As more states begin to embrace mobile wagering legislation, it is becoming increasingly apparent that legislators will place responsible gaming practises at the forefront of their agenda. Should the US wish to avoid a regulatory landscape seen by its European counterparts, common standards for the digital channel will need to be established.

And according to Declan Raines, Head of US Gaming at TransUnion, this focus on responsible gaming is only going to become more prevalent – especially as states begin to mull over igaming legislation too. 

The industry, he believes, must create a common standard for responsible gaming practices to ensure that all players remain protected.

He explained that we’re beginning to see increased scrutiny from both the media, which will likely lead to state legislatures seeking a more in-depth understanding of the safer gambling practices available in the digital channel.

“We anticipate that the responsible gaming topic will continue to grow exponentially in the US as more states go live with regulated mobile sports betting,” he told SBC Americas. “We’ve already seen increased media scrutiny of the industry over the last 18 months – most recently with the Super Bowl and the recent go live in New York that triggered a lot of media attention regarding advertising.

“The increased exposure of the topic, both in the broader media and across the industry itself, is going to drive increased scrutiny from the state legislators who will want to understand the responsible gaming practices available in the digital space that market participants are deploying to ensure that they have comfort that their constituents are being protected.” 

In states such as Massachusetts, he continued, responsible gaming and advertising are two components that must be addressed if mobile sports betting is to be introduced. 

Raines noted that gambling legislation in other states – particularly those considering igaming and mobile sports betting – will be materially impacted by this increasing demand for more responsible gaming protocols.

All operators that are operating in the US have heeded some of the lessons from the UK and Europe, however, having introduced a plethora of responsible gaming procedures, strategies, and teams prior to going live in the US.

Raines added: “We expect to see that responsible gaming strategies grow substantially in size and influence within an organization as the market grows. In the US, you see very established practices in the land-based channel because of how well established that particular market is. 

“These brick and mortar operators have had a chance to form these strategies over a number of decades. But the digital environment is new and it does bring challenges from a responsible gaming perspective as operators balance acquisition, the player experience and player safety”

From a customer verification standpoint, Raines expressed the view that there is often a dearth of information available beyond the account registration process.  

He said: “There’s limited information on consumers that operators have beyond what’s provided at account registration. All they have to go on is the name, date of birth, SSN, and address of the player. That makes it difficult to make informed and responsible decisions until they have enough wagering activity, by which time it could be too late.” 

“We certainly see that the operators from Europe, or who have influences from Europe, are bringing some of those best practices from countries like the UK. We’re seeing that with companies like FanDuel, who have the experiences of PaddyPowerBetfair in the UK, or BetMGM via Entain. At TransUnion, we expect to see these practices evolve to take into account the nuances of the US market and the US consumer.”

At TransUnion, Raines and his team have been drawing upon their experience within the global gaming market and applying those learnings to the US. As a market leader in KYC and fraud prevention solutions, TransUnion has found itself at the forefront of responsible gaming practices – by virtue of its ability to provide market-leading insights into consumers. 

This experience, the Head of US Gaming highlighted, will help TransUnion to create added value for its US partners.

“We have over a decade’s experience in the global gaming market, providing KYC and fraud prevention solutions to the largest brands in the world,” Raines commented. “But we’ve also been at the forefront of responsible gaming in global markets, most notably in the UK, where we’ve worked with our partners to enhance player protection. 

“We’ve acted as a key stakeholder in the UK, providing thought leadership not only on the data laws that apply to consumer privacy and best practices for operators, but also to regulators as well. We believe that experience will drive value for our US partners. Our UK experience is certainly within this topic, but also within broader identity and understanding consumers.

“In the US, specifically, one of our key pillars is to enhance responsible gaming and demonstrate that this can be achieved whilst driving commercial results. We see responsible gaming as an investment, not a cost. For example, we have invested significantly in marketing capabilities that facilitate an identity-focused approach. Not only is this materially more effective than using a broader, behavior or cookie targeting approach that you currently see, but an identity-focused approach also gives operators significant control over their messaging and who they market to. 

“This, for example, allows them to restrict the amount of the advertising and marketing seen by self-excluded players or other at-risk segments. We believe an identity-focused approach to marketing will drive enormous efficiency and reduce the volume of marketing required for acquisition which is driving increased scrutiny.” 

When questioned about the importance of intersecting other business functions like; KYC, fraud, marketing, and analytics, Raines noted that responsible gaming should be treated as a “horizontal” within a gaming organization. 

“Treating responsible gaming as a vertical can make it prone to operating in a silo. Whereas having responsible gaming intersect across functions like KYC means that you’re improving your visibility and treatment of players at first contact. You gain a thorough understanding of who they are at a deeper level than just the information you see at account registration. This then allows you to deploy responsible gaming practices as early as possible, which is going to protect players at an earlier point. 

“Oftentimes, fraud and responsible gaming are linked unknowingly. If you think about someone stealing a credit card to try and fund their betting account, that can be a responsible gaming issue, especially in examples where addiction is driving the behavior. 

“TransUnion’s capabilities in providing identity and digital attributes and consumer insights to operators can help them understand the nuances of identity and fraud. We know better than anyone when fraud is fraud and when fraud may also prompt or require a more empathetic responsible gaming approach. 

“In a marketing context, an identity-focused marketing approach not only creates benefits from increased personalization with your players, but it also gives you greater control over who sees your messaging from different segments. This, we believe, can mitigate exposure to players who might be at risk of problem gambling. 

“From the segmentation analytics role, we’ve contributed significantly to that area. That is an area where we’ve seen the most development in Europe,” Raines continued. “Within responsible gaming, if you are analyzing your players and looking at what type of player they are, having that responsible gaming overlay can help you identify who is at risk and who potentially needs to access treatment. 

“Improving all of these different areas, for us, displays the strength of organizations that have responsible gaming intersect across multiple areas of business rather than having it as a silo.”

Looking to the future, Raines underlined the importance of setting out common safer gambling standards across the industry. 

He said: “Common standards in the industry via voluntary commitments by operators is a great way to enhance standards without operationally challenging state-by-state regulatory requirements. You look at things like the American Gaming Associations Responsible Marketing Code for Sports Wagering, which is a voluntary standard for advertising regulations that a number of operators have signed up for. Those are the types of initiatives that are great for the industry. They educate the public that not only is regulated wagering available but there are tools available to control their gambling.”

“Such common standards can facilitate a number of things. They allow the regulated industry to create standards that really separate it from the unregulated market, and helps build trust with the public.”

“Developing voluntary standards for responsible gaming across other business functions shows regulators and legislators that operators are taking this seriously. Collaboration between these stakeholders is crucial to ensure consumer protection and facilitate commercially positive results for operators who are competing with the offshore market. 

“By creating these standards, operators can demonstrate to the public and legislators the clear difference between the two, driving support for regulated activities and thereby reducing the size of the offshore market.

“We all want a long-term and sustainable industry for mobile wagering in the US. In the UK and Europe, you see negative public perceptions of the industry due to some of the fines that have been handed out due to social responsibility failings. So we definitely see in the short term that the digital channel must move to more common standards in the US to avoid a repeat in other global markets.”