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The Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to problem gambling prevention.

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Understanding the Risks—and the Opportunities for Safeguards—in Online Gambling

by Jennifer Iveson | Mar 15, 2013 09:55 AM

Newscan (Vol 15, Issue 10)

The worldwide popularity and growth of online gambling has enormous implications for problem gambling prevention. There are good reasons for concern—its accessibility, anonymity and the potential for high frequency of play are significant characteristics of online gambling that warrant careful consideration for prevention programs.

It is also true that this same technology has the potential to provide safeguards that would be difficult in traditional land-based venues. Options for setting time and money limits, including exclusion, are fairly simple; responsible gambling information can be easily communicated in context. Even the ability to monitor player behaviour for potential signs of a problem is possible.

At Discovery 2013, Fiona Palmer, the head of social responsibility and compliance at a major online gambling provider in the UK, will shed light on her team’s implementation of online gambling safeguards from an insider’s perspective. We caught up with Fiona to ask her a few questions about her work:

Tell us a bit about what the area of social responsibility was like in 2009, when you started, and how it has evolved.

When I joined Sky Betting & Gaming in 2009, social responsibility was entrusted to the customer care department and good processes were already established. However, the role was seen primarily as reactive—i.e., to help customers who sought assistance. As the company has grown, social responsibility has been at the heart of everything we do—now, all employees take ownership for looking after our customers. 

Over the past 18 months my role has evolved into a very collaborative one, where if any employee has any concern about a customer, regardless of position or role, the customer is contacted. We proactively seek to assist those customers who show signs of developing gambling problems because, as an organisation, we don’t want to be doing anything other than giving people an enjoyable experience.

Tell us about some of the safeguards you have in place on your sites

After passing through a 3rd-party verification to ensure they are over 18 and they are who they say they are, our customers use a single account to access any of our 4 products: Sky Bet, Sky Poker, Sky Vegas and Sky Bingo. This means they can control their access to, and spending on, any of our products from one screen—such as applying a daily/weekly/monthly deposit limit, or cooling off from the entire site for up to 30 days, or self-excluding from one or more products on our site for 6 months of longer.

How have analytics helped you to implement these safeguards?

This single-account system gives us the ability to monitor customer deposits across all four products. This regular monitoring of customers’ deposit patterns provides an invaluable insight into their propensity to having a potential issue with their gambling. Gentle communication reminding customers of the self-help tools available to them to ensure they “keep it fun” is a significant starting point in our proactive approach to responsible gambling.

Are there any interesting trends about the different audiences for the sites?

The customer profile for each of the products is different, ranging from engaging in social interaction while playing to focused game play. Sky Poker customers have been known to use the self-exclusion tools as a way of blocking their access to the other games—in order to allow them to focus on the game in hand without being distracted—whereas Sky Bingo and Sky Vegas customers are more likely to use tools such as setting spending limits to restrict their game play.

What are some of the ways your customer service representatives identify signs of a potential gambling problems?

Online chatting with customer service is the most common way that our customers communicate with us. When communicating with our customers, our Contact Centre Representatives are always on the lookout for any key words that indicate a customer has a potential issue with their gambling. These can include

  • continually requesting free bets/tokens
  • complaining about fairness of the games offered
  • expressing distress about a lack of available funds

If the customer raises cause for concern during the chat the Contact Centre Representative will ask the customer if their gambling is becoming an issue for them. Our approach at Sky Betting & Gaming is that of trying to help customers. In order to achieve this, first customers need to acknowledge they potentially have a problem with their gambling so we can then signpost them to help and support available to them.