For EPIC Risk Management, player protection and customer affordability is a process requiring strong understanding of and interactions with customers.
Sharing their views in this two part interview, three of the gambling harm consultancy’s core team members – Head of Safer Gambling, Dan Spencer; Vice President of Prevention US, Dan Trolaro and Head of Delivery US, Mark Potter – highlighted a technological and in-depth approach to customer engagement and protection.
SBC: In the future, could operators leverage technological solutions and use customer feedback to better inform their responsibility initiatives rather than carrying out stringent affordability checks?
Dan Trolaro: It is a shared responsibility between operators, consumers, and stakeholders to develop a comprehensive strategy to minimise or reduce gambling related harms. In the video game world, the game makers have real time feedback and the artificial intelligence within the game adjusts as the player adjusts.
A similar story should be told in the world of gambling, it cannot be a static or stagnant policy. It has to be flexible and adjustable. People gamble for many reasons and people develop a gambling problem for the same many reasons.
A person can start out socially and over time, what initiated the gambling may not be what maintains the gambling so a combination of technology, customer feedback, research, and player behaviour should help to shape a safer, more affordable experience.
Mark Potter – Advances in technology around triggers, algorithms and fit for purpose responsible gambling tools for customers to help protect themselves is vital. If they are educated and made aware of potential harms, then interacted with at regular intervals across a customer journey, then the chances of a customer suffering from gambling harm is greatly reduced.
Understanding what the customer wants, needs or requires as an individual would always help inform operators as to how best to protect. Interactions with customers must be effective however and not a tick box exercise. Training operators, legislators and other stakeholders around how to better identify risk and interact effectively is part of the work that EPIC Risk Management does to help make gambling safer and fairer for everyone.
Dan Spencer – Yes, I think so. There’s already a wealth of data available for operators using the latest technology to find out more information about who your customers are. Artificial intelligence solutions are quickly picking up traction, looking at who may be a risk in the future instead of detecting harm that has already happened.
Direct customer interactions can also tell us much more than an affordability check can in some cases; it’s simply not right for customers to be spending the maximum they can afford on a regular basis anyway, so these solutions have to work in tandem with any financial checks we make.
SBC: In your opinion, should there be a distinction made between sports betting and fast paced casino games/slots when evaluating the necessity of strict affordability checks?
Dan Trolaro – Given the growing appetite for in-play and early cash-out features in sports betting around the globe, both have the potential for similar types of harm. The rapid reward schedule, instant gratification, and immersion leads to the rapid discounting of rewards making the gambler more prone to habitual spend and play. That, in turn, can start to re-wire or retrain the brain to seek that immediate relief or action every few seconds which can become addictive in nature.
Taking the time component for reflection out of a gambling activity is essentially removing a protective factor so they should be treated similarly. Another thought is to learn from the financial services world and classify certain types of high speed or rapid reinforcement gambling as potentially more risky than slow play or longer time in between. This would be akin to the difference in long-term investing vs day trading or scalping or uncovered option strategies. In the latter, typically more reserve is required and is not suited for everyone.
SBC: Could we see the implementation of stronger affordability checks in the US as the betting and gaming industry continues to grow?
Dan Trolaro – For the same reasons cited previously, yes, the affordability checks in the US should grow. The challenge in the US is that with the repeal of PASPA, it allowed for states to individually choose and determine how to legislate and regulate gambling expansion. Without a National policy or Federal funding, it becomes a bit more challenging, but learning from the UK and others around the globe helps to grow and shape the future of gaming.
Mark Potter – This is inevitable as the industry continues to grow and the legalisation of sports wagering starts to have an impact. It would be proactive to introduce some of these measures before we start to see the more negative side of gambling harm coming to the fore in the press and media. If the US implements some affordability and harm minimisation measures early, then many people can be protected from harm such as loss of career, reputation, relationship or even life.