Safety in numbers: Responsible gambling and the UK betting sector

Over the last few days I appeared in a lot of news reports (including one by the BBC) in relation to the Association of British Bookmakers’ (ABB) new responsible gambling Code of Conduct (that you can download for free here). I was approached by the ABB back in July 2013 to help develop the new code and I view the publication of it as a great step forward in social responsibility and responsible gambling.

Whilst governments and regulatory bodies around the world are increasingly recognizing the importance of responsible gaming policies, such bodies tend not to specify the details of how such policies should be developed and implemented by gambling operators. Hopefully, this is where British gaming operators can take a proactive stance. Any gaming company that puts socially responsible practices at the heart of its business should be required to engage in a number of practices as a bare minimum. More specifically, gaming companies should (i) minimize the likelihood of a ‘vulnerable player’ developing a gambling problem whilst playing games, (ii) encourage well informed and rational gambling behaviour among its clientele, (iii) provide support for clientele who develop problems and/or who show distress as a result of gambling, (iv) protect vulnerable groups from either gambling in the first place (e.g., minors, problem gamblers, the intoxicated), and (v) develop an amicable relationship with local communities and other stakeholders (e.g., treatment providers, educational programs, research community, faith groups, etc.).

The most socially responsible gaming companies around the world have already introduced many player protection initiatives for both online and offline players. These include (i) stringent age verification checks, (ii) the use of behavioural tracking tools and/or player cards (to monitor potentially problematic playing patterns), (iii) socially responsible marketing and advertising, (iv) mandatory limit setting options (where players can pre-commit to how much time and money they want to spend over a given time period), (v) in-play notifications (e.g., pop-up messages to help players decide whether they should carry on gambling or not), and (vi) complete transparency in the games offered (such as the probability of winning and prize structures). So how does the new ABB code match up? Here are some of the initiatives that are in the ABBs’ new code. The new ‘Harm Minimisation Strategy’ focuses on four levels:

  • Issuing clearer and more accessible information on how to gamble responsibly and highlighting the sources of help available
  • Providing customers with new tools such as mandatory time and money based reminders, the ability to set spend and time limits on gaming machines and to request machine session data.
  • Training staff to detect the signs of potential problem gambling more quickly and how to interact more effectively with those identified
  • Undertaking more consistent central analysis of data to identify abnormal activity both in specific shops and, where possible, that relating to individual customers.

The new code is just the beginning. The document points out that: “The Code of Conduct will be evolutionary. ABB is fully committed to both monitoring compliance to the code and to updating and strengthening the code as new technological solutions are developed, new empirical evidence is produced or new concerns emerge over the coming months/years”. Some of the specific new measures in the ABB code include:

  • Enhanced staff training: All shop staff will be trained, in consultation with providers of responsible gambling expertise, to recognise a wider range of problem gambling indicators and will aim to identify those customers at risk of developing a gambling problem.
  • Enhanced customer engagement: All shop staff will be actively encouraged to ‘walk the shop floor’ as part and parcel of an enhanced customer engagement role, including initiating customer interaction in response to specific customer behaviour which needs to be addressed.
  • Dedicated responsible gambling co-ordinator:  All ABB members will nominate a member of staff who will be responsible for responsible gambling on a local basis and will receive additional training to deal with more complex responsible gambling interactions.
  • Compliance objectives linked to managers’ performance: Compliance objectives will be added to the performance agreements of all relevant middle and senior managers working for ABB members and compliance will be a standing item agenda at Licensed Betting Office level performance reviews. The ABB will develop a minimum industry standard for staff training which is hoped will evolve into an accredited system.

