Responsible gambling 2017/18 in review

The last year has seen an increased focus by the Government, the Gambling Commission and wider stakeholders on building collective understanding of the harm that can arise from gambling, and the efforts to identify and interact appropriately with customers showing signs of problem gambling.

Whilst the prevalence of problem gambling appears broadly stable, Rank does not view this as a success story. Our focus as a responsible operator must be to continue to innovate, learn and become ever more sophisticated in our approach to reducing the social impact of problem gambling. Furthermore, we acknowledge the growing calls for the industry to direct its efforts not only to supporting problem gamblers, but also to the better early detection of risk and concerning behaviour amongst customers.

During the year, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (‘DCMS’) completed its review of gaming machines and social responsibility. As an expansion of previous triennial reviews of machine stakes and prizes, this review for the first time included in its scope consideration of existing social responsibility safeguards against the growing evidence and understanding of problem gambling risk. The review concluded with a clear call to action to the industry to continue to invest and enhance its response to problem gambling. Rank broadly welcomes the findings of the DCMS review and the package of measures put forward for both our retail and digital businesses. We remain committed to demonstrating that our industry can grow in a socially responsible manner.

Whilst detecting a risk of harm in the first instance is a complex matter, Rank is making use of available data to create alert systems which will ensure that we are increasingly identifying customers at an earlier stage, giving us a greater chance to interact with them and, where possible, help avoid any issues in the first instance.

In our digital business, we benefit from extensive and detailed transactional data and our investment in data science techniques and dedicated resource has allowed us to build models based on a wide range of known problem gambling ‘markers’. In the past year we have further refined our models, using insights from wider industry research, as well as taking the time to critically review and evaluate our approach internally. Customers identified by our models are exposed to a range of interventions, each of which are in turn being evaluated and assessed to confirm their effectiveness, or to otherwise inform their further development.

Equivalent initiatives can be seen in our retail business, where we are progressing a trial of customer risk identification in partnership with Focal Research, a specialist organisation based in Canada, and alongside other members of the National Casino Forum. We are also committed to seeing through our previous promises of introducing additional safeguards on our gambling machines.

In the latter part of this year Mecca, along with other Bingo Association members, will begin trialling enhanced social responsibility messaging in a number of clubs and is also considering how it may add further safeguards, in particular to gaming machines.


Responsible gambling in the year ahead

2018/19 will see several initiatives implemented, designed to:

  • increase the number of customers, VIP and non-VIP, with whom we are engaging in safer gambling conversations about their play;
  • continue to build the accuracy of our early detection systems, including identifying more opportunities for real-time risk identification;
  • start to understand how we might assess affordability at an earlier stage in customer relationships;
  • build on the existing range of ‘tools’ available to our customers to help them manage their play, including limits and reality checks on machines in our casinos; and
  • evaluate and assess the impact and effectiveness of our responsible gambling policies and procedures, to inform future development and investment.

Cross-industry working

Rank has always believed in the value of working closely with sector partners and particularly within our respective bingo, casino and online trade association networks. However, we acknowledge Government calls for even wider industry collaboration and sharing of best practice. Further to this, in the coming year we will be seeking more ways to share insight on what we are doing at Rank and to learn from others.

We intend not only to expand our efforts to share best practice and increase our learning opportunities, but to identify projects on which we can collaborate with other operators to trial new techniques or approaches to managing problem gambling risk.

In April 2018, we welcomed the arrival of the GAMSTOP service – a multi-operator self-exclusion scheme for online gambling. Now, along with the SENSE scheme (for land-based casinos) and BISES (for land-based bingo) anyone experiencing a gambling problem or concerned that they may be at risk of problem gambling and who plays with our brands, online or offline, will be able to prevent their access on a national basis. For online gambling, in particular, we recognise that for too long problem gamblers have been vulnerable to the ease of creating new accounts with another online operator, having entered self-exclusions elsewhere. With similar ease, someone can now register with GAMSTOP and prevent their own access from all Gambling Commission-licensed operators, which will, we hope, come as a welcome intervention to those suffering the most.

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