decide how that umbrella should appear – so why don’t we grab the chance to make it big enough to actually be responsible?
 
Folding up the responsible gambling umbrella, i.e. taking responsibile gambling seriously, is a lot of hard work for the gaming provider. It includes various actions, such as assenting to the responsible marketing principles, only offer games that has undergone a “responsibility check” and to educate the staff on the ethics of responsible gambling. Another important part under the umbrella is to empower the player to make conscious decisions.
 
That includes offering the player ways to keep control of their gambling e.g. with limit-setting tools. Another example is to inform the player of their risk level and actual gambling behavior with a behavioral tracking tool.
 
We at Playscan would say that this is where the dividing line between online and land-based gambling runs – what kind of RG-tools are offered and in which channel. Yet today there are very few examples of limit-setting or behavioral-tracking tools when it comes to retail or land-based gaming. Why? Is it not possible to provide retail or casino players with these kind of tools? Ofcourse it is possible, but we need to change or at least modify our understandings regarding what land based gaming is – and how it differ itself from online gambling.
 

Change the way we understand “land based gaming”

 
Today it’s possible to provide players with responsible gambling tools, such as risk assessment based on player behavior, due to the fact that the e-gaming machine has experienced technical changes. VLT’s or betting-terminals are not an anonyms sensation anymore. For example, the traceability that’s characteristic for online gambling does often also apply on land based gambling. The operator can centrally automatically monitor every VLT machine. This means that one way of looking at land-based gaming today is that its just another gaming channel where a behavioral tracking tool, like Playscan, works perfectly fine.
 

To provide the player with a weekly risk analysis the solution needs 2 things

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The first thing needed by a behavioural tracking tool, such as Playscan, is gaming data. The information is transferred from the game-provider and analyzed in their Playscan-risk analysis system.
In addition to the gaming data a behavioural tracking system also need to know the identity of the player in order to make a personalized risk assessment.

 

Today, it’s common with some form of player loyalty card when gaming. These cards are used for the purpose of identifying the player. The information is already often used for marketing purposes – and it is the same information that is needed for tools like Playscan to track and assess risky gambling on an individual level.

By combining the gaming data with the identity of players it is possible to inform them when their behavior starts to become risky. This empowers players to make conscious decisions about their gambling, catching developing problems at an early stage.

 

Has this been done anywhere?

 

Lets take a look at Norway. The famous Norwegian VLT story started with an overall inspection of the gambling machine. What is the best way to deal with the machines and control the negative effects?
 
The Norwegian government answered the question in 2007 with a total ban. Though, the second answer was to replace the old machine with new technology, together with a more restrictive distribution. The state-owned gaming provider, Norsk Tipping, introduced a machine that was connected to one central server. Along with a multichannel personalized electronic ID (their mandatory player’s card), the machine could now answer questions like:

What game did you buy, how many tickets, when did you buy and where did you buy? Did you win/loose, how much, on what game and at what date?

Last month Playscan started to analyze data from VLT’s physically standing all around Norway. This added another dimension of knowledge in the understanding of player behavior and the effect of RG-tools.
Players at the Norwegian state lottery Norsk Tipping are now provided with an early warning if their machine-gaming starts to become risky – and this is a big step forward towards the goal to offer RG-tools in the land-based gaming environment.

 

The bottom line

 

The bottom line here is to bring principles of what we have learned from gambling online – to gambling in retail stores, betting shops and into the casinos. The channels don’t differ in any dramatical way anymore – and as new technologies are introduced, responsible gambling can adapt and reach a wider audience.

How to successfully launch responsibility at a gambling site

Playscan is a responsible gambling solution. When it is active and live at a gambling site it’s surrounded by sparkling and attractive games. Playscan is not the primarily utility of the site, that’s a fact. However, Playscan is a necessary part because it offers the player control: it provides information on gambling behavior.
The challenge is not always to convince a user to activate Playscan. It’s also to convince the operator to share the story of responsibility: to simply display and market the responsible gambling-section of the website and responsible gambling-tools.

 

Our costumers are always our story and this article describes the strategy and lessons learned form our recent installation at Norsk Tipping in Norway.

 

What to consider before a launch?

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When implementing a whole new RG-section and a new RG-tool it’s important to understand and clarify the motives behind the decision. If not, you can’t really understand the “aftermaths”. However, a bit contradictive – the motive and strategy will probably change over time when knowledge about player behavior is being communicated and processed within the organization. In the startup-phase questions like “why are we doing this?”, “what results do we expect?” and “how will this affect the overall business?”, need to be discussed in order to work in a proactive way: to constantly raise the bar.

 

Another question, closely associated with the overall strategy is whether offering Playscan as a voluntary or a mandatory tool. A mandatory usage of Playscan means that the operator is communicating with all their players that have a risky gambling behavior. However, a common initial approach is to offer Playscan on a voluntary basis, just as Norsk Tipping did. When doing that it’s important to understand the different player segments.

That is key to further understanding the distinctive needs the players have. Prior to launch, Per Einar Karlsen, Responsible Gambling Advisor at Norsk Tipping, and his team defined target groups. One of those was “new customers” who wanted to try out new games that were available. Another target group was the “high spenders”. These designated segments helped the operator direct their efforts and strategically plan their activities.

 

 

When planning turns into action

 

The same day Norsk Tipping launched new games at their gambling site – they also launched Playscan. At the launch day Norsk Tipping communicated “responsibility before profit” in their press release to all their stakeholders:
“Norsk Tipping wants to offer attractive games to their players. However, it should be offered with sobriety and not encourage problematic gambling behaviors. Therefore, Norsk Tipping introduces several tools, for example Playscan and the limit setting tool all players must use, that will help the player make conscious choices.”
The players got introduced not only to new games but furthermore to a whole new RG-section at the gambling site. No less than 4000 players activated Playscan during its day of launch. Per Einar explains why responsible gambling was a central part of their launch:

 

“It was important for us to connect and to reach out with the message of responsibility to old and new costumers, both via web and the mobile channel when we launched these new types of games. “

 

Per Einar explains: “Information overload is always something to respect and consider in every marketing activity. Since the registration-process is quite a procedure, a challenge was to also market Playscan without overwhelming the player.”

 

After registering at the gambling site, the new costumer got a message from Norsk Tipping in which they were encouraged to check out Playscan. As many as 13% of all the players who tried out the new games also activated Playscan.

 

 

Per Einar continues:

“We are now noticing that a great portion of the players that decided to activate Playscan are the ones that really need it – the high risk gamblers. And this is what we hoped for. The success is about knowing that these players are using the tool. Over time, it will be a success to see these players lower their risk scores.”

 

The players that haven’t activated Playscan are getting a reminder of their option to do so every three months. Norsk Tipping will continuously evaluate this strategy: what kind of player is using the tool? Are we targeting the “right” ones? If not, how do we adjust our strategy?

 

“Direct marketing with the theme of responsible gambling, based on our designated player segments, is the way forward for us. We want to establish a dialogue with players, especially the vulnerable ones. Playscan is a helpful tool for that”, Per Einar explains.

 

The risk analysis that Playscan provides is only possible if the player’s gambling data is registered. By using a multichannel personalized electronic ID (Norsk Tipping’s mandatory player’s card), Norsk Tipping is unique in providing player data of all player activities. This gives the opportunity to also include the gambling activities that take place at the retail stores. Moving forward, Playscan and Norsk Tipping are implementing a retail solution.

 

A process of innovation ahead: Setting the goal of being a responsible gambling provider is easy, the tricky part is to actually act in a responsible way – and most of all, getting your players to feel it. In this process it’s clear that when Norsk Tipping connected their players with new games, they also connected them with new RG-solutions.

 

“Today we position ourselves as a responsible gaming provider and we intend to keep that position. How do we get even better? That is the challenging, but important, question ahead”

 

It’s also about the non-actions: Norsk Tipping do not send sales-oriented marketing to a player that is showing signs of risky gambling behavior.

 

Lessons learned from Norsk Tipping so far tell us that launching responsibility requires both a portion of planning and a portion of faith: faith that their players understand the good in using RG-tools, if they are offered. Most players make wise and rational decisions.

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Raising the bar

Not long ago I visited the yearly forum on gambling addiction held by NGOs and support groups around Sweden, Norway and Denmark. When listening to the speakers presenting the latest findings and research about problematic gambling and gambling addiction, I was left with the thought: gambling addiction should not be about politics.

Gambling addiction is a psychiatric diagnosis that belongs to the group of ‘addictive disorders’ (as stated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as DSM5). Gambling addiction is classified as a nonsubstance disorder and what’s clear is that a person afflicted with this disorder really suffers. Like other similar addictive disorders, such as alcoholism, it is not only the person suffering the disorder that is affected. It also brings harm to his or her friends and family.

 

Recent figures from a Swedish longitudinal gambling study show that 75,000 children live with someone who has a gambling problem. For such a small country, that is a high figure.

 

It’s easy to close our eyes and wish that the problem would go away. It’s even easier to point our fingers at others. But the problem won’t go away, because gambling addiction is a real problem and it affects real people. The fact is that the gambling arena is expanding.

It is getting more intense and games are getting more accessible. We get exposed to gambling more and more. A recent study from England, written by Ofcom (independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries), show that 4% of all TV commercials are advertisements for gambling. On an average, a child is exposed to four gambling advertisements per week.

