Responsible gaming is set to be at the forefront of the CasinoBeats Summit, as delegates gain an insight into current strategies that aim to prioritise player protection more than ever before. 

With the industry continuously making strides towards the digital era of gambling, one panel at CBS will discuss modern advancements in responsibility and regulation, analysing technologies that aim to better identify problem gambling and detailing the ever-prevalent threat of the black market. 

Ahead of their appearance on the ‘Responsible gambling in the digital age’ panel, CasinoBeats reached out to Pedro Romero, RG Consultant & Psychologist at the University of Gibraltar, and Matthew Curtis, Head of Responsible Gambling at L&L Europe, to discuss the upcoming event and how player protection is evolving alongside the growing online space. 

CasinoBeats: With CasinoBeats Summit just a few months away, what are you looking forward to about the event, and what do you hope to see from a responsible gaming viewpoint? 

Matthew Curtis: CasinoBeats Summit 2023 was a great event, and it is something I look forward to every year. The panel discussions and networking opportunities are excellent, and with such a close-knit industry there are always some friendly faces to catch up with, and new friends waiting to be discovered. 

In terms of responsible gaming specifically, I was pleased to hear from the content producers very early on in terms of a speaking opportunity. I think it’s pretty clear from this alone that SBC truly values the topic, and doesn’t leave it as an afterthought. 

The time of year for the event is great and I’m sure there will be lots of new information circulating in terms of the UK white-paper developments, consultations, and implementations that are coming from the operators themselves. Hoping to see some clever and innovative solutions offered for the problems at hand.   

CasinoBeats: How have you seen responsible gambling and RG promotion evolve in recent years? To what extent do you think it has progressed? 

Pedro Romero: On one hand, you can see progress to a certain extent, there is an increasing level of investment and more companies are starting to talk the talk and walk the walk. On the other hand, a great number of operators still see safer gambling as a box to tick not to get fined or a PR exercise, do strictly the bare minimum, try to look good while the house is on fire etc.

Matthew Curtis: The industry is constantly evolving, as we all know. Each component that keeps the cogs turning changes rapidly in turn, and compliance and responsible gaming are no exception. 

As the industry gets more advanced and innovative, so do responsible gaming practices. There are solutions out there with very sophisticated AI and machine learning, predictive modelling and others which bring a whole new methodology to how responsible gaming content is delivered, with an approach like positive play for example. 

Conferences like CasinoBeats have also evolved in line with this, whereas old content topics were framed through meeting requirements, the new ones are all about best practices and how to protect people in the purest sense. This is a vital change in perspective for the industry. 

CasinoBeats: Although responsible gambling remains at the forefront of many businesses in the industry, what step would you like to see businesses take to push the promotion of RG to the next level? 

Matthew Curtis: In truth, I think the industry is doing a very good job at pushing these messages forward. That being said, there’s always more that we can do. We are right to give criticism to regulators when appropriate, yet there are still those who baselessly fight against every change, in spite of clear best intentions. 

There are even cases of some manipulating data to push an agenda which simply isn’t realistic, from both sides, and that’s something the commission seems quite aware of. I’d also like to see awards given to those who routinely over-comply with requirements, instead of those who simply fixed glaring issues in last year’s practices. 

Pedro Romero: Many safer gambling teams lack the necessary resources to perform their duties effectively. In some cases, they are deliberately under-resourced, with insufficient headcount, tools, knowledge and autonomy to do their job properly. 

Regulators need to identify who is ultimately responsible for these shortcomings, perhaps some big operators find it cheaper to pay a fine than to do things the right way, which should not be an option.

CasinoBeats: What are the main challenges that you see the online casino industry facing in terms of responsible gambling? What are the major threats that businesses and players need to keep a watchful eye on?

Pedro Romero: I think one of the main challenges is to get the senior RG staff, there is a massive shortage of people that are well-prepared. Operators need to invest in the long-term development of SG employees. It is no longer good enough to put in charge a “yes person” who is willing to take the bullet and get a red face when they have an inspection.  

The major threat for operators is the internal poor ethical behaviour and short-termism of some senior executives, from a safer gambling point of view companies need to stop looking to the next quarter and have long-term vision. 

There will be a time when regulators may decide to stop giving fines to repeat offenders and revoke the licence of a major operator. This will make the industry change gears and we will see a massive change to occur overnight in the SG arena.

Matthew Curtis: As always the biggest challenge for every gaming business in terms of responsible gaming will be navigating the requirements as set out to us, while trying to keep the business afloat. With no commercial considerations, there’s no operation that can fund assistance to customers through a responsible gaming program. It’s a difficult line to walk. 

Going into 2024 we’re seeing a further shift in expectations from the likes of the UK Gambling Commission, whereby they are expecting quicker actions, better detection, and more emphasis on protecting the vulnerable. For every automated measure, there will be false positives, and ensuring these are minimised as much as possible will likely be a big focus and pain-point for UK-licensed operators going into 2024.