I have worked almost 30 years in gambling business and most of that time in lottery world where I was told to use word “gaming” instead of “gambling” when I was talking about our business. I’m not native English-speaking person so I don’t recognize all details in that language, but I believe that it wasn’t only about detail issue but rather about reputation of business. Lottery people have always thought that lottery is much softer and not so dangerous business than casino business is. Sports and Horse Betting are somewhere between those two areas. To me they all are gambling business and it doesn’t matter how soft or hard versions they are. I use gaming when I’m talking about casual and social games like for example Candy Crush Saga.
It is true that lottery games have caused much less, or almost at all, gambling problems than other gambling verticals. That’s one of the main reasons why lottery has had much better brand in the society than other games groups have had. The other reason has been “benefits for the society and good causes” ideology which has been the model all over the lottery world. It’s still very common that states have monopoly for lottery games and profit from those games is going to good causes. In other games groups that hasn’t been the case or if it has it’s not anymore. The gambling world has changed and is going to change.
Responsible gaming has always been important part of gambling business, but its role has increased rapidly during last few years. Especially in Europe responsible gaming has big role in political level discussion and I’m sure that other continents will follow soon or later. It’s important to understand what responsible gaming is about. To be honest I’m not expert on that area, but I have my own view about responsible gaming and I’ll try to explain how it should work.
Problem gambling and responsible gaming are not exactly the same issue but of course those two things are linked together. There are about 3 % of adults who have had gambling problems here in Finland. About 40 % of that group are serious problem gamblers which means that there are 50 – 60 000 people who really suffer. At least in Finland the most of gambling problems are caused by casino games and especially by slot machines. That’s why the former lottery company and horse betting company haven’t thought so much about gambling problems. Of course Horse and Sports Betting are reasons for some of those gambling problems but not at all at the same level than casino games. All game verticals have become quicker and harder and they are not anymore so different than they used to be before. Responsible gaming should be in the agenda of all gambling companies.
Gambling professionals seem to be worried what will happen to the reputation of our industry. There is more and more public discussion about that and unfortunately that discussion sounded to be rather negative one. It looks like gambling will follow the way which has happened in tobacco industry already many years ago. Smoking was very common when I was young adult, but nowadays it’s not acceptable at all. I think that gambling and smoking are not the same. Smoking is unhealthy for everybody, but gambling is not so dangerous for 80 – 95 % of people. Gambling is more like alcohol than tobacco when I think about problems caused by those things. It’s sure that gambling companies should do more in responsible gaming area, but there is no reason to ban whole gambling, because it causes problems for some of customers. We should concentrate on finding effective solutions to prevent those problems!
The problems won’t be solved if just some companies would change their rules, business models or whatever is needed to change. I think that whole industry should take responsible gaming really seriously, because it will affect on the reputation of industry. If there are companies which don’t care about the welfare of their customer, we can’t solve these problems, because problem gamblers would have companies where to move from the responsible companies. How we could solve that?
States, regulators and social welfare bodies, should decide and describe guidelines and the most important features for gambling companies which should operate according to those rules. I would describe that like “box” where companies should stay inside, but there they could run their business quite freely. If there would be any company which is not following those rules, that company should be punished very heavily and finally prevent whole operations of that kind of company. That model would work if whole industry would agree on that and there would be good cooperation between the industry and regulators.
What would be the best way to prevent gambling problems? I believe in personalization where gambling companies could utilize also other data sources than their own customer data. Unfortunately, it’s not legal to combine for example company’s customer data and data of the customers who have got help for gambling problems. In principle GDPR is good thing, but in gambling problem area it prevents to solve even bigger problems than customer’s privacy. One solution could be state level data center which could have “black box” where regulator could combine information about gambling problems, income/tax level and gambling data. The result of that kind of information would be personal level gambling limits and/or bans for gambling which should be mandatory for all license companies.
I believe more in personal limits than general level limits. I’m not sure if customers could really make right decisions by themselves when it’s about gambling limits. Regulators and social authorities & experts together with gambling companies should help customers to set them the best possible limits. Those limits could be separate in different gambling verticals (lottery, casino etc.). Gambling companies have and will have tools like AI and machine learning which could help them to make better work in responsible gaming area. I hope that gambling industry could find out the way to prevent gambling problems in more effective way than it’s the case now and at the same time we could continue to run our business without causing any useless disruption for those customers who could play our games without any problems!