Leadership in safer gambling from SBC Events on Vimeo.

Safer Gambling Forum: The industry needs bold leadership to implement change

At the inaugural SBC Safer Gambling Forum, which took place at the CasinoBeats Summit in September, industry leaders came together to discuss some of the most pressing responsible gambling topics at the minute.

Ahead of Responsible Gambling Week, which runs from 7-13 November, SBC will look at some of the topics addressed during the forum, and what measures the industry can take to promote responsible gaming.

Moderating a panel focused on ‘leadership in safer gambling’, Founder and CEO of Safer Gambling Solutions Graham Weir highlighted the politicisation of responsible gambling, and the overwhelming need for the industry to identify and support those who are most affected by gambling-related harm.

Speaking on the panel was the CEO of the Senet Group Sarah Hanratty, GVC’s Director of Regulatory Affairs Martin Lycka, CEO of BetFirst Alexis Murphy, Head of Safer Gambling at Sky Betting & Gaming Ben Wright and CEO of Danske Spil Niels Erik Folmann

Opening up the discussion, Weir explained that the industry needs to build both consumer trust and consumer confidence. He said: “There’s been a lot of politicisation of the responsible gambling topic, and more so with how the industry dealt with FOBTs. 

“I guess we’ve gone beyond the point where we should have learnt lessons about what has happened around the retail estate but we have – in many cases – people who don’t understand gambling being very vocal about the subject and often being very negative. 

“Most of the people in the room will understand that the vast majority of people who gamble do so safely, and the ones that we need to be concerned about are the ones who are harmed by gambling. We need to do a better job of spotting those people at an earlier stage, and dealing with them. 

“As an industry, if we want to be sustainable and we want to have a positive future, then the two words from me that are always important are confidence and trust. So we have to ensure that the government, the regulators, the public at large have confidence in us to do the right thing for our customers and to look out for them. 

“We need to have the best systems to spot issues early and to deal with them and prevent people getting into major difficulty. It’s important that our customers trust us to look out for them.”

However, the motivations behind rolling out responsible gambling measures has come under fire, and operators must ensure that they are launching safer gambling initiatives with the consumer interest at the forefront. 

Lycka explained: “Brand rationale and motivation behind it shouldn’t be the primary mover or trigger behind all of this activity. I can say on behalf of GVC that the Changing for the Bettor programme, which we rolled out earlier this year and we are in the process of further finessing, is genuinely meant to help our customers out. 

“In the online world, it’s much more difficult to strike up a personal relationship with a customer because they simply do not turn up in your betting shop so it becomes difficult to have a face-to-face chat with the customer. Let’s be honest, it’s very good for the brand, but that is not why we have been doing it. 

“It’s the negative headlines that are selling the newspapers, it’s not the positive headlines. And as an industry, we need to get even better at discarding some of the myths about the industry.”

Panellists also focused on the need for wider industry collaboration in ensuring that safer gambling initiatives are implemented effectively. While campaigns such as Responsible Gambling Week can raise awareness of such schemes, Hanratty explained that ‘collaboration is the answer.’

Hanratty added: “I’m a fundamental believer that business is a force for good, and when it’s aligned around some key focus areas, it can actually affect change very quickly. But to do that, you can’t move at the slowest pace of everyone, it does take some bold leadership from the leading companies. 

“In other sectors, what you do see is a collective passion from those leaders, they’re re-engineering their own businesses to embed safer gambling within the very structure of the business model. It’s not a bolt-on anymore, it’s not just the CSR reporting, it’s looking at every level of the business and saying ‘is what we’re saying at the highest level of leadership level in any way not being enacted throughout every single part of our business?’. And I think that’s a really exciting part of the evolutionary journey that we’re currently on. 

“This issue cannot be solved by any one good company on its own, we need a collective and collaborative solution and framework with our regulators and pieces of legislation which control the regulated market. Gambling is an age-restricted product and it’s absolutely right that it is.

“We speak a lot about the negative headlines and the pressure on the industry, but this topic is really important. It’s highlighting where society thinks we’ve broken that social contract.”

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