A key part of our strategy is building sustainable relationships with our customers by providing them with a safe environment in which to play, whether at our venues or online. We also continue to refine our response to the risk of gambling-related harm, working on an ongoing basis to improve the way in which we identify and interact with those customers who show signs of problems with gambling, or who may be at risk of playing beyond an affordable level. We seek not only to comply with our regulatory requirements, but to embed safer gambling as a key driver of behaviour amongst our colleagues and for our customers. Understanding the views of our customers is also key to ensuring that the approach that we take to safety and meeting our customers’ needs is appropriate and we continue to engage with our customers and conduct research to ensure that we adopt a customer-centric approach to our decision-making.
Player protection and our approach to improving Rank’s safer gambling measures and culture remain at the highest possible level of importance and priorities for Rank. We have actively sought to ensure that safer gambling is part of every conversation whether about product development, venue layout, marketing or the roll out of new technology, and that such conversations also reflect customer and regulator feedback and other industry developments.
Our work in this area continues to be managed through a dedicated workstream within Rank’s transformation programme (with weekly touchpoints and fortnightly steercos), for which the Venues Managing Director and Digital Managing Director are joint sponsors, ensuring that the operations are themselves accountable for ongoing development and delivery of safer gambling initiatives. This work is overseen by the ESG & Safer Gambling Committee (please see pages 102 to 105 of our 2021 annual report for more information about the Committee), which receives progress reports, together with key data points and trend analysis.
In Grosvenor, we used periods of lockdown to improve training, technology and processes to ensure that on reopening our colleagues had refreshed tools and knowledge to enable them to have more effective interactions with customers who show at-risk behaviours. An example of this is our ‘Don’t Leave It To Chance’ safer gambling programme. This one-day workshop, delivered by webinar, provides our teams in Grosvenor with a deeper understanding of why safer gambling is so important to their roles. It was a key part of the programme of training for colleagues returning from furlough and ahead of reopening. During the year, we also reviewed our approach to affordability in Grosvenor and introduced a new interaction framework that focuses on ensuring colleagues understand and confirm why we are holding the interaction, what was discussed during the interaction, and any steps agreed as an outcome of such interaction (either with the customer or by the business).
In Mecca, we also focused on ways to remind our colleagues of the importance of customer interaction when welcoming customers back to our venues post-lockdown. Specific guidance and training was provided to all venues managers to ensure a greater frequency of interactions with customers on reopening due to the potential impact of COVID-19 on personal and financial circumstances. Colleagues were asked to interact with customers to determine if they had been impacted by COVID-19 and to remind them of the availability of player protection tools such as machine limits. During the year, we also released the Anonymous Player Awareness System (‘APAS’) across the Mecca B3 Videobet Platform terminals. This system generates additional prompts for player interactions on ‘Chaotic Play’ and ‘Extended Loss’ as identified by an algorithm that tracks and evaluates customer play behaviour.
In digital, the additional measures that we had introduced in response to the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, and bolstered following the UK Gambling Commission’s ('Commission') publication of supplementary interaction guidance in May 2020, continued to increase the number of interactions at an earlier stage during the year, the number of customers suspended or limited on a precautionary basis and the promotion of safer gambling tools and their use on site and across media. Following a review of our user journeys, we introduced a new project with revised initiatives at the start of the calendar year to reassess how the business makes risk-based decisions in its digital business. The project was devised to provide clear focus and priority to evaluating our approach to safer gambling and customer interaction and ensure (based on a test and evaluate approach) that we are focusing on those customers who may be ‘at-risk’ with meaningful, more tailored assessments and interactions.
For both venues and digital, during the year we implemented a new reward and high-value customer policy. This encompasses all reward and loyalty programmes and sets out a refreshed and consistent approach across the business, including in relation to the checks to be conducted prior to upgrade within any such programme and ongoing monitoring thereafter. A review of our approach was already underway through our engagement with the Betting and Gaming Council’s High Value Customer (‘HVC’) working group. The Commission subsequently issued its own guidance on management of high-value customers in September 2020 (implemented 31 October 2020). Our new policy fully considers the position set out by the Commission, and the Betting and Gaming Council’s Industry Code of Conduct for HVCs.
Our cultural change assessment, part of our programme to further embed a safer gambling ethos within the business, was put on hold earlier in the year as a result of so many colleagues being on furlough. However, we were delighted that we were able to commence this work in May 2021, issuing surveys to colleagues around the business. The purpose of this work is to review our current activity, highlight gaps for further activity and establish metrics to measure our progress in delivering a safer gambling culture. It is intended to help us to understand better the way that our colleagues at all levels of the business currently think about safer gambling and take actions in their day to day roles to ensure their customers are gambling safely, and where we can improve this even more going forwards. The actions following the results of the surveys are currently being developed and the outcome of such work will influence how we introduce new initiatives and prioritise them going forwards.
