Martin Lycka: The age of responsible gambling

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As problem gambling month gets into full swing, Entain’s Senior Vice President of US Regulatory Affairs & Responsible Gambling Martin Lycka explains his company’s approach to the issue. 

Imagine you are putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Clear your desk. Grab your pieces. Sort them into groups. When the initial preparation is done, you can start assembling the border. The border will serve as a frame for the whole endeavour. 

The corner pieces stand out, meaning they can be easily identified and put into the right place. They are arguably the most obvious parts of the jigsaw, largely pre-defined. Yet, they are key to the robustness of your intellectual construction as they serve as its anchors. 

The pieces in the middle are far more puzzling – at first blush they are just a pile of colorful, oddly-shaped lumps of cardboard. This allows for some imagination and creativity, but the pieces do ultimately need to fit in so that the puzzle works as a whole. 

Now transplant this approach to defining a responsible gambling policy. Which pieces would sit in the corners of the jigsaw? I would suggest that the recommended point of departure is the overall goal of the whole exercise, namely a regulatory approach to sports betting and gaming which creates a sustainable, long term industry. 

This needs to cater for the demands of the vast majority of customers who use these products responsibly as a form of entertainment. At the same time, the market control mechanisms ought to be set up in a way that prevents problems arising and protects and supports those who may be at risk, should it be required. 

Four activity types

The corners of the policy puzzle are best advised to reflect these considerations and be modelled around four basic activity types, namely monitoring, education & awareness, research and treatment. Monitoring of customer activity allows for detection of potentially harmful behavioural patterns. It permits operators to take resolute and early action to prevent inception of problems in individual cases. 

Besides that, the data collected in connection with individual users also informs further changes to the overall design of responsible gambling systems so that all its participants can benefit from even more efficient levels of harm prevention. 

With a view to further increasing the effectiveness of the preventative approach, the wealth of knowledge acquired as a result of monitoring customer behaviour needs to be crafted into public awareness and education campaigns. Conceivably, there are infinite methods of spreading the word about responsible and sustainable betting and gaming amongst the members of the public: safer gambling awareness weeks or months; other types of social marketing campaigns; dedicated microsites; specialised organisations or champions of the cause, for example from within the world of sport. 

Efficiency of any responsible gambling programme requires external validation, achieved by means of third-party certification and collaboration with reputable research institutions. Related research is two-way traffic; operators provide researchers with aggregated and anonymized customer data for scientific and academic purposes. The resulting research output is designed not only to resolve strategic conundrums the research community may be grappling with, but also to aid the industry to further improve its consumer protection tools. 


The final corner of the basic puzzle is represented by treatment. There is no doubt that prevention and raising awareness, underlined by research and external validation, are the best responsible gambling policy. Nonetheless, in some cases treatment is unavoidable and facilitating funding and other support for it is indispensable.  

Besides supplying cold hard cash, the treatment support activities take the form of drop-in responsible gambling clinics or electronic tools that allow for connection with treatment specialists, as part of national health systems or privately. An issue that would require further consideration in this respect is the extent of medical insurance covering this type of treatment. 

Fitting all the right pieces into the space inside the border formed of the four aforesaid corners allows for completion of the basic responsible gambling puzzle. Not all operators are able, or willing, to move at the same pace and this is why Entain is moving beyond the framework outlined here to design a further puzzle of our own. A puzzle that takes advantage not only of all the research that has been conducted in this space but also of the miracle of modern technology. 

Advanced Responsibility and Care

We are using our cutting-edge technology to develop new ways to protect customers who may potentially be at risk even before problems arise. Our approach, Advanced Responsibility and Care (ARC), will combine the best academic research and life experience with industry-leading data science and AI to create what we believe is the first proactive and personalised approach to player protection. And we’ll be trialling this in the UK this summer.

Gamification, predictive technology and artificial intelligence are, we believe, likely to shape what is to come. A smartly designed conglomerate of technological tools will allow earlier detection of negative behavioural patterns and improved prevention whilst also mitigating the risk of human error. None of this will replace the need for human support services for those who need them, but the vast majority don’t. 

As the pieces of the basic puzzle are falling into place, we believe we can lead and help to shape a new, more effective and preventative, approach. We like to see it as not just the future for betting and gambling, but responsible entertainment. 

Martin Lycka is Senior Vice President of US Regulatory Affairs & Responsible Gambling for Entain Group. The views represented here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.