“Responsible Gaming Should Be Front and Center”
Michael Pollock, Spectrum Gaming Group's Managing Director, spoke on the keys to socially Responsible Gaming (RG). Here's what he told us
As gaming operators adopt a more socially responsible stance, and regulators apply heavier scrutiny into CRM promotional practices in Real Money Gaming/gambling, mitigating problematic behaviors and cultivating healthier gaming practices is becoming increasingly important.
In a recent interview he gave us, Michael Pollock, Spectrum Gaming Group’s Managing Director – talked to us on how socially responsible gaming has evolved over the years and what it should mean to operators today.
Can you describe what it means for a company to care more about RG rather than revenue, or vice versa?
In the modern gaming world, which includes land-based casinos, sports betting, digital, and all gaming forms, I would suggest that you don’t have to choose between revenue and socially RG.
The companies that tend to be the most profitable and the market leaders are the ones that take responsibility seriously for a number of reasons:
One – if you’re irresponsible, you’re leaving your customers dry. You want the customer to afford what they are spending. That’s the heart of responsible gaming.
Two, if you want the public’s trust and to be recognized as one that can be trusted with their money, RG has to be front and center in your business practices. If not, you’re not going to be a market leader.
And three, if you don’t take responsibility seriously, regulators will prevent your brand from renewing your license.
Do you feel that the regulator evaluates and ranks how responsible an operator is and can then incentivize them?
The incentive is giving them a license. It has to do with reviewing their practices policies and seeing how they operate in realtime in the real world, and then determining whether the operator meets that particular jurisdiction’s standards.
So, the license would be something that is renewed every year?
Not necessarily. It depends on the jurisdiction. For example, even if it doesn’t renew every year, the operator is continuously responsible for doing what the license requires.
Raise the Bar
Do you feel that some companies try to do the bare minimum?
I hope not. Companies have to buy into the concept. They have to incorporate that concept into their culture and business plans – doing the minimum is not sufficient. Not if you want to become a market leader.
On the flip side of that, it’s up to the regulators to make sure that the low bar is not too low so that if they’re doing the minimum – they’re still doing a lot.
You said earlier that RG needs to be front and center. Is this something you think operators should be putting out there as part of their advertising and branding?
Yes, and many of them already recognize that. When RG just started being a thing, operators were asked to put a short risk disclosure in small letters at the bottom of the ad. In the early days, that was the beginning, middle, and end of RG.
It didn’t work, and Smarter operators started to recognize that RG needs to be part of the brand and business culture. That’s how you gain market share – and that’s a big reason to do so.
Are operators heavily invested in educational campaigns?
Indeed. There are some excellent programs out there that do precisely that – educate the public.
Since there’s plenty of data that can tell when someone may have a gambling problem – such as playing frequency and betting patterns – educating the consumer to recognize this is very important.
To Technology, and Beyond
From a tech perspective, what technology solutions would be most valuable for operators to help with RG?
I think that the outstanding tech companies, like Optimove, will be able to pick up patterns – like comparing what would essentially be a normal pattern and then look for something irregular in a player’s gaming activity.
So, technology is extremely valuable in differentiating one subset of consumers from others and differentiating how a consumer may change their betting patterns over time.
Do independent researchers and/or academia play a role in this environment?
Absolutely, academia is now a big part of RG.
When I started studying the gaming industry over 40 years ago, problem gambling was not even considered as something that was a diagnosable mental illness. Today, academia plays a significant part in identifying the problem and how RG policies and practices are growing.
When you say policies, does it have to do with the regulator being in contact with the academia?
In certain instances, yes. Our company has also done many studies in the public domain that we are pleased to share (Spectrum Gaming Group Resources).
How do you see RG in the U.S. evolving?
We’re still learning about it over time as there are always new forms of gaming evolving – lottery, e-sports, mobile sports betting, and more. As these new technologies emerge, we can learn more and more.
It has to do with constant monitoring of data to find new patterns, issues, and solutions. It’s a continual, never-ending process.
Make this a Priority
Do you think there needs to be a way for multi-brand operators to calculate a customer’s affordability across all games, and apply it to the player’s accounts across all platforms? Ie. Calculate a score that predicts their affordability, cross-brands, maybe even in nationwide level?
To a certain degree, yes. It’s just hard to do it directly, but there needs to be a shared understanding across the country and different brands and operators. In many jurisdictions, there’s a self-exclusion list, for instance, which should apply to every entity in that jurisdiction. But there is a case for broader mechanisms.
Are there any challenges you think should be prioritized in the industry?
The pioneering companies that have been around for a long time usually get it (the importance of RG). But the new companies that come around and just enter this field often don’t get it. There’s a concern that they don’t really understand how to make RG a priority, and there has to be a universal understanding. That this is everyone’s issue, that’s the challenge.
Michael Pollock oversees all economic studies performed by Spectrum, including impact studies for governments and feasibility studies for private-sector clients. His international work includes projects in Cyprus, Spain, Greece, Guam, and Korea. He leads Spectrum’s work as Executive Director of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS).