During four weeks in November 2017, we contacted around 70 high-risk players by telephone, informing them about their gambling habits at Svenska Spel. We found that players have a poor understanding of how much money they spend – and they appreciate the information.
Why contacting players by telephone?
One responsibility for gambling companies is to minimise the risk for their players to develop gambling problems. We know a whole about the negative consequences that affect the individual and his/her closest near and dear, and the consequences are devastating. They affect all parts of the individual’s life, economically, socially, and psychologically.
We believe that transparency, showing how much gambling really costs, would lead to better-informed consumers. By contacting at-risk players, we wanted to investigate if conversations by phone was an appreciated service and if it could prevent and reduce any adverse consequences from gambling.
The idea of giving at-risk players feedback by telephone is not new to Svenska Spel. The Norwegian gambling company Norsk Tipping started as early as 2014 and has now a permanent organisation for this type of proactive calls.
The content of the conversations
The pilot had an exploratory design in which we concentrated on the players’ reaction to the call. In the first phase, the project group was trained by a physiologist in different conversational techniques and developed a conversation concept. The conversations aimed to make the player more aware of his or hers gambling consumption, inviting them to reflect upon their habits. If the player was interested, we offered information about possible action for increased control, guiding them to appropriate help and treatment options.
Which customers did we contact?
For this pilot we used information from the Playscan system and selected three target groups to contact:
- Big losers: a high-risk profile in Playscan and lost (net loss) more than 800 euro the last month.
- Young risk players: men, 18-25 years, a high-risk profile in Playscan and lost (net loss) more than 400 euro the previous month.
- Problematic gambling profile: We call this group because they, through the self-test, have told us they have problems with their gambling.
How did they respond?
Prior our first call we were naturally a bit nervous. How would the player react? How do we handle if someone gets sad? Or angry? There were many questions before our first call, but very soon we were strengthened by the fact that several expressed their gratitude and we were convinced that we have a good reason to call these customers. Some conversations did not lead to any concrete actions, such as changing someone’s limits or even helping someone to take a break from gambling, but the conversation seemed to be appreciated. Some said that they can afford to play as they do, but that “it’s good that we are calling”.
Five weeks after the intervention, we see that contacted customers spend less money on gambling (both net and gross) compared to customers we tried to contact but didn’t answer. However, the result is not statistically significant. The average length of the conversation was 7 minutes, and the average age of the customer was 37 years old. Out of the 71 phone calls 11 people chose some type self-exclusion immediately at the time of the call. The most common conversation, however, concerned limit setting and information about the consumption history view. At the end of each call, the customer was asked if they appreciated the conversation. 98% was either positive or neutral towards the call.
The project had a positive impact internally at Svenska Spel. Staff, throughout the entire organisation, were very supportive towards the project. And also, when communicating it externally, it created good PR for the company.
The intervention is still being evaluated with follow up questionnaires to contacted customers. However, since the early results indicate a positive effect on player behaviour, we plan to continue the conversations – especially since the customers seem to appreciate the service.