With Responsible Gambling Education Month in full swing, Odds on Compliance’s Director of Regulatory Affairs John Wellendorf discusses the regulatory requirements operators need to satisfy on the responsible gaming front and how the key to success with RG comes from proactively monitoring activity instead of simply responding to problems.
Responsible gaming is the focal point of the year for internet sports wagering operators. In the early days of sports wagering, the requirements for responsible gambling were clear: having deposit limits, loss/wagering limits, a cool-off functionality, and integration with the state’s self-exclusion program in jurisdictions where it exists. However, over time, regulators have placed more responsibility on operators to develop internal responsible gaming plans that explicitly outline the steps the operator will take to address problem gambling on their platform. These steps must then be approved by regulators as sufficient, with regulators actively monitoring operator progress and compliance with the plan.
Some specific examples over the past year include Massachusetts, Colorado, and Ohio, all of which have published new responsible gaming plan requirements and RG training mandates this year. Similarly, New Jersey’s new requirements require additional staffing for responsible gaming. This article will outline how a small or medium-sized operator can efficiently meet these requirements.
Responsible gaming awareness
Awareness should be considered from both an internal and external standpoint. While all staff members should receive responsible gaming training, operators should also educate employees about direct patron contact more frequently and with more detail. Training efforts should include how employees can recognize signs of compulsive and problem gambling, techniques to discuss gambling disorders with patrons, and advising patrons about responsible gaming features offered through the site’s online wagering platform, the state’s voluntary exclusion program, and how to access available treatment resources in their jurisdiction.
From a marketing perspective, in addition to the required helpline in advertisements, materials should also be reviewed to ensure the company does not promote irresponsible or excessive participation in gaming or suggest that social, financial, or personal success is guaranteed by engaging in gaming. Additionally, ads should never be displayed in a manner that targets or specifically appeals to individuals under twenty-one years old or in venues where most of the audience at events will be under 21 years of age.
From a system design perspective, the RG tools, player protection page, and resources for problem gambling help should be displayed to allow users to access the information quickly. Recent research shows that problem gamblers can experience mental anguish after a loss, like a panic attack. Being able to quickly and easily access resources to help can significantly improve the likelihood that a problem gambler will seek assistance.
Behind the scenes, operators should allocate business intelligence resources to build analytics that trained RG staff can use to prevent problem gambling from escalating to extreme outcomes. Smaller companies with limited data resources can still create daily reports that monitor increases in player deposits or turnover, time spent on the platform, deposit frequency, frequency of visiting RG tools within the platform, or withdrawal cancellations.
Larger companies can go a step further and create analytics that predict customer behavior based on known triggers. RG staff can then proactively contact these patrons and provide long-term solutions and local resources that the individual can access to address any problem gambling they might be experiencing. The analysis of these reports and the subsequent actions that the operator will take as a result of the analysis should be thoroughly documented and reviewed by management. In extreme cases, an operator should proactively choose to suspend an account that displays numerous warning signs of problem gambling.
It is also crucial that customer service staff can quickly and efficiently respond to more qualitative crises. Customer service is typically the first line of defense in combating problem gambling as they have direct contact with patrons and can view data on the patron’s account in real time. A properly trained customer support staff is the most effective way to address problem gambling as they have direct access to the individuals who may be struggling. With that said, the longer an operator delays responding to a patron experiencing signs of problem gambling, the less effective that response will be.
Customer service staff should have clear guidelines in place for what to do in specific situations. For example, suppose a customer expresses concerns about addiction risks, inquiries about player protection, views gambling as an alternative to work, or demonstrates unusually high involvement (emotional, time, financial). In that case, customer service staff should direct the individual to available RG resources both within the platform and externally. Suppose more serious statements are made by a patron, such as threats against themselves or others. In that case, direct statements of addiction or disordered gambling or references to existential financial, professional, social, or emotional problems caused by gambling, customer service staff should be prepared and authorized to take direct action, including proactively suspending the patron’s gaming account and contacting local authorities.
Responsible gaming has emerged as a pivotal focus for internet sports wagering operators in the current landscape. As regulatory expectations evolve, operators are tasked with more comprehensive strategies to address problem gambling. The paradigm shift encompasses internal and external awareness, wherein educating staff about identifying and assisting patrons with gambling disorders gains paramount importance. Moreover, adherence to responsible marketing practices and intuitive system design to swiftly offer resources to struggling individuals can substantially enhance the efficacy of intervention. Through proactive monitoring and insightful analysis of patron behaviors, operators can pre-emptively reach out to those showing signs of problematic gambling, backed by clear procedures for timely and appropriate responses. By adopting this holistic approach, the industry demonstrates its commitment to fostering a safer and more responsible gaming environment for all.