Richard Flint: Tough conversations needed in order to create a ‘sustainable industry’

Speaking at ICE 2018, Sky Betting & Gaming (SB&G) Chief Executive Richard Flint has urged stakeholders to create a ‘sustainable industry which can be trusted by regulators, politicians, and above all, by our customers’.

As an industry executive, Flint has been one of the more vocal leaders at expressing concerns relating to social responsibility. In his address, Flint tells ICE 2018 delegates that improving the industry’s image, trust and social responsibility ‘will take sustained effort on a number of fronts – and commitment from all of us in the industry to work together to make that happen’.

A vital measure that Flint outlines, is that in order to create any effective responsibility frameworks and consumer protections, the industry has to recognise its issues and failures.

“In order to do this, the industry must, first of all, recognise that it has an issue. And I don’t just mean a PR or reputational issue. I mean a genuine, evidence-based subject that it must play its part in addressing”.

“In the past, our industry has also not done itself any favours, and I include Sky Betting & Gaming in this criticism, in its attitude towards harmful gambling. There have been encouraging signs recently that this is starting to change and we are finally moving away from the marginalisation of harmful gambling as an issue for a minority and the suggestion that the problem is with the individual rather than the product when in fact we know that behaviour is influenced by personal, structural and situational characteristics.”

Focusing on ‘reducing harm’, Flint details that technology and optimised data will be the industry’s best tools for protecting vulnerable consumers. With this in mind, Flint details that data and technology now have to be developed to drive responsible messaging and due-diligence checks.

Flint outlines a ‘four-point’ plan where technology should improve all-around industry standards.

  • We must use customer data to understand player behaviour and monitor for signs of harm.
  • We have to promote safer gambling by improving the accessibility, awareness and understanding of self-help tools such as deposit limits and cool offs;
  • We must interact with customers who show signs of harm, discuss their gambling behaviour with them, and present details of their behaviour clearly; and
  • Finally, we will have to increase our interventions with customers to stop them harming themselves in the most extreme cases.

SB&G’s leader is clear that many betting operators will face a tough time adjusting to new regulatory demands on Social Responsibility, and that all bookmaker face ‘tougher conversations with their customers’.

“We need to promote means for all customers to control their gambling behaviours; we need to interact more with our customers; we must intervene more effectively with those customers who find it difficult to control their own spend; and we will need greater regulation of the signs to look for and interventions expected of operators to ensure that this happens across the whole industry”.

Throughout his speech, Flint emphasises improving operator advertising standards and messaging, but also highlights concerns related to increased volume of gambling advertisements on UK terrestrial TV.

Entering 2018, Flint challenges industry leadership to think differently, and to adopt new skills such as R&D in the fight to win back public trust.

“This can become the blueprint for global online gambling regulation, striking the balance between individual freedom, technological advancements, and the need to protect and defend the vulnerable. This is the only way we will reclaim public trust and ensure a sustainable and proud future for an industry that really does provide great pleasure and enjoyment for millions of adults in Great Britain.”

“But ultimately the only way to protect UK customers is for this to be regulated by the Gambling Commission. Once every operator is using a common, minimum set of markers of harm and has adopted a base level of approaches to intervening with customers who display potentially harmful behaviour we will have gone a long way to creating a sustainable industry that tackles problem gambling.”