Paul Dent: Who is responsible for Safer Gambling?

With the online gambling industry continuing to grow rapidly, Paul Dent – Gambling Therapy Manager at Gordon Moody Association (GMA) – asks who should be responsible for safer gambling measures?

Recent conferences have brought together regulators, operators and organisations representing those harmed by gambling, to share views on industry safeguards, duty of care, customer controls and protections . This shows a willingness to recognise the importance of creating a safe environment for gambling, but with the increasing conglomeration of operators there is a question of – who is ultimately responsible?

Regulators are stepping up their duties to create a framework for operators to function under licence, but also to recognise and address the wider impact on families and communities of leaving problem gambling unchecked. Ahead of this week’s SBC CIS Conference the Chairman of the Ukrainian Gaming Council, Anton Kuchukhiclze, emphasised the importance of social protection – not just for gamblers but for the citizens and minors of Ukraine.

A similar theme was picked up in the Kindred Sustainable Conference this week with the headline “Safer Gambling – a Shared Responsibility”, featuring a key panel discussion focused around “the industry’s responsibility to protect the customers and provide a safe experience”. 

The discussion looked at what is needed for operators to work more closely together – quite a challenge considering that many operators consist of numerous brands and are themselves owned by global entities. With the online gambling market predicted to grow to almost USD $93 billion, doubling over the last three years, what steps are needed to protect customers from harm?

For those struggling with their gambling online, finding appropriate support can be particularly difficult. Links to support pages usually have little consideration for language, culture or religion – mostly offering up pages in English regardless of the native language of the gambler. 

Meanwhile, Safer gambling tools that may be useful to the occasional gambler are largely ignored by the more serious, compulsive or addicted gambler.

Gordon Moody treats those most affected by gambling-related harm in the UK through treatment houses, retreat and counselling programmes and internationally online through the Gambling Therapy website. 

Our focus for the past fifty years remains the same today: to support those most affected by gambling harm. We are dedicated to helping victims and their loved ones reclaim and rebuild their lives free from gambling addiction.

A growing majority of clients that come to us for help could be described as complex cases with  alcohol or drug issues alongside their problematic gambling, and often coping with trauma of some kind. Someone who has a severe gambing problem is seven times more likely to die by suicide, with 80% of our residents having considered suicide at some point in their lives. The number of clients presenting with mental health problems is ever increasing and women are now speaking more openly about their gambling Issues. 

In this calendar year it is predicted we will receive 500 applications for treatment, a 100% increase on the previous year. Furthermore, we made 3,500 wrap-around interactions, and retained 68% of service users. Feedback of services provided  a 90%+ customer satisfaction rate and 257 friends and family members attended groups provided for them. 

However, as the case presentations become more complex and the time to process each application more time consuming, we realise we cannot do this alone. We consider that collaborating with key partners, particularly in the drug and alcohol field, is essential in order to be able to offer the best support for someone whose gambling is their way of coping with life.

As we see an increase in the severity of presentations our team of advisors are perfectly positioned as the first point-of-contact. The first engagement with a hardened or long-term gambler has to be handled with sensitivity, and Gordon Moody’s Gambling Therapy team has the experience and training necessary for this. 

The team consists of psychotherapists, psychologists and counsellors and works remotely from locations around the world. There are now over 1,000 calls a week into the helpline and 5.5 million website impressions annually. This global service provides free practical advice and emotional support to anyone affected by gambling.

Gambling Therapy is ready to treat those who are willing, and committed to change – but working with vulnerable people takes time and dedicated resources. As the global market grows, so do the number of calls we receive. 

As well as the lifeline we provide to those seeking help for their gambling, our services are burdened with calls from frustrated customers asking about KYC, bonuses and account queries. Many of these calls are from new markets that are often unregulated – in fact, almost half are from just three countries who are newly entering the gambling market.

As a global treatment provider, we are keen to have conversations with operators regarding the customer journey. With the increasing availability of sophisticated tools to spot problematic gambling, there is also an increasing need to support those customers found to be struggling. It is now more pressing than ever that support is properly integrated into the customer journey. 

Having been involved in the tendering process for the Gambling Helpline in the Netherlands, Gordon Moody understands some of the complexities of bidding for a licence. We are supportive of a robust and clear framework that introduces the measurement of responsible gambling as mandatory duty and ultimately towards standardising the tools to do this.

Sportradar Founder,  Carsten Koerl used his keynote speech at the SBC Barcelona Summit, to propose a vision of gambling in years to come. He imagined large sporting events streamed through entertainment platforms – with the gambler at home having access to all gambling sites. Mobile technology would offer various payment formats (crypto, SportPesa, etc) further adding to the complexity of safeguarding customers. 

It is clear that anyone who plays a part in the delivery of gambling services has a responsibility to make it safe for gamblers, and the collaboration that is needed in order to move forward.

Dent is due to speak at this week’s SBC Summit CIS, presented by Parimatch, on a panel entitled “Responsible Gambling – Where are we now and what is next?”.  You can find out more about the event here.

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