A holistic approach to safer gambling – CSR

The Game Safety Institute wants to take a more holistic approach to player safety. This means the industry can take responsibility for its products and actions by understanding their true impact on the player. The real change here is to look at the product aspect of risk rather than assuming that the player is the risky part. What’s not to love?

The responsible gambling aspect of the industry has grown in recent years, with many companies emerging dedicated to analysis and prevention or taking an alternative view of the problem.

Although many excellent people are doing great work in this area, it is questionable whether progress has been made toward effective interventions for players.

Sarah Ramanauskas and Simo Dragicevic appear. Ramanauskas is well known in the industry through years of working with companies such as Gambling Integrity, BetKnowmore and The Howard League. Dragicevic is perhaps best known for his time at Playtech after founding BetBuddy. Their combined skills and departure from the norm in terms of approach appear to be a promising path to successful, long-term player management.

The pair’s new project, the Game Safety Institute (GSI), aims to incorporate all aspects of the gaming experience to create a multi-layered picture of the combined causes of harm to individuals. It’s an ambitious, exciting project, but does the industry really need another RG-focused company? Ramanauskas says yes because her approach is both new and valid. But what is it?

The Game Safety Institute
SIMO DRAGICEVIC and Sarah Ramanauskas, co-founders of the Game Safety Institute

“The Game Safety Institute is a starting point for any operator who wants to understand how they can make their consumers’ gaming products safer, more entertaining, more useful and in line with their customers’ needs,” she says.

“We put together a whole bunch of research insights, to which Simo contributed a lot, and started to transform the story from ‘We have some products that people want to play’ to ‘We have people who want what are the safest products.’ that you can give them to play with?’”

The key here seems to be a shift in focus. Where in the past the player’s obligation was to log out or select the tools that allowed them to take care of themselves, GSI wants to integrate security mechanisms at all points and levels of interaction that the player is not even aware of.

Before the game

“When we think about consumer protection and regulation, much of the focus is on the player,” explains Dragicevic. “And from a regulatory perspective, it’s really important to understand the player from different perspectives.

“Take the UK, where there is a lot of emphasis on responsible gambling tools to make them more efficient and better. With Gamstop you can exclude yourself from all online operators at one point. In SENSE there is the land-based equivalent.

“What you are seeing is a real tightening of regulations around the player and it will reach a point where there is not much you can do.”

Dragicevic adds that other factors play a role here – such as the environment, the product and whether the player suffers from harmful gaming behavior.

So where does an idea like the GSI come from?

“We met for lunch – fish and chips – and we both agreed that product safety would be the next big thing,” says Dragicevic. “We’re probably a little ahead of the curve on this, but we imagine it will come pretty quickly.”

However, being ahead can be both a blessing and a curse. This means the couple must establish the idea, prove it can work without destroying a business, and also explain it.

Institute for Gaming Safety
Dragicevic and Ramanauskas conducted research to find out how casinos and lotteries evaluate product safety

But it is also an opportunity to create standards by which everything that follows will be measured, and that is a golden opportunity. So what is the starting point for such a new concept?

“We started sending out a survey to some of our most popular lottery and casino operators around the world, asking them about product risk and product safety: Is this important to you?” continues Dragicevic. “What do you think? What do you currently use to decide whether your products are safe or not? Most of them came back and said, ‘This is a really important issue, we don’t think we necessarily do it particularly well.’ .”

“Then we worked to establish our ground rules, which means being a center of excellence and creating the brand that people go to when they think about product safety. And so the Game Safety Institute was born.”

Game Type

Think of roulette in its many forms. The basics of the game are the same across many platforms, but the potential damage to a player changes radically from game to game.

In a casino, you have people around you, a dealer who is (theoretically) trained to watch for problematic behavior, and a limited number of spins per minute; While there are more frequent spins on a live dealer platform, there is none of the social security that comes with face-to-face interaction.

A fixed odds betting terminal is a completely different animal, with much faster spin rates; A mechanical roulette would probably be in a casino, but might not be monitored… you get the point. And that’s just a game.

But it begs the question: How does the GSI define “unsafe” in a gambling environment?

“When you think about products, the element of risk is what defines gambling,” Dragicevic explains. “If you take away the element of risk, then it’s not gambling and it takes away a big part of the experience. Having that element of risk in the product is really important.”

The GSI team says it is developing an assessment framework that addresses game design, marketing and player training to enable an operator to assess elements of risk and their impact. It’s about helping operators look at product risk and safety from a strategic perspective and how the different elements work together – positively and negatively.

They are also working on a product intelligence platform. For slots, for example, this would mean providers being able to upload game metadata, mechanics and math. This would allow these ingredients to be assessed and segmented into different types of games and games.

A holistic approach

It’s the combination of these approaches that promises to be so impactful, looking at games, players, delivery methods and more in ways that simply haven’t been possible before. Operators will be able to build sustainable player relationships with insight into the actual risk factors for individuals. And it is the longer relationship that is much more valuable – after all, it is much cheaper to keep a player than to acquire one.

This also means that the traditional method of delivering RG is redundant: no responsible gambling messaging is required as this holistic, multi-layered approach integrates everything into the entire experience.

GSI develops an evaluation framework that focuses on game design, marketing and player education

“We don’t view responsible gambling as a separate thing outside of the player experience, which it currently is,” says Ramanauskas. “You come to a website and there are some deposit limits or loss limits, but that’s not actually part of your gaming experience. It’s just four clicks away, on another page that contains dire words about problem gambling.

“Attracting a new customer to your website is about understanding what they want to do. Why are they here? This is what the gambling industry should do to make gambling safer. It’s about integrating it into the product.”

Dragicevic agrees.

“Responsible gambling should be invisible,” he states. “You shouldn’t have to think about that. There should be policies in place that mean it’s not about squeezing every last drop from that player, and those policies shouldn’t be overridden by other aspects of the business.

“It shouldn’t be, ‘Oh, use the deposit limits.’ It’s entirely up to you to set your deposit limit.’ It should be more nuanced.”

Sales risk?

Of course, there is a risk for operators that if they act responsibly they run the very real risk of losing valuable players to the competition. Then there’s the quarterly dividend, which is so often the driver of short-term decisions.

But Ramanauskas also points out that the people who work behind the scenes are also extremely important.

“Yes, one group of stakeholders is the shareholders – but another important group is your employees,” she says. “There is a particular operator who has finally had their license revoked in the UK and I was looking at their employee reviews on Glassdoor. they were horrific. One said something like, “I go home at night knowing that I have made immoral decisions and am doing the wrong thing.”

“If the gaming industry really wants to attract and retain good staff, it needs to show that it is doing right by its players.” If your employees feel like they are being forced to make the wrong decisions, make moral decisions if they try to convince players to spend more than they can afford, then you will have very high staff turnover and unhappy employees – and you won “I won’t be able to attract the best talent.”

The responsible approach seems to be a win-win situation across the board.

Headshot by Jon Bruford

Jon Bruford has worked in the gaming industry for over 17 years, formerly as Managing Editor of Casino International and currently as Publishing Director at The Gaming Boardroom, alongside Kate Chambers and Greg Saint. He owns a large dog with a sensitive stomach and spends his free time learning about stain removal.

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