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

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RG and Corporate Culture - It's All About the Customer

RG and Corporate Culture - It’s All About the Customer

This article is part of the Perspective series by the Responsible Gambling Council, which is intended to inform policy makers and industry leaders.

Also in this series: Time to Shift Gears | RG=Prevention=Persuasion | Working with a Creative Agency | Dealing with Customers' Excessive Gambling

By Jon Kelly, Ph.D., Senior Advisor

Even though most gaming companies’ responsible gambling (RG) programs tend to incorporate the same program elements, such as self-exclusion, player information and staff training, there is wide variation in corporate engagement in responsible gambling. At one end of the spectrum, some operators focus on meeting the expectations of the regulator, i.e. compliance. At the other end, increasing numbers of gaming companies are adopting strategies that integrate RG into the corporate culture. So what does integrating RG into corporate culture actually mean? How would you know if you have achieved it?

This article proposes 5 hallmarks by which we might assess RG integration.

1. The company knows what it wants—and says it

Building an organizational culture of any sort is a tall order. It is virtually impossible if the organization does not take ownership of its own programs. That means articulating what RG means to your organization, in your own words. Why do you have RG programs? What are you trying to accomplish?

This may seem simple but if you survey the range of gaming companies, you see a range of approaches.

So what does a strong articulation of RG ownership look like? Well, here are three examples.

Tabcorp

Caring for people is at the heart of a sustainable business.

It's our goal to equip people with information and resources to help them make informed decisions about how they gamble.

We take responsible gambling seriously. More than simply following the letter of the law, we strive to actively minimise potential harm to customers. (Tabcorp: Responsible Gambling)

Ladbrokes

At Ladbrokes, we’ve built our business by always trying to give our customers the best experience when they choose to place a bet – no matter when, where or how they want to do it. We know our customers and we know the vast majority of them enjoy their gambling in a safe and responsible manner. Our customers trust us to look out for them and keep them gambling safely. [...]

For a small number of people, we know that gambling can cause personal, social, financial or health problems.

We don’t close our eyes or ears to the problems that gambling can cause some people and believe we have a responsibility to help our customers gamble in a safe and responsible manner. We are completely committed to doing all that we can to encourage customers to gamble responsibly and to help those who develop gambling problems get the help they need. The key to this is being a company the customer can trust. (Ladbrokes’ Our Approach to Responsible Gambling)

Ontario Lottery and Gaming

Most players can gamble free of problems. However, a small proportion of players are either “at-risk” for problems or are problem gamblers. OLG does not want problem gamblers playing our games, so we seek to prevent problems from occurring, while providing a bridge to assistance for those who need and seek it. The overall goals for OLG’s RG program are to reduce incidence of problem gambling through prevention efforts, and to curb harm for those who may have developed a problem by providing a gateway to complementary external services and community resources. (OLG Responsible Gaming Policies and Programs)

While other organizations might articulate their RG goals differently or use different words, these examples are particularly strong for three reasons:

  • They base their rationale in the interest of the player
  • They expressly accept their part of the responsibility to look out for the player
  • They make strong declarations of intent about what they will do to protect and/or help players

These types of statements of corporate intent have many benefits. They act as a bridge linking corporate values to RG programs. They become the anchor point for the planning and rollout of RG programs; they also form an important part of the corporate narrative that enables the organization to tell its RG story effectively. (The importance of having your own narrative is a part of a broader discussion of culture building covered very well by John Colman’s Six components of Great Corporate Culture, in the May 2013 issue of the Harvard Business Review.)

Having said that, statements of corporate intent are just the beginning. We have all seen examples of high-level corporate statements that were more like a branch of literature than guideposts for day-to-day operations.

2. The leaders lead

Do the CEO and senior executives see that RG is important? Are they actively and visibly promoting RG in the organization? In the research that underpins the RG Check standards, for example, no evidence is as strong as the evidence that corporate initiatives with the clear backing of the CEO are much more likely to be successful than those without it. This concept is also reflected in the RG Check assessment experience—where executive engagement is strongly correlated with exceptional programs.

Corporate initiatives with the clear backing of the CEO are much more likely to be successful than those without it.

3. Great intentions are translated into great strategies

Organizations committed to building RG into their corporate culture pay considerable attention to both how RG is delivered and how well it is delivered. How do you want to deliver these programs?