 

The debate is focusing a lot on finding the one “who is responsible” and “the owner of the problem”. Well, that one person does not exist. The discourse about gambling and gambling related problems includes a lot of stakeholders, such as operators, regulators, politicians, the healthcare sector, social services, and of course: the players. Since we do know a great deal of what the risk factors of developing problems are – let’s make sense of that knowledge and take full responsibility ourselves.

 

The gambling industry must focus on how they can contribute to harm minimisation – and decrease the possibility that their players develop gambling problems. How data analytics can be used to promote harm minimisation is the question. The science of psychology is trying to describe how humans behave – and then try to understand the reasons for that behaviour. It works in that order, first we need to visualise how people behave before we can understand them. Maybe the gaming industry could learn something from that?

 

A responsible gaming operator needs to have knowledge about the risk status of their players in order to act in a responsible way. For example, statistically unhealthy gamblers make up around 2% of the adult population. One question to ask is: how much of the operators revenue do they stand for? Data analytics and especially behavioural tracking tools are one way of getting that knowledge.

 

These tools find order in seemingly unstructured data and they measure the risk of developing problems. For the gaming provider, data analytics of gambling behaviour can provide intelligence about their player population and, as a consequence, find ways to act to minimise risk. This is a good thing not only for the player but also from a business standpoint since an unhealthy player is a viable risk, they are volatile and a possible ticking bomb of bad PR.

 

Sharing the information – gathered through the use of a behavioural tracking tool – is a good way for the gaming operators to act. This educates not only the player on how to avoid getting into trouble (and behave in irrational ways that affect their life by jeopardising relationships, education and their jobs). It also enables the player to make an informed choice about their gambling.

 

That same information could also be used for harm minimisation in a greater sense. If data, knowledge and information are shared with other parties within the gambling sector (regulators, academia and researchers, help lines and treatment centres) the sharing party will not only receive great PR, but the idea of what responsible gambling really is can be taken to a whole new level.

 

However, dogmatic minds must be left behind. Reflecting on how new research and tools can improve responsible gambling is a preferable approach.

 

When we talk to responsible operators who offer these kind of tools to their players they say: “There is not one thing that will work on its own – it’s the overall effort”. And that is the thing. There isn’t one single thing, one person or one actor in this industry that can solve the problem. The responsibility of solving it must be shared, but describing and understanding the problem is a good start. Sharing that knowledge and taking a cooperative responsibility is the beginning of raising responsible gambling to another level.

Responsible Gaming

John LuffResponsibly has never been more “hot” as a topic and the gaming/gambling sector is no exception. Not only is it vital that we protect our players – it is equally important that the reputation and integrity of our organisations remain intact.

In the past responsibility was too often regarded as “worthy” – something to support/embrace because an organisation could or worse, because they could not avoid it for regulatory/legal reasons. Now it is a business necessity. Responsibility simply makes good business sense.

Founder of UK based Sustainable Marketing and World Lottery Association Responsible Gaming Independent Assessment Panel member John Luff explains why.

 

 

Responsible gambling embraces employee and retailer training, player education, treatment referral, marketing, game design….indeed the whole of an organisation’s attitude and approach.

So why does responsibility make business sense?

Every organisation is unique, and so the reasons for pursuing responsible business practices will vary for each organisation. However, these five key reasons remain constant:

  • Gaining regulatory acceptance
  • Increasing brand loyalty
  • Fostering employee emotional commitment
  • Winning supplier, partner, and distributor support
  • Improving organisational performance

 

 

Go beyond compliance

Regulators want independent, professional and transparent evidence that a gambling operator has the structures, processes, strategies, and overall culture that will best serve citizens in the regulators’ jurisdictions.

Nowhere is the regulator’s concern more focused than in the area of responsible gambling. Indeed, while operators may raise money for good causes as well as paying taxes, providing employment and contributing to society and the economy in other ways, the means are just as important as the end.

One of the principal precepts of medical ethics, “First, do no harm”, is as relevant today to the gambling sector as it is to the medical sector. Regulators worldwide are waking up to the effects of gambling related-problems on society and their job is growing in scope, size, and complexity. They are looking for proof positive that operators are doing their part to address gambling-related problems and those operators are striving to protect their communities from gambling-related harms.

All successful operators know that compliance is increasingly becoming an entry-level requirement. They realise that in presenting their case, they need to go beyond proving mere compliance.

Compliance will get you to the starting blocks, but it will not help you win the race.

This is especially relevant for gambling operators that face strong competition within their jurisdictions or are applying for licenses outside their jurisdictions. Not only does providing proof positive evidence of responsible structures, processes and strategies strengthen your business case – it serves as proof positive that you have taken your organisation beyond mere compliance. Today, if you want to be in business you have to demonstrate that you embrace responsible business.

