Loss limits and stakes reduction from SBC Events on Vimeo.

Safer Gambling Forum: ‘We have a duty of care to protect players’

Ahead of Responsible Gambling Week, which runs from 7-13 November, SBC has been looking at some of the key areas covered during the inaugural SBC Safer Gambling Forum. 

The Safer Gambling Forum took place at the CasinoBeats Summit in September, and brought together operators, regulators and industry stakeholders. 

Moderating a panel focused on ‘loss limits and stakes reduction’, Founder and CEO of Safer Gambling Solutions Graham Weir addressed whether the imposition of stake limits will always have the desired effect, or whether it may result in players betting via unlicensed operators. 

Speaking on the panel was the CEO & Founder of SlotsMillion Alex Tomic, Analyst from Eta Delta James Myles and Head of e-Gaming from the Isle of Man Government Tony Ure. 

Addressing whether initiatives to enact safer gambling measures can occur through a one-size fits all solution, Ure explained: “You’re putting in limits at the start, and players are able to set their own limits. Most companies have their own departments which are monitoring players, whether that’s through technology or through play patterns as to whether players are considered to be a VIP or a problem gambler. 

“They are then communicating with players, and taking the steps – where necessary – to intervene and stop them from playing. But if those limits are prescribed by the Government, or come in as mandatory, you’re taking the responsibility away from the operator.”

However, the industry has come under scrutiny for not utilising data collected on problem gambling. Myles explained: “It’s not being done well enough. We have to remember that the FOBT stake reduction was wholly a political decision, and wasn’t what the UKGC thought should happen. It wasn’t necessarily a useful thing to do. 

“When you look at the product itself though, we did see how people were behaving when using them, there was a real concern. What we now have with online is that you break the game, and that’s a concern. Once the regulated operators have a broken game, the people that want to spend money on the game will go to the sites which won’t enforce those conditions. 

“If you take Sweden as an example, there are people who are actively trying to find unlicensed operators that they can bet with from Sweden. So then, the operators which take on the licenses there are subject to some pretty harsh controls such as the threat of regulatory action.”

Questions have been raised over whether the imposition of stake reductions and loss limits can ever have the fully-desired effect of fully reducing problem gambling. Tomic explained that this isn’t always the case: “We do have a duty of care and we do have a social responsibility when it comes to gaming. We should have a very special relationship with our customers, but at the heart of that relationship, there is an addictive device, and we need to address that clearly. 

“Some of the situations that we see are heartbreaking, but we should have the same responsibility as a bar man: you don’t let a customer drink too much whiskey, crash his car, and end up killing themselves or someone else. 

“I’m not trying to escape our responsibility, however, and from what I’ve seen in the UK over the last two years, we’ve lost all of our VIPs from day one to day two. When we put the AML responsible gaming limit in place, we lost between 40-50% of the business. 

“With these new limits, projections have been made which suggest that the loss could be around 30-40%. And then when we put the 3-second limit in place like in Sweden, which will increase the loss of players even more. Players are going to go elsewhere, we have seen it already.”

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