No organization leaves important corporate goals and practices to chance. RG cannot be embedded into an organizational culture without a centrally developed plan and tactics. This means developing an architecture of well-articulated goals and measures that reaches across the whole enterprise.

Corporate culture is a collective.

Corporate culture is a collective. It is defined daily in a myriad of ways, by many employees, in many departments, including procurement, game development, marketing and promotions, human resources and other corporate responsibility centres. Embedding RG in corporate culture means asking if new games, new campaigns and promotions are being looked at from an RG perspective. Is there any reason to believe that this new machine will contribute to increased risk or play a role in reducing risk? Does that promotion entice people to stay on the site or in the venue for an inordinate length of time beyond what the player would choose to do? Does that ad imply that gambling is a great escape from day-to-day stresses?

It is important to say that in RGC’s experience reviewing new products and promotions, it is often difficult to determine the likely impact of any one machine or campaign on RG programs, or on problem gambling in general. But, such reviews can sometimes generate major red flags. Other times, applying an RG perspective can generate a simple modification that will likely offset a potential problem.

4. Staff members are engaged—not just compliant

One of the realities any senior executive recognizes is the importance of keeping staff throughout the organization engaged in the overall corporate purpose and strategies. Where RG is embedded in corporate culture, you will invariably find a strong staff training program. And these programs will provide clear rationales for corporate policies as well as clear direction for staff about their contributions to a positive customer experience, which includes their roles in RG.

But, one might argue, isn’t it possible to have a very good staff training program but not integrate RG in the corporate culture? Of course it is! It is possible to integrate compliance rather than ownership. The difference comes down to content. Building RG into corporate culture takes the time to explain why we do things a certain way—drawing, again, on the articulation of a central purpose. It encourages staff not to turn a blind eye, and provides tools for staff to take action if they have a concern about a patron.

Training is only the beginning of staff engagement. It also means strong reinforcement systems, feedback loops and employee forums where they can contribute ideas and concerns about the RG programs. Many organizations, for example, have staff champions and RG committees that continuously look at ways to enhance their player safeguards.

Another obvious motivator is money. Does your compensation system build in measures to reward RG program success? This is not just for the RG staff, but for employees across the organization.

Consider the opposite scenario, where staff members do not believe that the company is really committed to RG. They will inevitably demonstrate their skepticism in their day-to-day interactions, which undermines the intent behind any RG program.

5. Recognize that RG culture promotes the positive player experience

Gaming providers spend a great deal of time and resources creating strategies to make players happy. What rewards can we provide, what incentives, what perks?

RG programs promote an enjoyable player experience in two ways. The first is promoting the attitudes and behaviours that underlie positive, sustainable play. Simply put, that means having informed consumers.

Having informed players hinges on a strategy for letting players know how the games work, the realistic chances of winning and losing, safe play boundaries, signs of a potential problem and where help is available. This may seem simple—but communicating the right information to the right players at the right time requires a lot of thought and a multi-faceted communications approach.

Providing information in a way the player can absorb is one challenge. Another is developing messaging that is likely to target specific play behaviours or myths that may lead to problems. It involves more than endlessly parroting generic messaging like “play responsibly” or hanging a “where to get help” poster everywhere.

In addition, a corporate culture integrating RG will not ignore the needs of players who, for whatever reason, are in trouble. A player may be flagged through a self-disclosure or that of a family member, an incident or series of incidents, play analytics or a combination of these. Whatever the process of identification, the company will have clear protocols in place to take action regarding a player exhibiting signs of a problem.

Some regulators like the U.K. Gambling Commission and the Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney General have expressly required operators to address high-risk gambling. But, even these regulators have left to specifics of the response to gaming providers. The action gaming providers take when they are faced with a patron who appears to have a gambling problem will speak volumes about the relationship between RG and the company’s corporate culture.

RG Integration Means Putting the Customer First

To review, here are the 5 hallmarks of an organizational culture that has integrated RG:

  1. The company knows what it wants—and says it
  2. The leaders lead
  3. Great intentions are translated into great strategies
  4. Staff members are engaged—not just compliant
  5. Recognize that RG culture promotes the positive player experience

What is the key takeaway that ties everything together? It is that the integration of strong RG programs into organization culture starts and ends with a focus on the customer experience.

The integration of strong RG programs into organization culture starts and ends with a focus on the customer experience.