 

 

The golden rule of marketing- trust equals brand loyalty

Today choice is increasing in all markets and sectors. But in no sector is it expanding as fast as in the gaming and gambling sector. Within the space of a few years it has moved from restricted player choice to the point where player choice is virtually exploding. Expanded player choice has been generated by the emergence of new suppliers, new products, new technologies, and new marketing strategies. It has been further enhanced by open legislation, trans-border possibilities, and convenient access to gaming/gambling platforms.

 

When consumers are confused or overloaded with choice, they turn to brands that they trust. Hence, as choice increases, so does the importance of your brand. This golden rule of marketing holds especially true in our increasingly global market. Players will remain loyal to and recommend the brands that are seen to have the players’ best interests at heart.

But it is not just about customer numbers; it is about maintaining good relationships with the right kind of customers. A good reputation for responsible gambling will help a lottery to attract the right kind of customer, and to retain a responsible, constant, and steady customer base. A good reputation can actually extend your customer base. Potential customers that may initially be put off from gambling are more likely to give a reputable operator a try. Perhaps most importantly, it is easier in any sector to retain a customer than it is to win back a lost customer. Nothing loses a customer more quickly than loss of trust.

In this context, responsibility contributes powerfully to the marketing mix. A responsible approach to business and to gambling in particular can be promoted via above-the-line marketing, through your social media presence, and in your lobbying activities. It is an important tool in getting your message across to such customer-influencing elements as the news media and consumer advocacy groups.

 

 

Employee commitment: Winning hearts and minds

An organisation cannot prosper without the faith and support of its members. It should permeate every aspect of the organisation – from the highest levels of corporate governance, down to the people that sell the products and how they are sold. There can be no more concrete evidence of an organisation’s true culture and commitment than its approach to responsible gambling.

Knowledge that your organisation has a world-class approach to responsible gambling evokes an employee’s emotional commitment and fosters pride throughout the organisation. Employees will be more likely to stand behind their organisation, work harder for it, contribute to its success, be more creative in promoting it, and – most importantly – endorse it outside the workplace, if they are proud to associate themselves with it. “You can’t sell it outside if you can’t sell it inside” may be a cliché. But it is a cliché for a good reason – it’s true.

 

 

Business partner and other stakeholder support

No organisation works in a vacuum. All organisations need suppliers, distributors, and other business partners for an ever-increasing variety of reasons. These business partners have a choice: whether to work with you or not. If so, how enthusiastically do they want to work with you and with what level of endorsement? Do they even want their brand or their business to be associated with you?

What applies to your customers and your employees, applies to your business partners as well. The same holds for other stakeholders, such as community groups, academic institutions, research bodies, and lobbyists. They all need to know that your organisation is reputable and can be trusted. They need to believe – indeed to know – that an organisation’s responsible gambling practices are reputable, trustworthy, and best-in-class.

 

 

The path to improved performance

All organisations – in their commitment to responsible gambling – will want to know the answers to the following questions:

  • How well are we doing compared to others – in our sector and outside?
  • Is our responsible gaming programme on a path of continuous improvement?
  • Is what we are doing best practice?
  • Could we do what we are doing more effectively, more efficiently, and more economically?
  • Are there any new ideas with regard to responsible gambling that we should be considering?
  • Do we have the best possible responsible gambling measures, structures, and processes in place?

 

Although internal audits and formal management accounting reviews will touch on all of these questions, an external responsibility audit can help the applicant clarify the answers to all of these questions through its precise structuring. Indeed, commitment to responsibility by its nature requires some form of external validation by a recognised and reputable agent.

The audit should embrace global standards, yet allow for cultural and regional differences. Individual national and regional forms of accreditation do exist, and many of them are excellent. But we live in a world where brand awareness has gone global, owing in large part to the “always on” nature of today’s technology. As a result, all stakeholders increasingly expect organisations to measure themselves against global standards.

The evidence required for responsibility relates to the day-to-day management of an organisation. Nothing is requested that should not be readily available as part of the organisation’s daily business. Therefore no extra costs or resources should be entailed by having to gather additional information or data to meet an external audit.

A responsibility audit should be designed to complement and improve the safeguards that individual operators already have in place – not meant to replace them. Similarly, it should not compromise regional, national, or international regulatory compliance nor should it conflict with professional requirements. They should, however, allow organisations to showcase their steps toward compliance and prove how their responsible gambling programmes go above and beyond compliance.

 

Conclusion – layers, guns and money

Of course, you do not have to choose responsibility. There is always a choice. But in my view the only choices are embrace, celebrate and communicate your organisation’s commitment to responsibility or in the words of Warren Zevon be prepared to send for “lawyers, guns and money”. Please put aside the guns but in an age of social media enabling transparency at the speed of light if you are anything less than responsible you will need the money and lawyers.

