Advising individuals on responsible gaming at the beginning of my iGaming career is something I will always hold close to my heart. I can still recall each person I spoke to by name and am proud to have provided them with some form of solace, no matter how minute, and guidance on taking a step in the right direction. That was some 18 months ago, and in that time, this area has increasingly become a hot topic in the industry.
A formal definition hasn’t been issued by charitable organisations such as GambleAware or GamCare which has left it up to operators to interpret the phrase to their customers. Luckily, there seems to be coherence on this for the most part.
Gambling is often described as a form of entertainment and any participation in betting-related activities that causes stress or harm rather than enjoyment can be described as problematic – think of the law of diminishing returns. That being said, responsible gambling can be defined as betting that remains within the realm of recreation for the gambler and those close to him or her.
However, it’s about more than safeguarding vulnerable players through account limits and self-exclusion tools. It also encompasses the prevention of underage gambling and the protection against fraudulent and illegal activities. It holds operators accountable to providing a fair gaming experience, only sending out ethical and responsible marketing messages and a commitment to ensure that customer safety and security is upheld above all else.
With the eyes of consumer scrutineers closely watching, some online casinos are taking a proactive approach to protecting their customers – and their reputation – through detailed responsible gaming programmes that go above and beyond the minimum requirements set by the various gambling commissions. From entire websites on the subject to innovative analysis tools that utilise the latest technology, operators are certainly putting customer wellbeing iat the core of their business. With that in mind, I selected a few operators to take a look at what they’re doing today.
Being fun and friendly is one of the cornerstones of LeoVegas, but the company doesn’t overlook the fact that some of its customers may take gambling too far. In late 2017, this mobile casino unveiled LeoSafePlay, their responsible gaming portal, solidifying their stance on the matter.
“I feel privileged to be in a position where I am able to honour the duty of care our industry holds towards our customers” – Amina, Senior Responsible Gaming Agent
This portal centres around the duty of care this operator has felt towards its players from day one. They action this by placing one of the widest assortment of tools at players’ fingertips, easily accessible from their LeoVegas account. These include deposit, loss, session and wagering limits as well as player history, time alert, pause account and self-assessment tools.
The LeoCare initiative takes this sense of accountability to help customers who have developed a gambling problem a step further. A player who has been a LeoVegas customer for a minimum of 12 months, and has deposited a total of £150, will be entitled to their first three months of gambling addiction therapy sessions at the cost of the operator. The individual would simply need to contact their customer support team to set this up. In addition, players who have recently closed their account and wish to make use of the blocking tool gamban may contact customer support to receive a code free of charge.
I remember the first time I saw that advert. For a 30-second clip, you can’t deny that it packs a punch. Although it’s specifically for UK-based casino Sky Bet, The Senet Group – founded by William Hill, Ladbrokes, Coral and Paddy Power – has used the slogan ‘When the fun stops, stop’ since 2015. Aside from coming together to reach a wider audience, some casinos that make up the group have their own commitment to responsible gaming that’s worth a mention.
In July of this year, William Hill announced its new responsible gambling initiative Nobody Harmed that promises to “recognize the hidden side of gambling and get much better at helping [their] customers stay safe, in shops and online, in the UK and around the world”, according to CEO Philip Bowcock.
This operator also launched its own portal dedicated to responsible gaming with a brave admission of their past failures and shortcomings as well as a promise and plan for the future.
“I’d like to see us get to a place where any customer is safer with us than they are elsewhere.” – Lyndsay Wright, Director of Strategy and Sustainability, William Hill
Their strategy will focus on four main areas – all gamblers, people at risk, gamblers experiencing harm and colleagues within the company – with nine commitments to drive it forward.
Later this autumn, William Hill intends to consult with gambling companies, policymakers and advocates to listen and learn about what they could do differently. Next, they will set up a Responsible Gaming Innovation Fund with an initial investment of £150,000 to pilot these efforts. Once something works, they intend to scale it across the business and share their findings with the wider gambling community so that others may benefit too.
As one of the Internet’s oldest casino brands, 888casino understands that customer and community well-being should be at the centre of all their endeavours. To ensure that this is always the case, 888 provides players with tools to control their playing habits, trains staff on recognising compulsive or under-age gambling and cumulated this information in an entire website on the topic – 888responsible – whose three pillars are Care, Control and Community.
What’s unique about their programme is their in-house monitoring tool called Observer, which was developed by 888’s Responsible Gaming and Research department in 2008. Using information from the operator’s customer database, it measures and analyses changes in player’s gaming behaviour such as uncharacteristic increases in time or money spent through carefully developed algorithms. At first, any abnormalities are dealt with automatically through pop-ups or playing blocks, however, their team looks at players on a case-by-case basis too to determine the best way and time to intervene. The tool itself is continuously fine-tuned and the number of factors used to detect potentially problematic behaviour has tripled over the last ten years.
Launched in mid-September 2017, Mr Green’s Green Gaming programme certainly has a nice ring to it but it’s more than just a catchy name. This online operator built a predictive tool with Sustainable Interaction, a company that leads the way in developing self-help tools for players.
It’s quite interesting as it combines how you perceive your gameplay through a simple, self-assessment test with your actual game data from Mr Green. In this way, you’re kept informed about your own gambling habits and offered advice on measures to take should this become excessive.
You can set it up on your Mr Green account in four easy steps:
Some honourable mentions include Ladbrokes, the first operator to release a focused responsible gaming TV advert back in May 2014, Casumo’s Play Okay programme and the Rank’s Group Keep it Fun efforts.
As technology continues to surpass what any of us could have even imagined back when the first online casino opened its virtual doors, we hope operators harness it for player protection measures too.