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George Kidd – The Senet Group – Squabbling helps no-one

Senet Group, the lead responsibility body for gambling in the UK, has marked the first Responsible Gambling Week by launching its Quarter Four awareness campaign.

Kidd - SenetThis will include stand-alone responsible gambling advertising at a number of live football matches and 2,000 more adverts across channels that are known to be popular with those who are likely to gamble online.

George Kidd, Chief Executive for the Group, says there is nothing to be gained through industry squabbling, and that it’s now time to focus on building trust and working together to implement safe and responsible gambling. He contributed the following article for SBC News.

‘May you live in interesting times’ is an allegedly ancient Chinese curse. I am told that it is folklore. What I do know, is the gambling sector is living in interesting times right now.

A combination of legislative liberalisation, mobile and digital advances and exponential growth in the ways producers and services can be marketed, have led to remarkable innovation and brands with global reach and recognition.

But it’s also left the door open for some short-term and reckless behaviour that leave regulators and lawmakers wondering how far they can look to the sector to demonstrate social responsibility and exercise restraint?

Senet is focussed on safer and responsible gambling using stand-alone messaging and messages within member’s advertising to help players stay aware of problem gambling behaviours, avoid these and get entertainment and pleasure from their play. We do not preach and we make no apology for using a light tone and occasional humour to get messages across. All analysis shows this is the best way to reach mainstream players.

Our work seeks to complement the things operators are already doing to inform and empower players – with things like deposit limit options, time-outs and account information. That sits alongside the ways we can use monitoring algorithms to identify risky behaviours and engage with players and self-exclusion when that is the right choice for someone.

These “responsibility” issues relate generally to player behaviour. If we want gambling services to command far higher levels of public trust than they do today, we do need to look also at what might be done on the operator side of the deal. At recent events Tim Miller, Executive Director at the Gambling Commission, and I have talked about safer and fairer services and about trust and confidence.

I think this is a helpful shift in language. It reflects that need to demonstrate social responsibility by businesses individually and collectively as well as encourage our customers to exercise responsibility in the use of services.

There are two high-profile examples before us right now. We have the PWC report on indicators of harm which could allow online businesses to take further steps towards a far closer understanding of the signals when players are at risk. This could lead to a wide and possibly pan-industry agreement on the measures to be tracked: a shared approach that could make a real difference to how we are seen by political and media commentators.

That shared approach, for me, is about agreement on the measures to be tracked and on the importance of doing that and not just talking about it. But this is not to argue for saying every business has to set the same trigger points and thresholds. Every business has a slightly or very different player base and appetite for risk.

The same approached based on shared principles and business by business interpretation could be true of the techniques used in interventions. No-one can be bound to some mechanic imposed from outside but we would surely benefit from sharing experience and identifying best practice and the next phase of GambleAware led work on PWC intents.

The other topical issue is around affiliate programmes. I do not claim deep expertise, although the Betting on Sports conference was a form of immersion! This is a serious issue in a world of mobile and online gaming. Technology should help us match and exceed the achievements in ensuring marketing does not reach those it should not – with under 18’s and those who self-exclude as very obvious examples, Its equally important marketing does not mislead and respects privacy laws.

We need to be of one mind and voice on this challenge. At conferences, I heard of closed and tightened affiliate programmes, talk of lawsuits and of a Senet-like body for affiliate business. Here, as with the sector generally, I see nothing at all to be gained by name calling and squabbling and much to be gained if we could use the know-how that exists to agree a shared set of standards that operators and affiliates would want to apply to allow digital marketing without services appearing in the ASA or Gambling Commission rulings.

As with so much else, there is a need here to say we should not do things “just because we can”. We need to think about what messages our behaviours send out. This is something the drinks industry worked out some years back as they looked at product development, advertising and how they worked with communities.

This is a sector I was involved with when in Government and “deregulating to remove barriers to business”. I have to tell you there was a close link between the willingness to give a sector some regulatory leg-room and the way in which that sector goes about its business. It’s not too late to learn that lesson.

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