ICE London: Responsible-gambling experts call for external body to set standards

February 9, 2023 12:54 PM
  • Hannah Gannagé-Stewart, CDC Gaming Reports
February 9, 2023 12:54 PM
  • Hannah Gannagé-Stewart, CDC Gaming Reports

A panel of responsible-gambling (RG) experts have recommended a move away from a reliance on “harm indicators” in favour of an independent body’s setting standards for player -protection outcomes.

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Responsible Gambling Council Senior Researcher Melissa Salmon and Focal Research President Tracy Schrans noted that markers of harm can vary from player to player, making one-size-fits-all indicators of harm less effective.

Salmon and Schrans were joined by Mindway AI CEO Rasmus Kjaergaard on the player-analytics-tools panel at the Consumer Protection Zone at ICE on Thursday morning. They suggested that a universal set of standards governing best practice in player protection could lead the gambling industry to better overall player protection and prevent the need for blanket approaches that can leave some player risk profiles’ less detectable.

“I hear all this focus on the indicators and it worries me. After 25 years and seeing what’s happened in the space, I wish that we had standards that were set about what the outcomes are and what we’re trying to achieve with this”, Schrans said.

She went on to suggest that the industry needs a body of RG experts to assess outcomes across the various approaches.

“You want to look at all these things as measuring the impacts of what you’re doing. But if you’re constantly including what you think are the prompts, you can never evaluate the impact of changing these things. So I think for that we need a body — that’s Rasmus, myself, and anyone else in this space. It not only reassures the operators, but it reassures your licencing bodies”.

Kjaergaard said that at present, operators tend to prefer third-party suppliers of these tools, due to their resources being focused on the games and platforms.

But the panel agreed that in future, in-house player-prevention tools could proliferate, potentially leading to a dilution of overall standards as each operator takes a different approach.

“We need more concrete standards around the evaluation of some of these player-analytics tools and the impact that we’re having, and is it making a meaningful difference?”, Salmon said, reflecting on why third-party tools are currently preferred to the development of player-protection software in-house.

“I think that’s where some of the future direction is. And if people are building their own tools, they need to adhere to a certain minimum set of standards. There needs to be some sort of objectivity, some sort of evaluation of the impact that that’s having.”

The panel also agreed that the semantics around player protection could be changed to place greater emphasis on encouraging responsible-gambling behaviours and less on calling out players who run into trouble — for example, using phrases like “positive play” when players are exhibiting low risk gaming behaviours.

This reflected the sentiments of an earlier ICE panel, at which Department of Trust Founder and CEO Charles Cohen warned against the stigmatisation of gambling behaviours, arguing it drives players to hide their gambling activity and places them at greater risk.

“We’ve seen in our qualitative work from players is that they want that sense of trust with the operator. They want to know that they’re being taken care of. So if they hear from the operator only when things are going wrong, they might be a bit resistant to the messages that are coming in”, Salmon argued.

“With the data, we can look at the behaviours of safe players. What are they doing well? What are some of those positive outcomes that they’re having? And once we identify those, we can leverage customer data to send encouraging messages and incentivize those behaviours. So it’s not that they’re hearing from the operators only when something’s going wrong. It’s when things are going right as well.”