In today’s world, advancements in technology are coming at a more rapid pace than ever before.
Understanding the available tools and the needs of a consumer when it comes to technology is a challenge facing many industries. The same can be said for many advocacy groups.
Responsible Gaming certainly fits into that mold.
As part of Responsible Gaming Education Month, the American Gaming Association recently held a webinar with industry leaders looking at how technology is changing the approach to RG.
Learning on the fly
Responsible Gaming and Problem Gambling Awareness is something that’s come to the forefront in recent years. That’s due to the expansion of online sports betting and iGaming around the country.
The philosophies of RG that applied to retail casinos are far different than what is needed for online gambling. In that regard, Responsible Gaming Awareness is still somewhat new in its online efforts.
“I think we’re at like that teenager position. We’ve all sort of figured out where we’re at on our own, and now we’re starting to come together. Now we can figure out how we can work together and how all of those voices, although they’re different opinions and different voices and different perspectives, how they come together to add to such as a great thing. I think it’s an exciting time for RG right now. There’s a lot of growing and learning that’s taking place,” said Jamie Costello, Director of Programs at the National Council on Problem Gambling.
One of the notable changes recently has been adjusting the National Problem Gambling Hotline from 1-800-522-4700 to 1-800-GAMBLER (426-2537). That’s a more recognizable number that is easier for people to remember when seeking help.
Ability to find help for problem gambling privately
The NCPG is also working toward transitioning the texting system over to a more identifiable number. They recognize that some gamblers may be apprehensive to speak to a stranger over the phone in the beginning.
Messaging systems have become a big aspect of RG awareness across all platforms of gambling.
Personal anonymity is important when discussing a potential addiction issue. In today’s world of online gaming, users have the ability to seek answers privately from their computers and phones.
Now, responsible gaming advocacy groups are also able to have private message conversations with those seeking help. It’s a more discrete and anonymous way to get them direct information they can use.
“There’s the ability to get so many more tools out and to educate (online). I think there’s also the element of anonymity online, which can be considered a barrier to Responsible Gambling and player protection. But, it also can be a barrier buster for people looking for help,” Costello said. “I might not be likely to pick up a brochure at a store or at a treatment center. But online, I can look at those tools and utilize those tools, without you knowing.”
The online gambler finds themselves comfortable in their own private setting. That is where advocates for RG also believe they will be most comfortable seeking out helpful information.
“I think that’s where we get with a lot of people who are struggling with gambling-related problems, they’re not ready to admit it publicly. But, they’re kind of exploring that internally, or families and friends are exploring that internally,” Costello added. “Using technology gives them the ability to do that in a space that they’re comfortable in. I think the technology really affords us that opportunity.”
How operators play a role in responsible gambling
Online sports betting and online gambling also provide the operators with a lot of metric information that retail casinos can’t quite provide.
Each wager, spin of a wheel or deposit is put into an electronic logbook that operators can analyze.
While some users may be uncomfortable with the thought, it can also be a protective shield for responsible gambling.
“At the end of the day, the challenge is trying to correctly identify those players who might be experiencing harm. That is clearly what data, what technology, and what explainable AI helps us to do,” said Charmaine Hogan, Head of Regulatory Affairs at Playtech. “You’re being able to focus on the individual player. You are able to look at all types of players and intervene appropriately and accordingly. You’re moving away or allowed to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach. So not just the traditional approach.. You’re now adding to that, and you’re trying to spot those signs of problematic play early on and intervening accordingly.”
Operators are now able to use their data to recognize when a player is being sporadic or is showing signs of problem gambling.
From there, operators can reach out directly and privately to a user and guide them through available RG options. Those can include RG tools like deposit and wager limits, or time limits on the app.
“I mean, the beauty of it is, it is not simply a scoreboard that counts how much time or money have you spent online. It’s looking at the payment systems, the payment methods, fluctuation in the use of that. How often are you increasing your frequency? Are you chasing losses? Are deposits declining? Am I playing later and later? These are all key, key markers that can in turn be given to the operator and can encourage them to reach out to the user for assistance and direction,” Hogan added.
Hogan noted that when PlayTech intervened with a user, 1 of 3 players set a deposit limit within an hour of having an online conversation.
Do operators really want to help?
To some it may seem contradictory for a casino operator to want to help a problem gambler or endorse responsible gaming.
But, having well-informed, responsible gamblers as consumers creates a longer relationship between player and operator.
During the early stages of football season we have seen fewer advertising from online sportsbook operators and an increase in RG promotional material.
You’ve likely seen DraftKings’ recent social media advertisements for responsible gaming that have featured skateboarding legend Tony Hawk and WWE’s The Miz.
DraftKings has also been recently pushing their education hubs, which are on the application to give new users more of an understanding how online gambling works.
“One of the things that I’m really proud of that we’ve done is we have created education hubs. Before anyone gets on or has to spend money and kind of get engaged, they can go into an education hub and get step-by-step instructions, through tutorials and videos, explaining how to play the different games, how to read the odds, etc.,” said Christine H. Thurmond, Director of Responsible Gaming at DraftKings.
All operators are also required to offer up responsible gaming tools that we’ve previously discussed. Thurmond believes those tools are still carrying a stigma that RG advocates need to continue to work to eliminate.
“The opportunity to destigmatize tool usage is extremely important because we see tools as a wonderful parameter for people to set a play experience that makes the most sense for them,” Thurmond said. “So we really encourage people to use them. We have tools, and we explain how to use the tools and how to engage with our tools. I think that’s really important.”
All hands on deck for responsible gaming
A clear message from this week’s webinar was that all RG advocates are a united front.
Regardless of what operator or company one works for, they are all working collaboratively to make positive strides in responsible gaming.
“Collaboration is the key. Really, in the end, we all want the same thing,” Costello said. “We all want players who are struggling to get the help that they need. At the end of the day, it might look different for all of us who might be coming at it with different colored glasses on. But at the end of the day, that’s what we all want. I think we’re getting there.”
The advancements in technology, combined with the collaborative efforts of the industry, also should help lead to positive changes being made.
“What technology allows us to do is provide more resources, more information, more contacts to the state councils where people reside,” Thurmond said. “We can get that information out to people and we can provide collaborative information as a group. When the message is coming from one collective voice, it carries a greater impact.”
Responsible Gaming Education Month ends this week. However, advocates want the discussion to remain at the forefront of anything to do with online gambling.
“It has to be part of our culture,” Costello said. “Responsible gambling has to be part of every single conversation. When we’re talking about marketing and customer acquisition, it has to be a part of the conversation. You don’t talk about a balanced diet without talking about fruits and vegetables, you just wouldn’t. So, we can’t have any conversation in any gaming environment without talking about responsible gambling.”
If you or anyone you know needs help with their gambling-related issue, you can call the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-270-7117 for local assistance.