The ABB also announced that in relation to customers playing on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in their shops that such slot machines will have (i) voluntary money limits, (ii) voluntary time limits, (iii) mandatory money-based pop-up reminders, and (iv) mandatory time-based reminders. The new code also banned the use of ATMs inside betting offices, and agreed to provide as much information as possible so that players can make an informed choice about gambling, along with help and guidance as to how to get help if a gambler thinks they are developing a problem. Finally, this new industry standard was fully implemented this month and will be reviewed annually. The standard will include:

  • Provision of appropriate information on the effects of problem gambling
  • Recognition and identification of the indicators of problem gambling
  • Conflict management
  • Customer interaction in response to specific customer behaviour referral, and follow‐up processes
  • Effective self-exclusion processes at a local level
  • The application of a Think 21 policy, especially with regard to machine players
  • The identification of vulnerable groups
  • Regular refresher training
  • Auditing and testing of staff at least every two years

If all the British gaming operators can collectively initiate and continue such practices, they will then be able to claim that they are becoming world leaders in responsible gambling, player protection, and harm minimization.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Limit setting and player choice in most intense online gamblers: An empirical study of online gambling behaviour. Journal of Gambling Studies, 29, 647-660.

Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Behavioral tracking tools, regulation and corporate social responsibility in online gambling. Gaming Law Review and Economics, 17, 579-583.

Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). Personalised feedback in the promotion of responsible gambling: A brief overviewResponsible Gambling Review, 1, 27-36.

Griffiths, M.D. (2005).  Does advertising of gambling increase gambling addiction? International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 3(2), 15-25.

Griffiths, M.D. (2007). Brand psychology: Social acceptability and familiarity that breeds trust and loyalty. Casino and Gaming International, 3(3), 69-72.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Online ads and the promotion of responsible gambling. World Online Gambling Law Report, 9(6), 14.

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Internet gambling, player protection and social responsibility. In R. Williams, R. Wood & J. Parke (Ed.), Routledge Handbook of Internet Gambling (pp.227-249). London: Routledge.

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Self-exclusion services for online gamblers: Are they about responsible gambling or problem gambling? World Online Gambling Law Report, 11(6), 9-10.

Griffiths, M.D. & Wood, R.T.A. (2008). Responsible gaming and best practice: How can academics help? Casino and Gaming International, 4(1), 107-112.

Griffiths, M.D. & Wood, R.T.A. (2009). Centralised gaming models and social responsibility. Casino and Gaming International., 5(2), 65-69.

Griffiths, M.D., Wood, R.T.A. & Parke, J. (2009). Social responsibility tools in online gambling: A survey of attitudes and behaviour among Internet gamblers. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 12, 413-421.

Griffiths, M.D., Wood, R.T.A., Parke, J. & Parke, A. (2007). Gaming research and best practice: Gaming industry, social responsibility and academia. Casino and Gaming International, 3(3), 97-103.

Smeaton, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2004). Internet gambling and social responsibility: An exploratory study, CyberPsychology and Behavior, 7, 49-57.

Wood, R.T.A., Shorter, G.W. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). Rating the suitability of responsible gambling features for specific game types: A resource for optimizing responsible gambling strategy. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 12, 94–112.

About drmarkgriffiths

Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Professor of Behavioural Addiction at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He is internationally known for his work into gambling and gaming addictions and has won many awards including the American 1994 John Rosecrance Research Prize for “outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research”, the 1998 European CELEJ Prize for best paper on gambling, the 2003 Canadian International Excellence Award for “outstanding contributions to the prevention of problem gambling and the practice of responsible gambling” and a North American 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award For Contributions To The Field Of Youth Gambling “in recognition of his dedication, leadership, and pioneering contributions to the field of youth gambling”. His most recent award is the 2013 Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 600 research papers, four books, over 130 book chapters, and over 1000 other articles. He has served on numerous national and international committees (e.g. BPS Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and is a former National Chair of Gamcare. He also does a lot of freelance journalism and has appeared on over 2000 radio and television programmes since 1988. In 2004 he was awarded the Joseph Lister Prize for Social Sciences by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for being one of the UK’s “outstanding scientific communicators”. His awards also include the 2006 Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology Award by the British Psychological Society and the British Psychological Society Fellowship Award for “exceptional contributions to psychology”.

Posted on March 2, 2014, in Addiction, Advertising, Gambling, Gambling addiction, Games, Internet gambling, Marketing, Online addictions, Online gambling, Online gaming, Problem gamblng, Psychology, Technological addiction, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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