Maris Bonello: Kindred Group – Industry Responsibility should always be a long term investment

 On 20 September Kindred Group Plc will host its second ‘Responsible Gaming Conference’ in Malta discussing the industry’s current context with regards to player protections and consumer responsibilities.

Kindred integrity manager Maris Bonello a key stakeholder of the ‘Responsible Gaming Conference’, speaks to SBC on Kindred social responsibility initiatives amid changing industry dynamics and new pressures.  

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SBC: Hi Maris Bonello, as a European operator why has Kindred Group founded and further invested in the ‘Responsible Gaming Conference Malta’?

Maris Bonello: Since our foundation back in 1997, we have seen trust and responsible gambling as a core part of our business. As with any other business, we want customers to enjoy our products and we want them to enjoy them over a long period of time, preferably forever. The investments we have made into responsible gambling and tools such as our proprietary PS-EDS system (a monitoring tool able to detect changes in gambling behaviour and patterns) are to ensure we help our customers enjoy gambling in a safe and secure way. The second gambling stops being joyful, we urge our customers to take a break.

Being a co-founder of the Responsible Gaming Conference is a way to openly discuss what is for the industry relevant and important questions. Arranging this conference in Malta is very natural as we have many local stakeholders here, gaming has a high presence on the island and it is also a way to share our expertise with key policymakers. 

SBC: With changing industry dynamics at consumer and regulatory level, what new developments and factors are we seeing with regards to the industry Responsible Gaming’s debate and discussion?

MB: The industry is maturing and getting more professional every day, both online and offline. We can also see this trend in the debate on responsible gambling. With regards to standards being raised across Europe, what is OK today will not be tomorrow and operators need to challenge themselves and ensure that based upon innovation they can continue to provide a premium user experience in a safe and secure environment.

We can also see how the online gambling industry has raised the bar on several responsible gambling areas, such as KYC processes and responsible gambling tools, and that the offline gambling industry are following, which is good for the industry and for the customer. The online operators also have the unique attribute of having access to objective data, which can be used for higher research. For instance, Kindred is cooperating with renowned researchers Professor Mark Griffiths and Dr Michael Auer to better understand player profiles, the player journey and the efficiency of responsible gambling practices.

SBC: Operating as an enlarged enterprise, how has Kindred developed and enforced Responsible Gaming best practices across its brands and operations?

MB: Kindred was founded by a devoted punter, Anders Ström, and responsible gambling has been in our “By Players, For Players” DNA. Today responsible gambling remains strongly anchored in our Kindred values and our sustainability strategy.  Our continued growth as a professional and reputable business can only happen if our customers can sustain their betting over time, so making sure that our customers stay in control over their behavior, i.e. moderate their play with state of the art self-control tools, is very important to us. Everybody in the organization is aware of this and it is a part of our culture.

SBC: At a regulatory level should there be a greater emphasis at creating a standard code for Responsible Gaming, or should it be governed at local/national jurisdiction?

MB: Yes.  For efficiency reasons, it is much better to comply with a single highest standard of compliance than with several fragmented sub-optimal standards.  Secondly, there is an element of scalability; new technologies are border-less and by default is scalability not hampered by geographical restrictions. Finally, the EU Commission 2014 Recommendation on Responsible Gambling is a first step in that direction. Kindred was the first operator to successfully complete an external audit against this pan-EU standard.

SBC: Assessing industry developments and initiatives, do you believe that players are now better informed on Responsible Gaming rules and practices?

MB: Yes, I believe so as we are much more prone to find information on our own today. Furthermore, as an informed adult choice is a key element of gambling, we recognize the importance of clear and transparent information about responsible gambling.  Around 2% of our customer contacts are around responsible gambling, including informative questions as to tools available. As user experience is key, in our view it is important to make that information as easily available and easy to understand.  Kindred for instance, is also supporting further development of Gambling Therapy’s responsible gambling app containing useful information. We also offer our customers a free license to Betfilter, which give our customers the ability to block all gambling companies.

SBC: Finally, hosting the ‘Responsible Gaming Conference Malta’ what do you want attending delegates to take away from the event?

MB: We hope that in organizing this conference we will not only bring key stakeholders together, but also based upon discussion and open challenges allow us all to bring forward a fact-based discussion on responsible gambling and digital gambling policy in general. We want delegates to leave the conference with a greater understanding of this complex yet important issue. Because at the end of the day, gambling is part of people’s personal entertainment and in a digital borderless environment, it is the customer who decides in function of his/her informed choice and service proposition.

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Maris Bonello

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