 

John Luff

www.sustainablemarketing.co.uk

 

 

 

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Youth Addiction Prevention Program Spreads Among Many Lotteries

An innovative and award-winning program being used by U.S. lotteries is providing insights to schoolchildren into how gambling problems can be identified and addressed. True to the collaborative roots of the modern-day lottery industry, their willingness to share the program with others has led to it being seen in classrooms across the United States and other countries.

 

The program is called Beat Addiction, and its roots begin in Missouri. According to Missouri Lottery Chief Branding Officer Gary Gonder, the program was produced by his organization for the Missouri Alliance to Curb Problem Gambling. “About a decade ago, we did segmented gambling awareness programs for older adults and the like,” said Gonder. “After we produced a poster and brochures for a youth awareness program, we felt like this segment needed more and special attention.”

 

After learning of a live-action addiction awareness theater production funded by a Canadian lottery, the Missouri Alliance approached a local theater group with ties to schools around the state. While this group had performed during assemblies on various topics important to students, the initial response from school administrators to a gambling awareness program was lukewarm.

 

“A lot of educators said they didn’t understand what we were trying to accomplish. They felt kids didn’t have issues with gambling,” said Gonder. “Since we didn’t seem to be getting very far with them, we decided to broaden the approach to cover different types of addiction – such as with drugs and alcohol – while also covering problem and compulsive gambling issues.”

 

While the program was effective for several years, changes in schedules followed by many schools meant the demise of the school assembly. As a result, in 2003 the Missouri Lottery produced a program to be shown via video during health classes, and the Beat Addiction program was born.

 

The program, recommended for grades 6 through 12, included a 30-minute program featuring personal stories of people in recovery from various addictions. A facilitator’s guide that encouraged group discussions and a poster were also included.

 

Gonder says work with local school officials was key in the early success of Beat Addiction.

“Our state Department of Education partnered with us to develop the curriculum,” he said. “When we were able to meet the state’s curriculum standards for personal and social development, school started to quickly embrace the program.”

More than 700 kits were shipped out in the first wave.

 

Gonder and other Missouri Alliance staffers kept track of how Beat Addiction was performing, and received important feedback from the students who participated in the program. “We started conducting focus groups. It became clear the kids reacted positively to the program, but that they needed to see more young people that they could identify with – and those young people needed to be more diverse,” said Gonder.

 

This led to a 2009 re-issue of the program, and this second edition (available in both English and Spanish) has been sent to more than 1500 schools in Missouri. The new video features more stories from kids about addiction issues, and has a widely diverse cast as narrators.

 

The video was produced in-house by the Missouri Lottery, and is a point of pride for Gonder. “People here really stepped up to make this project happen,” he said. “We had to shoot one pivotal scene where a car catches on fire, and our IT director here actually gave us an old car that was torched by our local fire department. Some of the kids that appear in the video were friends of the children of staff members here. There were many people at the Missouri Lottery who were connected to this project in one way or another.”

 

The presentation was a hit not only with schools around the state but also with other lottery organizations looking to reach out to young people. Lotteries in Kentucky, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Zealand adopted the program.

 

In 2006, the Kentucky Lottery Corporation (KLC) was looking for a way to spread the addiction awareness message to young people in the state. When staff members there learned about the Beat Addiction program, they approached the Missouri Lottery to see if they would share it. “The lottery industry in the U.S. has a great amount of cooperation between states, and Missouri immediately agreed to let us use their program,” said Chip Polston, vice president of communications, public and government relations for the KLC.

 

Kentucky decided to re-brand the program and call it Choices – There’s Always A Right One. New artwork was created, yet the video and curriculum from the Missouri program remained the same. In a joint initiative with the Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling (KYCPG), more than 100 schools across the state have received the program.

 

“Research in our state indicates a significant amount of gambling behavior in middle and high school students,” said Mike Stone, director of the KYCPG. “Choices provides a generic message any school can use to allow the introduction to the issue of gambling addiction. We really appreciate the opportunity to partner with the Kentucky Lottery in distributing this program, and it’s a great example of industry‑council cooperation to serve a public good.”

 

Deborah Shockley is a high school counsellor in Winona, Missouri. She said students there were able to identify with the characters in the new video.

 

“The kids thought the whole video was very true to life,” said Shockley.  “They said the characters in the video matched up with a lot of the population in their county.”

 

Gonder says stories like the ones in Beat Addiction need to be told. The number of young people facing problem or compulsive gambling issues continues to rise – but few want to acknowledge the issue.

 

“Problem gambling doesn’t get the attention as other addictions faced by kids,” Gonder concedes. “We put this program in place so kids would ask – do I know anyone who is like this? – and if the answer was yes, we could show them how to find help.”

