For Mark Potter, Head of Delivery US at EPIC Risk Management, lived experience is a vital tool for the development and implementation of strong social responsibility and safer gambling initiatives across the industry.
Speaking at a recent Breakout Session hosted by Kindred Group, Potter discussed his own experience with problem gambling and the negative impact it had on his professional rugby union prospects, which subsequently led to his employment at EPIC.
Potter noted that EPIC recognises that finding the right balance between social responsibility initiatives and commercial objectives can be a challenge for betting and gaming firms, as operators ultimately must work to guarantee their long-term business sustainability.
“We recognise that gambling is recognised as a leisure activity enjoyed on a regular basis by millions of people around the world, and done in a responsible way,” he remarked.
“However, what we see is that gambling can have a negative impact on the lives of a small percentage of people, and that is why the use of lived experience is so important.”
EPIC was founded by Paul Buck in 2013, after he overcame a 10-year long gambling addiction which saw him transact £5 million, lose £1 million and steal £430,000 from the bank he worked for, resulting in incarceration in an open prison.
Lived experience, Potter detailed, allows clients ‘to understand how people become vulnerable’, as well as identifying at what points across the customer journey ‘things start to change’ with regards to betting habits.
“If you look at the main drivers for gambling, one of the main things should be that it should be done for fun and enjoyment,” he commented. “For all of your guys’ (operators) customer bases that should be the case, but when things start to change and it starts to become about something else – as it did for me – that’s when we need to better understand what harm exists.
“We created a gambling spectrum which was created using our first-hand knowledge of addiction, and it reflects the various stages of gambling right from the day of placing your first bet through to being a disorder or pathological gambler.”
EPIC now works to provide lived experience-driven gambling harm consultancy and awareness training across a range of sectors, including the betting and gaming industry itself as well as other sectors such as professional sport, education, financial services, the armed forces and construction.
The consultancy is now looking to expand its presence in the betting and gaming spaces on both sides of the Atlantic, having launched its Gambling Harm Education Programme in the UK in collaboration with WHYSUP and Teen Tips, whilst in the US the group has established a subsidiary in Delaware and teamed up with Major League Soccer (MLS) team Chicago Fire.
For Potter, his experience as a professional athlete has come in particularly useful when engaging with EPIC’s clients in the sporting space, such as his understanding of the notion many athletes have that they know ‘everything about sports’, financial management and the impact of injuries – all of which had a subsequent impact on his own gambling behaviour.