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Safer Gambling Forum: Building relationships to more effectively tackle problem gambling

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.

During Responsible Gambling Week (RGWeek 2019), which runs until 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.

Graham Weir, Founder and CEO at Safer Gambling Solutions, introduced the panel on ‘identifying and interacting with problem gamblers’ before handing over to moderator Kirsty Caldwell, MD of Bet Smart Consulting.

Speaking on the panel was the Director of Corporate Assurance & Regulatory Affairs at Genting UK Jon Duffy, VP Strategic Partnerships at Gamban Stephen Aupy, CEO of GamCare Anna Hemmings and Safer Gambling Manager at Epic Risk Management Mark Potter

Caldwell provided background information on the panel and discussed the industry’s focus on the topic as well as the increasing prominence of the Gambling Commission. She went on to discuss the identification of problem gamblers and engaged the panel members by exploring the standardisation of industry identification methods and operator guidance.

Duffy provided an industry insight as he stated: “In an ideal world certainly it would be fantastic if there was one model. Lots of people are doing different things and if there was one model that worked and was the answer to all of the questions then absolutely, fantastic. Standardise it and put it in place. 

“But, I would say I think there is still a lot of work to do. I don’t think we are anywhere close to getting one answer so for now I wouldnt like to see standardisation. I think it would take away from some of the innovation that we are doing. 

“In terms of additional guidance from the gambling commission, absolutely, I’d love extra guidance. In fairness to them I don’t think they would know what to guide us on at the present. I think we are probably the best people working with groups such as GamCare to develop our algorithms and continue to innovate and find what works for the best.”

Duffy’s link that states standardisation will lead to a reduction in innovation interested Caldwell who then prompted Potter to add his thoughts on identifying problem players: “For me, the increase in technology allows the identification of vulnerability as such, that is on point. I think the problem lies in transferring that into an effective interaction with somebody. 

“We can spot the signs of vulnerability, but its how to then transfer that and make an effective interaction to build a relationship with a customer to allow them to have the courage to speak about their own various issues and I think it’s something that we do as part of our training. 

“We do a lot about the identifying of vulnerability as such, but we’ve created a training profile which is a blend of lived experience which allows operators knowledge of what it’s like to be on the other end of the screen in terms of the behavioural aspects. With identification a lot of that is based on financials and just the monitoring of tech where actually the behavioural side of things is actually what affects the customer most and that’s where the vulnerability will lie. 

“Typically, a lot of training programs that I’ve seen tell people what not to do. So what do is that we’ve created a model that allows the staff member the confidence to speak to the customer and manage their emotions because you can have a scripted speech all ready, but as soon as that doesn’t go in the right way then it becomes pointless – managing the emotions of the customer and yourself if it’s not going the way you want it to is something that is really important for me in terms of building a relationship and managing vulnerability going forward.

Hemmings agreed with the points made by the safer gambling manager. She added: “The nature of addiction whether its gambling or anything else is that people aren’t always ready to hear it. Somebody might phone up very angry that you’ve suspended their account and may not be at all in a place where they want to talk about the fact that its become a problem and that’s really common and a difficult challenge for operators. 

“Staff usually need confidence more than competence to have conversations. I think its about ‘skilling’ people up but I also think its about looking at the whole customer journey and are we normalising safer gambling messaging right from the start, are we encouraging limit setting at the point of opening an account, Is there messaging around safer gambling/time spent/money spent much earlier than the point of a problem developing? 

“That all paves the way for it to be much more normal to then have a conversation about escalating amounts of gambling so I think it’s also important to look at it right from the start of that customer journey.”   

Aupy agreed with the principle suggested earlier during the panel regarding the increased usage of technologies and processes in order to identify problem gamblers. With this being said, he provided a tech perspective on the topic, touched on the difficulties operators face due to the differing regulations and agendas faced in separate markets as well as discussing the moral obligations operator’s face when it comes to problem gamblers.  

He concluded: “I think technology and processes should be pushed harder within the industry. It’s no easy task being an operator when you’ve got to work in multiple markets with different jurisdictions and different agendas from multiple regulators so its no easy task for them to try to stay on top of everything. 

“At the moment, data seems to be the key word. Admittedly, we’ve only started tethering our own data over the last year and we’re trying to make processes and understand the data and what way we can implement that into interacting with problematic gamblers. But, it would be interesting to see where we are going to take it for the future.

“When it comes to affordability, its always going to be a grey area as far as i’m concerned. But, when someone asks to exclude from gambling, the operator should honour that and not try to entice them back in. The same should be acknowledged for when an operator can see for example ten deposits within a three hour period or if someone has a big loss of £20,000 in one night – a freeze needs to be implemented and a conversation needs to take place. 

“But the conversation shouldn’t be ‘can you afford this, yes, proceed’. If you look at the process we take for credit card companies, they look into your finances and do a proper background check and I think we should start implementing something along those lines with gambling. Yes, it is a form of entertainment but at the same time it can be quite aggressive when looking at problematic play and I think we need to be a bit more stringent in how affordability is handled in this moment in time.”

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