…….

chip

Chip Polston serves as vice president of communications, government and public relations for the Kentucky Lottery Corporation (US). He is aboard officer of the Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling, a member of the NASPL responsible gaming subcommittee, and a member of the affiliates council and communications committee of the National Council on Problem Gambling (US)

 

To request a copy of the “Beat Addiction” program, contact Holly Koofer-Thompson at koofeh@molottery.com or (573) 526-7467.

For a copy of “Choices” contact Chip Polston at chip.polston@kylottery.com or (502)560-1675.

Kim_Wilson_2

Atlantic Lottery builds employee commitment through their CSR certification program

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) – is a common word in our industry today. But how do we interpret the words? CSR is about embracing responsibility for the company’s actions and creating shared value for all of your stakeholders. Our vision at Atlantic Lottery is to “Make Atlantic Canada A Better Place” and one of the ways we do that is through our CSR efforts. CSR is at the heart of everything we do at Atlantic Lottery and guides how we make decisions. It is critical that our internal ambassadors – our employees are well informed and well equipped to understand the company’s commitment to CSR and the role they play in it.

 

We wish to be active in our actions striving towards our CSR vision. Educating Atlantic Lottery employees on the role they play in advancing the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility mandate is core to helping us advance and improve our overall performance and commitment in this area. Therefore our employees have been trained on their CSR responsibilities through an online interactive program – which leads to a CSR Certification.

 

The program armed us with skills and knowledge on what CSR really is

CSR certification program

CSR certification program

The program was developed in partnership with the Swedish company Sustainable Interaction – a company that specialize in online training programs, web based self-help programs and diagnostic tools within the fields of social responsibility, addictions and psychosocial health.  The program armed us with skills and knowledge to tackle issues ranging from internal initiatives through global topics including trends and best practices.

 

CSR certification programThe idea behind it is based on the assumption that people’s attitudes are best changed if we manage to create empathy and a deep understanding of the situation. We need to change how we perceive a situation in order to incorporate a new behavior when we make sustainable and responsible everyday decisions.

 

The online program is the first of its kind in the lottery/gaming industry.  It combines interactive applications; interactive situations; drama and documentary; interactive interviews and a pre and post evaluation to measure knowledge, attitudes and beliefs regarding CSR. The program was well structured and featured two levels.

The first level was created to facilitate the development of CSR as a core competence for every employees with a focus on creating an in-depth level of awareness of the CSR Program at Atlantic Lottery.

 

The second level focused on providing employees with a more global view of CSR and included more employee and CSR expert storytelling; more interactive applications and exercises. This created a greater level of engagement with employees.

 

All employees, from the kitchen staff to senior management, have completed both levels of the program and were awarded a CSR Certificate signed by our CEO, Brent Scrimshaw.

Today, the program is a condition of employment; completion of the program must be within 45 days of hire for new employees. Employees have told us that the content is informative, interactive and the format works for them – in short, a thourough success!

 

 

………………………..

Thank you Kim Wilson for sharing your story on why and how Atlantic Lottery have managed to make responsibility present in everyday decisions. Kim Wilson is not only the Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility at Atlantic Lottery – she is also a member of the WLA Responsible Gaming Working Group. The working group has contributed to the the industry with several productions of responsible gaming guides – and Kim Wilson holds a clear voice when she states that “the gambling industry must operate with a perspective on consumer protection”.

 

Are you interested in the CSR certification program that ALC and Sustainable Interactions developed? Contact Kim Wilson at  or Johan Brandsten at for more information.

 

Sustainable Interaction offers knowledge and tools that helps people and organizations to learn and progress.  Their online training programs are developed through their in-house expertise in the field of psychology, pedagogy, web development and interaction design. Visit their website here.

 

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Lottery’s Place in the Digital Gaming Revolution

Have you seen the photograph of the construction workers having their lunch break sitting on a crossbeam? The famous picture was taken in New York in 1932 and shows a black and white reality: the men are dangling their feet at a height of 256 metres – with no safety harness in sight. This picture is supposed to promote a new skyscraper and the workers seem to enjoy themselves and they look pretty relaxed.

 

But what happens if one of the workers fell down? Today, safety in the construction industry is set by a strict system of rules – but the picture demonstrates how progress and safety is not always working simultaneously.

 

As we strive to innovate, produce and shape the future, we tend to forget to prioritise protection and safety. Development sometimes happens so fast that we don’t have time to learn from our past mistakes. But the past, like the picture of the men eating their lunch high up in the sky, tells us to be alert and thoughtful.

 

In the era of the digital revolution, or evolution as some would say, lotteries have a unique chance to be both alert and thoughtful. With new devices continuously entering the market, technological developments are driving lotteries to expand their services via several channels. And when pursuing these expansion strategies, a foundation of responsibility should lead the way; the operators who offer new forms of lottery games online or via the mobile channel, have a responsibility towards the player. The gambling industry deals with ethical issues and if these issues are not prioritised, the industry will not survive.

