RESPONSIBILITY – OPPORTUNITY OR THREAT?

Responsibility is ”the theme of the day” in gambling business. My colleague Sami Siltanen wrote about that in his blog www.patakuningas.com (in Finnish) last week. I decided to continue with the same theme but from slightly different perspective. You might think that everything has been said about responsible gaming and it’s impossible to find out any new views. That’s probably the case but it’s so important issue that I should try!

Gambling is so dangerous that states have decided to control that business heavily. Some of customers have big problems to control their own gambling. It’s very similar case than in alcohol consumption. If player can’t control his/her gambling the result could be extremely fatal. Society and gambling companies should do their best to prevent those cases.

EC Court of Justice has stated that the member states have possibility in gambling business to limit the free movement of products and services which is against the main principles of EC. That limitation would be possible if that would help member state to prevent problems related to gambling. That kind of problems could be criminal actions and also gambling problems.

What society could do to prevent gambling problems? Countries like Finland who have monopoly system in gambling business have an idea that monopoly at itself will reduce gambling and that would further reduce gambling problems. There are own gambling laws and rules in all countries and those laws will help states to control also gambling problems in principle level. Authorities have also some tools and they try to do their best to control gambling operations in practical level too. One big challenge is that digitalization has already break the state lines in practical level and it is more difficult to control all gambling.

I would say that there are two kind of problem gamblers. According to surveys there seem to be about 1 % of adults who have serious gambling problem – it’s like disease and their really need treatment for that. That 1 % level is surprisingly same in different countries although gambling legislations are quite different ones. According to surveys there are about 40 000 people who have serious gambling problems in Finland. Totally there are approximately 3 % of adults who suffer somehow from gambling issues. Those serious gambling addicts are included in that 3 %. So, there are totally about 130 000 Finns who have some kind of gambling problems and 1/3 of them have big problems. These numbers have been at the same level already years. There has been surprisingly less change in those numbers although the volume of gambling has increased.

What gambling company could or should do? I listened to the Swedish gambling problem researcher Thomas Nilsson already 25 years ago and I still remember what he said. According to Nilsson there are not so much what gambling company could do to prevent problems of those addicted players. They will find out new way to gamble anyhow and the society should take care of treatment of those people. Gambling companies should concentrate on the group of customers who have some problems and try to prevent them to move to more serious group. There are some tools like gambling limits and marketing pans which companies could use. Companies have nowadays more tools than they had before because there are more data available and that help companies to analyze their customers. From prevention point of view, it would be good to combine information from health care and gambling because then companies could even blog out all gambling addicted consumers. I understand why this is illegal from privacy and information security point of view and won’t happen…

Quite many gambling companies have started to talk about how responsible firms they are. Almost all companies have limits for gambling and they justify those limits with problem gambling reasons. In many cases that’s not the real reason at all! According to researches there seem to be just light correlation between gambling volume (euros) and problem gambling. If company would real like to reduce gambling problems responsibility should set up guidelines for whole business operations. Companies shouldn’t ask are we willing to select our business goals or responsibility! Gambling companies should decide frames for their business operations based on responsible values. Company should operate inside those frames. It should be clear to all employees what company could do and what not. There are for example product development tools which help to analyze how dangerous new game would be and it shouldn’t be allowed to introduce too addicted games. In short term it would be tough to notice that company will lose some customers to more irresponsible operators but in long term more responsible companies will finally win. I believe that responsibility will be one of the most important competitive edge in gambling business. The reason for that is that customers will trust on responsible companies more than the other ones!

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