When EPIC Risk Management announced the appointment of Teresa Fiore as VP of Partnerships earlier this month, CEO Paul Buck pointed to her versatility and variety of perspectives in the gambling industry.
Fiore boasts a plethora of gaming experience from both the regulatory and operator sides of the industry, having worked with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and more recently PointsBet US. At the latter, she was Responsible Gambling and Corporate Social Responsibility Manager.
But after getting a taste of what things are like on the operator and regulatory side of the industry, what drew Fiore to the responsible gambling and problem gambling support side of things?
Well, she explained that the reputation that EPIC Risk Management boasts, as well as the opportunity to have a deeper social purpose, offered a fantastic opportunity to further her development.
“I have been familiar with EPIC for a number of years and I’ve always really been struck by the authenticity of their mission,” she explained. “I think it’s so incredible to have such passion around a social cause deeply embedded within a very serious business environment with the added complexity of it being regulated. I find that intersection is challenging as I do fascinating.”
In her new role as VP of Partnerships, Fiore will be the “sedentary” member of the team, ensuring that the organization is running efficiently and making the most out of those relationships with sports teams while many of the US team members are traveling around the country.
Furthermore, she will be charged with maintaining and growing relationships that EPIC has with several player associations.
Fiore explained: “How do we establish the brand in a meaningful way within the US? It’s something that I always go back to – social missions. They’re incredible, but there’s so much and all these different stakeholders need to be involved.
“My experience on the gaming regulator side and then on the operator side (means) I have a really unique perspective, which is complementary to a lot of the other staff at EPIC.”
Some of the relationships that EPIC currently has is with sporting player associations including the NFLPA’s Professional Athletes Foundation, the MLS Players Association, and the NCAA.
Whilst EPIC provides educational sessions and services to these associations and athletes to warn of the damage that gambling can have, it would be remiss to gloss over some of the issues that these sports have faced this year.
Several high-profile NFL stars have faced suspensions after breaking the league’s gambling policy, meanwhile, in the NCAA, some student-athletes in Iowa are facing criminal action after admitting to underage gambling.
Fiore and EPIC are not shying away from these issues and this is something that the organization is talking about “very regularly”.
The new VP of Partnerships explained that EPIC helps to contextualize the league policies and provide real-life examples and skills to help athletes stay away from flouting those rules.
Describing these issues as “deeply personal,” Fiore elaborated: “It’s very different when you have an individual who’s going out and attentionally breaking rules just for the sake of breaking rules. But, particularly with student-athletes, they’re young.
“So it’s about sharing our experience with them as people who have experienced all sorts of issues as a result of their gambling, and having that meaningful, honest conversation with them and making sure that they understand what they can do to equip themselves, to protect themselves, their team and university.”
Both the NFL and NCAA have updated their guidance on gambling policies this year in reaction to these violations, but have both encountered criticism for being complex.
Fiore noted that EPIC does communicate with the leagues over these policies, but there could be more work to be done to overcome these complexities and ensure that athletes don’t forget about them as soon as they leave the training facility.
Asked about these complexities, she explained: “When we think of a professional athlete being delivered a set of rules, it’s easy to go away after training and forget those things and why breaking those rules has issues well beyond just the individual.
“I think that a lot of the leagues and colleges recognize that and they’re making strides to mitigate that, but, of course, there’s a lot of work to be done.”
EPIC, as a problem gambling support organization, will always strive to have a dialogue with the leagues to help shape their policies, but the firm is rooted in its USP of boots-on-the-ground support and educational sessions to reduce harm.
Still so early into her new career with EPIC, Fiore has witnessed some of these sessions take place, specifically with a college football team and explained how engaged the athletes were with the material.
She was “pleasantly surprised” about these reactions and how receptive the team was to questions and interacting with the sessions. But the fact that EPIC needs to exist highlights that there is a problem with gambling and Fiore is intent to help bring together key stakeholders to help reduce these issues.
“Everyone is thinking about this within the context of their own organization, but in order to really meaningfully combat it, I think a lot of people need to be engaged. That’s inclusive of administrative services within the University working with the athletic department, mental health treatment services, and then in the US, they have oftentimes state-funded and underfunded, problem gambling councils.”
Fiore will be striving to streamline EPIC’s operations and maximize those relationships while fostering new long-term partnerships to achieve the “ultimate goal of taking the problem out of gambling”.