Setting a Benchmark for Responsible Gambling
Originally published on SBC Americas by Erin-Marie Gallagher.
As more states begin to embrace online gambling legislation, it is becoming increasingly apparent that legislators must place responsible gaming practices at the forefront of the agenda should the US wish to avoid some of the mistakes made by its European counterparts.
And according to Declan Raines, Head of Strategic Planning for US Gaming at TransUnion, this focus on responsible gambling 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 for bettors.
"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 over 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 those events.
"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 gambling 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 gambling and advertising are two components which must be addressed if gambling legislation 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 Sweden, 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 gambling strategy 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 retail 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."
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 address of the bettor. That makes it difficult to make informed and responsible decisions.
"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 the big companies like FanDuel, who has Paddy Power and Betfair in the UK, or BetMGM via the Entain team. 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. Having made a name for themselves for providing KYC and fraud prevention tools, TransUnion has found itself at the forefront of responsible gaming practices – most notably in the UK.
This experience, the Head of Strategic Planning for 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 tools to some of 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, our marketing capabilities facilitate an identity-focused approach. Not only is this materially more effective than using a broader, behavior approach that you currently see, but identity focused approach also gives operators significant control over their messaging and who sees it.
"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 pay enormous efficiency and will improve responsible gaming practices in the US."
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 of players at first contact; you’re having a thorough understanding of who they are and their activities. This then allows you to deploy responsible gaming practices as early as possible which is going to protect players at the earliest point.
"Oftentimes, fraud and responsible gaming are linked unknowingly. If you think about someone stealing a credit card to try and fund that betting account, that can be a responsible gaming issue, especially in examples where addiction is playing a role.
"So the capability to provide identity and digital attributes and information to operators can help operators to understand the nuances of identity and fraud and understand 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 a common safer gambling standard across industry.
He drew particular attention to the American Gaming Association’s Have A Game Plan[I] which sets out a standard for advertising regulations, suggesting that such initiatives can help deter players from gambling via offshore sites.
He said: "I think common standards in the industry will help here. You look at things like the American gaming associations have a game plan, that is a voluntary standard for advertising regulations that a number of operators have signed up to, and those are the types of initiatives that the industry should be moving towards
"Such common standards can facilitate a number of things. It allows the regulated industry to create standards that really separate it from the unregulated market, which is what we’re trying to do.
"We really want to emphasize that this is a very heavily regulated industry, and that these companies are deploying procedures in line with a regulated market, but they are taking this seriously and the voluntary standard goes some way to demonstrating to regulators that they are deploying very robust responsible gambling practices. This definitely helps boost trust with the public too.
"There’s somewhat of a negative association with the gambling industry due to some of the fines that have been handed out due to social responsibility failings. The gambling industry really needs to try to build trust with the public to ensure a long term and sustainable industry. So we definitely see in the short that the digital channel must move to more common standards."