 

When we make decisions in today’s digital era, we are often well informed about our options; indeed, consumer power is an increasing factor that is as apparent in the gambling industry as it in any other consumer-facing sector. To some extent, this is perceived as a threat; a threat to profits due to the increased competition provided by the different alternatives. However, this is a development that we should embrace instead of oppose. Ultimately, if operators offer good consumer protection solutions, they will have a sustainable business as the consumer is more likely to choose the operator who offers them honest value for their time and money.

 

At some point during their decision making process, consumers will also ask themselves: ‘is this safe?’ The player has a need and desire to understand the risks associated with gambling. Indeed, the player who knowingly plays in what they deem to be a healthy and safe environment is more likely to play for longer compared those who don’t. This argument deals with gambling addiction and problematic gambling and, thus, cannot be overlooked. Proactively combating problem gambling can minimise the potential risks, and that must be the common interest.

 

Most of us understand that we leave traces behind when we surf the net, and most of us are aware that our gambling data is being collected when we gamble. However, having the requisite tools in place is only the first step in providing adequate care for players. Operators need to be able to act on the results of their monitoring solutions, to avoid cases where players can quite rightly question, “why didn’t you help me when you saw my unhealthy behaviour?”

 

A solid set of responsible gambling tools must be offered to the player, just like the safety harness in the construction industry or the seatbelt in the car. And the responsibility to minimise harm is with those who offer the product, just as in any other business field.

 

Responsible gambling tools should be a natural and fundamental element within the overall gambling experience, and it should be offered at the right place at the right time; that is, fully accessible and not hidden away in a corner of the website. A player must have immediate access so that they can use it whenever they feel they need it.

 

If we look back at the picture from 1932, we can observe the changes and development that have taken place between then and now. We know that the construction workers needed new safety equipment when building larger scale buildings, and this is exactly what lotteries are facing when they move their games and players online. The players need the tools to be able to play in a responsible manner and that’s an essential guideline for new technical innovations. In this field, where the consequences can be significant, progress and safety must work together.

The Power of Technology

When the United States Department of Justice reversed their longstanding position that state governments were prohibited from legalizing and regulating online gambling within their borders, a number of agencies rushed to take advantage.

State lotteries in Illinois and Georgia and casinos in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey are all either offering online wagering or will be by the end of the year.

Regulators and operators in these jurisdictions all pledged their internet products would be safe and secure and would have protections in place to guard against underage play and gambling addiction.

 

Indeed, many go at least a little bit beyond the rudimentary responsible gaming requirements of the existing lottery or terrestrial casino sectors.  For example, every one of the online gaming regulations requires age and ID verification for online gambling, yet lottery tickets in those states are sold in unattended vending machines, and no ID is required to access any of the gaming facilities.

 

However, none of the regulations to date come close to the more stringent European or Canadian standards, or NCPG’s own Internet Responsible Gambling Standards.  

 

It is unfortunate because studies throughout the world find relatively high rates of gambling problems among those who gamble online.   Internet gambling may attract those at risk for addiction, and it may also exacerbate existing problems, given the high speed and frequency of play, perceived anonymity, social isolation, use of credit or non-cash payment methods and 24-hour access.

 

Since online gamblers are known to have problems, it is important to require extensive responsible gaming policies. 

 

These programs provide an opportunity to create informed consumers with access to a variety of information designed to encourage safe choices and discourage unsafe behavior.

 

We call for legislators, regulators and operators to think “outside the box” and embrace the potential of technology to enhance responsible gaming efforts, to improve customer satisfaction, to reduce risk and minimize harm, and to better balance the costs and benefits of legalized online gambling.

 

In some ways, gambling has always driven and been driven by technology.  From the early use of the printing press to manufacture playing cards to the development of mechanical computers to calculate pari-mutuel odds, designers have harnessed their creativity for gambling-related projects.  As the speed of innovation increases and the internet revolutionizes almost every aspect of our lives, we have the opportunity and the obligation to utilize information to design more intelligent responsible gaming programs and more data-driven responsible gaming policies.

Magnus Ryding Guest Article for Playscan

What is responsible gambling?

When listening to decision makers and reading reports about the future of gambling politics one hears very nice words. Responsible Gambling is one of them. But what does it actually mean? What is it really, besides nice wordings?

 

Responsible Gambling is about several things. In this short article I shall try to clarify the concept of Responsible Gambling from my perception and experiences.

 

Responsible Gambling is, for example, how the operators market and sell their products. It’s about what kind of helping tools the operators provides and how they expose and market them towards the player. Helping tools are mostly voluntary and aimed for the players to keep track of their gambling, and the ability to test, restrict or disconnect itself from gambling. Responsible Gambling is also about what kind of games the operators choose to provide and market, how these games are designed, the size of repayment etc. It´s about the training and education the operators offer their staff, for example how to warn and inform about the risks associated with gambling and where to turn if a player has a problem.

