SBC News Ethical Gambling Forum: Are operators already behind the curve?

Ethical Gambling Forum: Are operators already behind the curve?

“ESG is all that makes us feel good, isn’t it?” Andrew Lyman, Gambling Commissioner and Executive Director at Government of Gibraltar, began in a keynote address at this week’s Ethical Gambling Forum.

Picking up where Nigel Feetham, Minister for Justice, Trade and Industry, left off, Lyman took to the stage following a plea from event Co-Founder Adrian Sladdin to those organisations based in close proximity to the Sunborn held event.

“There are so many companies within a stone’s throw of this boat that I hope will actually take the message around ESG, responsible leadership from the top, and adopting the right policies to represent Gibraltar in the best light possible,” his segue noted.

Posing a starter for 10 to those in attendance, Lyman continued by asking delegates who could argue against the numerous advantages to be gained via the adoption of an array of ESG practices.

Those plus points touched upon, he elaborated, include taking measures to reduce climate change, for corporates to play a more positive role in society, to protect consumers by delivering socially responsible gambling, to strive for a more diverse and inclusive workforce, and to make corporate decisions in a more transparent way.

“…what we need to do is move that debate forward so that it is not pushing all of the responsibility onto the individual”

“Equally, ESG is about core principles of honesty, integrity, fairness, sustainability. So who couldn’t believe and adopt all of those core principles?” he said.

“That said, in an increasingly polarised world, made more polarised by social media’s power to reduce rational and respectful debate to soundbites and slogans, do we need to take a pause?”

This saw the Commissioner reference a potential manipulation of social media via a harnessing of its marketing power to target key demographics through tailored messaging to secure a successful election outcome in the UK.

Bringing the address back to the topic at hand, he commented: “Social media is equally being harnessed by gambling operators to enhance customer experience.  

“Consumer data will be crunched by an enhanced AI  and the AI, possibly with a built-in bias, will make automated decisions that have both positive and negative effects on consumers. 

“AI and its automation will reduce staff numbers, both in call centres and CS teams. And one has to ask the question, will all corporates, marketing companies, and providers of social media, big data platforms, all act responsibly in this area?  

“That is probably why there is a growing national and pan national regulation in the field of data protection.”

Referencing a rise in domestic and European ESG reporting frameworks, as well as recent quotes emanating from the US that suggested personal responsibility on the part of gamblers must be factored into the equation, Lyman called for the conversation to be pushed in the opposite direction.

“Plainly, what we need to do is move that debate forward so that it is not pushing all of the responsibility onto the individual, but more in the direction of the corporate.”

“…there has to be a clear, demonstrable, and coordinated commitment to ESG, and quickly”

Adding: “I also read recently that many investment firms have recently reduced their exposure to ethical investments, and many governments in recent times have reduced their financial commitments, taxpayer money to green energy and other similar projects.”

This was followed by a warning to incumbents that governments, as well as pan national organisations, will need scapegoats for not hitting climate change and other environmental targets.

These fall guys, he added, will be corporates, with increased regulation around all aspects of ESG to inevitably follow as this would signal a commitment, but also shift the axis of responsibility.

“The lesson here is that we have to be wary of virtue signalling, both by ourselves and others,” he explained. “What is needed is substance, a clear demonstration and commitment to the right values and brave people to stand up and challenge virtue signalling, reputation washing, and tokenism.  

“Should we ask ourselves the question, has ESG already been hijacked by governments and regulators? “Is it too late for self regulation? Have boards been too slow to adopt ESG? Like the responsible gambling debate, are gambling operators already behind the curve? Who owns the narrative in the ESG debate?”

Despite reiterating that ESG is a force for good, disappointment that progress is slow, and that there “are still many covert resistors” was voiced.

“There are still many out there who would use aspects of ESG in a cynical way, and if business does not own the narrative and show substantive commitment, then all aspects of ESG will end up, some already are, as areas for national and pan national regulation.”

He concluded: “The key message is that if business, and particularly contentious sectors like gambling, want to retain a stake in the debate and future direction, then there has to be a clear, demonstrable, and coordinated commitment to ESG, and quickly.”

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