Martin Lycka sings a siren song for responsible gambling leaders and workers

Entain's Martin Lycka and Problem Gambling Awareness Month
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As Entain’s SVP for American Regulatory Affairs and Responsible Gambling, Martin Lycka spends 12 months thinking about problem gambling and how the industry can respond to it. With the start of Problem Gambling Awareness Month, he takes an opportunity to reflect on the work done year-round while the industry has RG efforts on the brain.

March has rolled around yet again and PGAM is upon us here in the States. Problem Gambling Awareness Month is what the four-letter moniker stands for. It’s an annual grassroots campaign designed to raise awareness about the problem gambling phenomenon. Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s one of the most important initiatives on the industry’s calendar that continues to play a critical role in improving the long-term sustainability of our businesses, particularly in a country that has seen more than 30 states regulate sports betting in less than five years. So how about we seek to dissect the meaning of PGAM and use the proverbial crystal ball to try to foretell where it is headed in the near as well as more distant future? 

First of all, dear reader, I appreciate that I may have gained a bit of a reputation in the last few years for evangelizing about problem, or rather responsible, gambling. No need to worry. These lines are not meant to turn into one of my usual sermons. And if they do come across as such for using too much corporate speak or prophecizing statements, I will have failed in today’s quest to demonstrate that there is much more to PGAM than the avalanche of PR/RG-related press releases we’re bound to see throughout March. 

Don’t get me wrong, the industry commitments reflected in the releases are significant and truly appreciated. It must be said though, in the above spirit of “more to it”, that PGAM has a heart. A beating heart represented by all the folks on the frontline preventing and combating gambling addiction. The likes of the staff of the national as well as state problem gambling councils or helpline operators. World-class researchers.  People with lived experience who have plucked up the enormous courage to share their life stories. RG teams of individual operators in addition to well-known figures that have taken on roles of RG champions, ranging from the Mannings to the Oakleys. 

In other words, as I would hate to forget naming a particular category, all the people with passion for helping those who may not be, or are no longer, able to control their compulsion to gamble. These are the unsung heroes for whom we need to be signing at the top of our voices; or, if they happen to be heroes that have already been sung about, sing about them even louder. 

I might not have “lived experience” in the sense of having plunged into the abyss of gambling addiction (and coming back) but, at the same time, I have been absolutely privileged throughout my career so far (and long may it last still) to come across or even work with many of the PGAM heroes. Let me take this opportunity to thank you all for helping me create my own lived, or rather even life experience, and do allow me to be one of your bards and sing legends about you as this is what you are for me, legends. 

Having done that, I have promised the reader a dissection and I do intend to deliver on that promise. It is very clear that we do have the people that can and to fly the PG/RG flag. As an industry we also have the platform and the means to do it. So how have we been doing it and what, at least I believe, comes next: 

Every licensed operator has a PG/RG program and tools and I dare say they are not shy to continue improving and upgrading them further and work with others to make the industry an even better and safer place. Without tooting our own horn, a group of leading operators has gotten together and pledged to respect a set of RG principles throughout its operations. It’s a set of 12 principles that we have nailed like Martin Luther on the door of our industry church and shall abide by. In parallel, other well-respected organizations have been singing from the same hymn sheet and made commitments or released rules, codes, and RG programs of their own, including the likes of NCPG, AGA, and NCLGS as well as individual states from New Jersey to Colorado. I dare say that it is all coming together now; making sure that we have a responsible and sustainable industry has truly become one of our leading imperatives and rationales as all these efforts will no doubt continue going forward.

As this bard’s song is coming to an end, the one final thing to call out is that despite the monthly nature of PGAM, responsible gambling is a year-long commitment. Not that I would be suggesting a “PGAY”, i.e. a Problem Gambling Awareness Year – not least because my peers would arguably not have too many nice words to say about if we were to have to go through what effectively would be 12 PGAMs. What I’m trying to say is that PGAM is an opportunity to celebrate and highlight what we have been doing throughout the year and ponder what we can and must need do next. This is because, to continue with the ML(K) theme, we still have a dream that one day we shall educate all those who seek education, deploy the most efficient prevention tools for all those who will have chosen to use them, and treat all those who require treatment.