Details of other key safer gambling initiatives introduced during the year can be found on page 29 in our 2021 annual report under our committed to safe and fair gambling strategic update.
We continue to evaluate the impact of the initiatives that have been introduced, so as to enable adjustments to be made as appropriate.
In addition to reflecting on our own internal work, we continue to collaborate with industry groups, primarily the Betting and Gaming Council and the Bingo Association, our peers and our regulators to discuss the shared objectives of improving safer gambling and player protection for the benefit of our customers. We have also engaged with Government throughout the year as discussions continue on the widescale review of gambling legislation in the UK. We are committed to ensuring that vulnerable customers are protected and customers who experience no gambling-related harm are able to carry on enjoying their gaming experience.
We remain focused on delivering a further step change in our approach to safer gambling in the year ahead. Our approach to gambling continues to evolve as we refine our controls, taking account of our own evaluations and research, guidance from the industry and regulators and in correspondence with the Commission. We acknowledge that there is more work to be done, and always will be in an area that is subject to constant scrutiny, challenge, technological developments and complex debate. Our approach to the year ahead will also be informed by the output from the Commission’s customer interaction guidance consultation and the Government’s review of gambling legislation as mentioned above. In all circumstances, we remain committed to offering the best possible customer experience and putting our customers at the heart of our business, providing them with an enjoyable, efficient, secure, fair and socially responsible experience.
We treat the physical safety of our customers and colleagues as high priority and are committed to achieving the highest level of health and safety standards across the Group. This commitment intensified as a result of COVID-19, as it was essential that we could provide additional assurance to customers and colleagues alike of the safety of our venues on reopening. Further to this, the key objectives within the 2020/21 health and safety plan were revisited to ensure that the focus was on conducting ongoing closures and reopenings in accordance with regulations and reflective of feedback received from our customers and colleagues. Extensive health and safety measures (including capacity limits, floor markings and signage, use of protective equipment, machine dividers and screens and enhanced cleaning regimes) and training in relation to COVID-19 restrictions were implemented at all our venues across the Group. This work spanned the full breadth of our operations, involving liaising with operations, procurement, marketing, gaming, IT, maintenance and food and beverage. We also liaised with national and local governments and authorities to explain our approach and ensure that when our venues were permitted to reopen, we could provide a safe environment for all. This enabled us to reopen our venues and offices swiftly and safely as soon as we were able to do so and give confidence to customers and colleagues as to their safety when they returned. The risk assessments for Grosvenor Casinos, Mecca Bingo and support offices can be found on our website here. The health and safety team continues to advise on the approach to be taken to potential outbreaks of COVID-19 in venues and offices.
The health and safety team has also worked closely with the property team over the past year to ensure that ongoing health and safety-related projects, including those scheduled to be undertaken whilst venues were closed, were completed in a timely manner. They have also recommenced, following reopening, our annual health and safety assessments for each venue. Results are monitored and any significant issues are followed up by management teams, with the assistance of specialist external consultants where needed.
We seek to deliver the best possible experiences to our customers, providing a service that is exciting and entertaining, as well as safe, fair and delivered responsibly. It would be difficult to do so without understanding what they think about our brands, products and services and our approach to safer gambling. By engaging and conducting research, we can focus on continuous improvements that align with customers’ priorities.
During the year, we engaged with our customers in a number of different ways, including checking on well-being during periods of lockdown and discussing returning to our venues to help inform our reopening plans. We also conducted qualitative and quantitative research with our customers and potential customers in relation to our brands, products and in-venue developments and propositions. It is clear that customers want an ever-more personalised, quality-service, exciting experience. It is also evident that innovation is important to our customers, although not necessarily solely technological innovation as regards their Rank in-venue experience. Further information can be found on page 34 of our 2021 annual report. Insights such as these have informed the development of our Transformation 2.0 plan and overall strategy.
We continue to use customer insights to inform our planning as we refine our approach to unlocking further our opportunities in omni-channel. Such work enables us to consider whether there are any emerging trends associated with how and when people decide to play online versus offline, and whether there are particular considerations that sway someone’s choice.
As well as conducting market research into brand and product perception, we operate multiple other communications channels with our customers to generate feedback, insight and to understand their preferences and needs. We also use these channels to promote safer gambling and obtain feedback on our safer gambling tools and customer journeys, utilising the output to deliver improvement to those journeys without compromising on player protection.
A customer-centric approach is crucial to our strategy and this is only possible if we have sought the views of our customers and continue to utilise their feedback. We are committed to continuing to do so.
30 June 2021
30 June 2020
|Customer interactions data regarding problem gambling (000s)||472||217||118%|