CBS – industry CEOs on what safer gambling means for them

An examination of safer gambling business cultures kick started the digital component of day two of the CasinoBeats Summit, as industry CEOs discussed ‘Embedding a safer gambling ethos in company culture,’ sponsored by Boston Link.

Taking the reigns of the panel, which formed part of a Synot Games sponsored ‘Leadership’ track, was James Bennett, director at Square in the Air, who commences proceedings by taking look at how society, as well as the industry itself, has developed over this unexpected period.

“Safer gambling has always been an issue across the industry, but it’s been brought to the forefront of our industry in the last 18 months as we’ve all grappled with the pandemic.

“So, spending more time at home, often in isolation during lockdown, has meant that vulnerable players are potentially more susceptible to harm and as a result several regulators have either imposed tighter COVID driven restrictions, or put plans in place to review existing legislation and take measures across things like staking, time limits, cooling off periods, and in particular advertising, among other areas”.

The distinguished panel was subsequently tasked with the question ‘what does safer gambling mean for you and your companies?’ With Alexandre Tomic, CEO of Alea, the first to step up to the plate.

“I would say that first is that it’s a question of recognising at the highest level of the organisation that we are dealing, the word is quite accurate, with an addictive product, which actually can be more problematic than alcohol or drugs because it’s an addiction without a product,” he explained.

“There’s no product, which means that, if you have an addiction for example with any drug or alcohol, there is a product so there is a limit that your body can take, you cannot drink more than one or two litres of whisky per night. 

“You can gamble as much as you want, as deep as your pocket, and when there is no money in the pocket anymore you go and look for money. So that’s the specific problem of an addiction without a product.”

“you need to put responsible gaming in the heart of the company and in the heart of every department”

Alexandre Tomic, CEO of Alea.

Noting the products needs to be responsible by design, and if responsible gaming is not a core function throughout every department it will not work, he added: “First off all, recognise that we are dealing with an addictive non-product, and once we are there it’s what we can do about it. And the second thing I can say is that you need to put responsible gaming in the heart of the company and in the heart of every department.”

Referencing cosmetics, and a Charles Revlon anecdote regarding the sale of hope and not cosmetics, Megan Easey, CEO at SpotGaming, picked up the conversation: “I think that’s the big different here is that when people are digging deep into their pockets to continue with an addition, for example, it is a matter of chasing hope because there’s always that possible outcome of a win, which you don’t necessarily get the possible outcome of a win if you have that second litre of whisky for example.”

Before moving on to emphasise the necessity to unite goals across departments: “It’s every department, but it’s also about saying how do we align the different departments goals, because your acquisition team is driving big on getting big spending customers onto the site.

“And then you’ve got the payments team who’re trying to protect from an AML point of view, and then you’ve sort of got responsible gambling which is separate and most like a precious area of the business.

“So how we do we take it out of that precious area and say OK what are the steps we can take through the acquisition funnel itself, and how does marketing feel comfortable with the responsible gambling head of department without feeling like they’re at conflicting ends.”

Tim De Borle, CEO at Napoleon Sports & Casino, echoed these sentiments: “I think for a company, or an industry, to really work towards a safer environment you need to make sure that it’s something that lives within, and from, the whole organisation. 

“So from the whole ecosystem, I think within that ecosystem each of the parts of it has their own challenges and also there own goals, the thing that we have integrated there is that we have a responsible gaming department, which seems like something that cannot stand on the side, and I fully agree on that, but the responsible gaming department for us is one that facilitates the culture of responsible gaming in the whole organisation. 

“Each and every department needs to collaborate together”

Christopher Dalli, CEO of L&L Europe.

“That is, for me, the most important role, except for working specifically with the clients that we have to identify what might be a problematic situation.”

Borle subsequently moved on to highlight that Napoleon implements cross linked goals across departments, which he noted “doesn’t solve the whole conflict” but instead “helps in making sure that responsible gaming is integrated into the organisation”. 

Adding: “I fully agree that for me we are an entertainment sector that has a high risk factor, a high risk factor with problematic behaviour of eventual addition even, which is something we have to be aware of more than we, and I think our colleagues, have been in the past. 

“So it’s our job to start there, and to starting helping and prevent our player from getting into that situation. The thing that is important for me to take into account is that, and it’s one important thing also for the regulators, a one size fits all rule will not help in this situation, you can’t just make one rule or one limit that works for all of the players with a different background, playing behaviour, mindset, and risk level of where the problematic behaviour starts”.  

Last to nod in agreement was Christopher Dalli, CEO of L&L Europe, who explained: “If you are going to be a safer gambling company you either are or you are not, you need to have the entire culture aligned with the mentality that that’s what you are looking for.

“Each and every department needs to collaborate together, and they need to know that what you are aiming for now is actually an opportunity. 

“Most gaming companies that have come from 2004 … were set in an entirely different industry with a different mentality, where, as Alex rightfully said, the player was seen as, you acquire him and in a way, it wasn’t necessarily the intention, you rinse him dry. He empties his pockets and leaves everything at the table and then great, onto the next player.

“And now safer gambling is giving us an opportunity, the entire industry, where we can look at it and we can say, rather than safer gambling we can look at sustainable gambling.

“And all of a sudden you are looking at players that you can retain for longer, that they can come in and play for longer, and treat it more as a service rather than a vice or a situation where you are suddenly being put in jeopardy, or you’re being put at risk.”

The CasinoBeats Summit 2021 conference and exhibition on July 14-15 takes place in an innovative integrated live and digital format. A select audience of senior executives will attend in person at the InterContinental in St Julian’s, Malta, while a global audience of industry professionals will participate in the event online. 

The conference agenda focuses on the next generation of slots and products, key established and emerging markets around the world, leadership in igaming, and marketing and affiliation. The programme also includes the inaugural Game Developer Awards ceremony. 

Register for a free online pass for the event at the CasinoBeats Summit website.

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