New Horizons conference puts the focus on responsible gambling

February 28, 2023 10:57 AM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • Mark Keast, CDC Gaming Reports
February 28, 2023 10:57 AM

Player health is in the spotlight at the upcoming New Horizons in Responsible Gambling conference to be held in downtown Vancouver, the first time the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), which presents the show, has had an in-person event since 2020.

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New Horizons, to be held March 6-8 at JW Marriott Parq Vancouver, brings together gambling-industry experts to explore ways to build a sustainable future when it comes to gambling. Keynote speakers will cover what’s new in regulation research, healthier play programming, and strategies.

Conference sessions include: “GameSense Licensing: Collaborating around a Unified RG Program,” “The Power of Player Education in Responsible Gambling,” “Addressing Stigma,” and “Evolving Supports for Players at Risk: Canada’s Leadership Opportunities.”

CDC Gaming Reports spoke with Ryan McCarthy, director of player health at BCLC, about the upcoming conference and what people can expect.

What are you expecting to see after three years of being away? How much has the gaming industry changed since then and how will the show reflect that change?

The last time the gambling industry came together in person for BCLC’s New Horizons in Responsible Gambling Conference was 2020. Only a week later, the world shut down due to the pandemic. In 2021 and 2022, BCLC was able to adapt and host virtual conferences, which meant we could stay connected in order to advance player health across the industry.

In that time, the industry experienced a lot of change. In B.C., casinos were closed for 16 months as a public-health measure to slow the spread of COVID and more players moved to our online gambling platform, PlayNow.

In Canada, single-event sports-betting was legalized and Ontario began licensing private online-gambling websites. We’re witnessing a heavier presence of gambling advertising as a result.

At the same time, there was an influx of new virtual programs and advancements helping us get to know and connect with our players. Speaking for the industry, we find ourselves in a new environment with new tools and challenges, but the goal remains the same.

At New Horizons 2023, industry leaders, researchers and policymakers will all be coming together to discuss how we can best support players in this changing environment and reduce the potential for harm.

What is some of the messaging around responsible gaming that you expect to see come out of the show?

The team at BCLC has put together a thoughtful agenda of speakers over the two days of the conference, ranging from our keynotes, the Amazing Two-Spirit Couple, to experts and researchers presenting topics like self-exclusion, stigma, emerging forms of gambling, player experience, and more.

Since the theme is reconnection and rediscovery, I believe we’ll see renewed enthusiasm from the industry to work together to explore innovative strategies that support healthier play to sustain and grow our player base.

Tell us about inclusion as it relates to the industry and the importance of focusing on that at the show?

Caring for our players requires us to be inclusive. A core part of player health is understanding who our players are, how we can best tailor our approaches to support them, and what motivates them to gamble – without judgment. We need to be able to break down those barriers and meet people where they’re at in order to support them, especially because of the stigma associated with getting help.

What’s the mission of the show? Is it Canada-focused or just B.C.-focused? I’m pointing especially at Ontario, with its hyper-competitive open igaming market.

For 11 years now, BCLC has hosted the New Horizons in Responsible Gambling Conference to provide a venue for our colleagues across the industry to explore the latest in research and healthier play programming.

The conference has hosted guests and speakers from across Canada, the continent, and around the globe and this year will be no different. There is much to learn from colleagues around the world and sharing these different perspectives drives critical dialogue that helps the industry, no matter where we are, advance towards our shared goal of reducing the potential for harm among our players.

Why is the in-person show more important?

Even though BCLC was able to pivot and host virtual conferences in the last couple of years, I think we can all agree that there’s something special about meeting in person.

New Horizons 2023 is all about reconnection and rediscovery. It’s about having those critical conversations, whether they’re happening on the main stage, in the workshops or in the lobby, reflecting on the progress we’ve made as an industry and setting out on renewed path of innovation and advancement in player health.

How many people do you expect will attend?

New Horizons 2023 will host about 250 industry leaders, researchers, and policymakers from around the globe.