 

So far, so good.

 

However, the most important issue of gambling is a bit forgotten in the debate. It is about the way in which gambling companies communicates with the player who is showing signs of a problematic gambling behaviour.

 

Actions and communication

How do the gambling companies get the player to reflect upon their own gambling behaviour in an accurate manner – without violating the player’s privacy?

What actions do the gambling companies take when they see a customer suffering from an obvious gambling addiction and where there’s reason to suspect that the player could damage themselves and others by their behaviour?

And what actions do the gambling companies really take when they see a customer, in a desperate manner, loose one million after another?

Should they act in a responsible way? Or should they just sit around and watch, collecting the money and hoping that the player himself will eventually come to understand and find the gambling company’s voluntary responsible gambling tools?

 

The goal of different actions in the name of responsible gambling is to put customers’ well being before maximum profit. It’s also about reducing the excesses of gambling, such as abuse, addiction and crime. But when it comes to this, the attitudes and knowledge varies tremendously between different gambling companies.

 

Many gambling companies do take this very seriously and is working actively on the issue, while many others make a clear distinction: some even argue that it’s not their responsibility. These gambling companies choose to not communicate with their customers. Some companies do not even have the technical means for identifying problem gambling. Moral responsibility does not exist in these companies and they have no problem with living on profitable gamblers.

 

In conclusion, it is time for a new modern gaming regulation and approach. Primarily to embed effective responsible gambling measures in the criteria for authorization and to change licensing and supervision.

 

Magnus Rydeving runs the company Spelnykter, operating in three areas: trainings/lectures on gambling addiction, consultant and adviser in gambling issues and motivational coach (motivational interviewing MI) for people with gambling problems. Magnus himself has a background as a former gambling addict.

Visit his website: www.spelnykter.se

Mike Randall Guest Article for Playscan

No time to rest on your laurels


In the gaming sector, like every other industry, there can be a tendency to abandon commitments to being more socially responsible in the name of growth or progress. As public scrutiny surrounding gaming continues, gaming companies need to continue a commitment to harm minimization perhaps now more than ever. Two ways are through stakeholder engagement and research.

 

As many gaming organizations across the globe have continued to expand their commitments to responsible gambling, we are seeing a lag from global leaders who led the charge a decade ago.

 

In many cases, those lottery and gaming companies who virtually set the standard for responsible gaming measures, have not continued to be innovators and leaders- allowing many other organizations to catch up and become equals in the area of harm minimization and player protection.

 

As well, some organizations that introduced new standards and guidelines to ensure RG is consistently embedded within all operations have let those guidelines and standards slide in the name of sales and profits.

As a proponent of responsible gaming at all levels of gaming, I also understand how easy it is to let your commitment diminish and to rest on your laurels – knowing that you are still a leading organization in the global context.

I would argue however that you’re doing your players, your shareholders, your employees and your brand a disservice.

Like all leaders in any discipline, the challenge to remain cutting edge and innovative is great. And while many groups were either forced through legislation or contractual obligation to become world leaders in RG, the fact is they embraced the challenge and introduced some fantastic measures, protocols and procedures that have significantly contributed to harm minimization around the world.

 

Through stakeholder engagement and research

There are two areas in particular I believe all gaming organizations can spend more time focusing on that will ensure the continued innovative responsible gambling initiatives that foster informed player choice.

 

The first is stakeholder engagement. So much useful, practical and innovative information can come out of an ongoing two-way dialogue with all key stakeholders. This means taking the time to engage these groups on a regular basis and be willing to listen to the good, the bad and the ugly. The real key to engaging stakeholders is to make sure they see themselves and their values within your corporate positioning and approach. This means talking to employees, players, problem gamblers, non-players, shareholders, suppliers and other gaming organizations to really determine how they see you and what they expect from you.

 

Many organizations shy away from true engagement because some of what they hear can be difficult. That’s where the real opportunity lies. Embrace it.

 

Next is the area of research. While recognizing that it is costly, most organizations only pay lip service to research if they engage in it at all. Again, through partnerships with government, universities or responsible gaming organizations and councils, gaming companies can discover so much useful information that can lead to further innovations in the area of harm minimization and player protection. As well, the opportunity to work with companies like Playscan to integrate to technical innovations means that no gaming company has to leave responsibility to chance.

 

Here’s a call to those pioneers in responsible gaming. Problem gamblers still exist. Don’t stop exploring, seeking and leading to way to greater responsibility, transparency and informed player choice. It’s paramount to the industry’s long-term success.

 

Mike Randall is the founding chair of the WLA Independent Assessment Panel and the author of the RG Framework and self-assessment guide. Mike now consults for clients around the globe at Engage Atlantic.

www.engageatlantic.ca