Progress Report #8: Advances in Self-Exclusion Standards & Other Activities

Progress Report 8

It's been a while since I last gave you an update on the Global Self-Exclusion project. Things have slowed down a bit as I've been diving into specific goals that need time to yield results. Looking back to where we started two and a half years ago, we're making good progress that could bring real benefits to the industry and players within a reasonable timeframe.

While a fully functional global system is still a distant goal, the work toward it has highlighted areas where we can create value much faster. And although these partial milestones are related to the original idea, they go far beyond it. This genuinely brings me joy, and because I've been putting a lot of energy into the next clear goal, I'm confident these steps will get us closer to an effective global self-exclusion system.

Self-Exclusion Standards

The most immediate issue I've discovered throughout my work on the global system is the lack of standardization of the self-exclusion process across the industry. If you look at 10 different jurisdictions, chances are you will find 10 different requirements or rules for self-exclusion. Most aren't very specific, so operators just go with what's easiest for them. Either way, self-exclusion remains a tool with a lot of unanswered questions. Why is this important for the global scheme? Well, pitching a system with low integrity on its functional side is like selling a pig in a poke. If the functional side isn't solid, it's hard to convince someone to join. And since joining the system will not be initially conditioned by any authority, there is an imminent need to iron out this issue before we move further.

So, I started digging. I stumbled upon Prof. Margaret Carran's work on consumer protection in EU online gambling regulation, which had similar conclusions about self-exclusion: while high-level definitions and implementations are nearly identical, the detailed proposals differ significantly. Part of the conclusion was that the need for such diversity is very unlikely. We started talking, and after a couple of months, we laid out a plan to develop self-exclusion standards – or better put, recommendations – in a sensible manner. This is where the Self-Exclusion Standards project was born, with three phases:

  1. Research & fact-finding
  2. Workgroup meetings
  3. Broader consultations

Through a blend of literature, hard facts, workshops with online gambling experts, lived experience individuals and broader industry feedback, we aim to create the first-ever international best practice for self-exclusion with a clear track record. Professor Carran, the project leader, and the team at City, University of London will be penning the final paper, which will then make its rounds in academic circles for further implications. My role? Well, I'll join sharing the wisdom from that paper far and wide across the iGaming industry to refine the self-exclusion process across the entire spectrum. Regulators, operators, treatment providers, and trade associations will have the opportunity to look at the findings and draw inspiration from evidence-based outcomes.

At the time of writing, we are finalizing preparations for the workgroup's first meeting in Barcelona during the SBC event. Eleven individuals with diverse professional backgrounds, including lived-experience individuals and a layperson, will get together to jumpstart the project's second phase, running through to February next year.

SE Standards workgroup

Self-Exclusion Assistance Tool (SEAT)

To simplify requirements for entering and implementation on the operator's side, you might have noticed that the Global Self-Exclusion System will only cover new registrations at participating operators. This leaves a gap which we plan to fill with a self-exclusion assistance tool, utilizing the vast amount of data in our database. I've touched on this briefly before, but essentially, this tool helps players self-exclude themselves from individual online casinos that are not part of the license-wide schemes.

Without this connection, players would have to close one account after another, which can be quite a painful ordeal, especially when grappling with compulsive gambling and a lack of self-control. SEAT will enable players to list all such casinos in one list, with information on possible ways to self-exclude, as well as the ability to track whether the self-exclusion has already been confirmed. In addition, the tool will provide a request generator, ensuring that players won't have to worry about proper wording or required information.

Self-exclusion in the online world can be pretty confusing. Many players do not understand the scope or meaning of self-exclusion, and that's where SEAT faces its challenge. After the alpha version's release, thanks to industry feedback, we realized we need to implement a more guided and straightforward process. We also knew we needed to put more work into UX and think about the individual's journey using our tool, as the window of determination to self-exclude can close pretty fast. Over the last few months, we've made the guidance clearer and introduced some gamification to spark interest in understanding the process. We've also clarified any confusing bits, created a safer environment, and put together an instructional video. SEAT has now moved into its BETA version, slowly allowing individuals to use it and provide valuable feedback. After a few months of usage, we'll kick off campaigns to let other organizations offer the tool to those who need it.

Global Self-Exclusion System

Of course, I haven't forgotten about where this all started, and I've been working hard to raise awareness on GSES and seek like-minded individuals for support and collaboration on this ambitious project. After successfully presenting the system at the 13th European Conference on Gambling Studies and Policy Issues in Oslo, our blue paper was accepted for the Gambling & Risk Taking Conference in Las Vegas. This esteemed conference, organized by UNLV, is the oldest and most prestigious conference in the field of gambling studies, and they included the global system presentation in their program. I couldn't be more thrilled about the opportunity, and we took full advantage of it – showcasing search data we had worked on for quite some time.

Since Casino Guru focuses solely on individuals who seek information about online gambling through various means, analyzing the search and intentions of such people can reveal vital insights about online gambling activity. We looked into search trends of general gambling terms and specific online casino brands in several jurisdictions, and our findings were really interesting.

We found that in some jurisdictions, people search for specific brands three times more often than for general online gambling terms. This shows the degree of awareness of these brands and the desire of individuals to find more information or, more probably, play there. On the other hand, some findings were a bit concerning. We also found that over a quarter of the searches for specific brands were for brands that lacked a local license in some countries. Once again, players were probably keen to play there, having become aware of the brand for some source.

This analysis brings yet another perspective on the prevalence of off-shore gambling next to channelization, which is discussed openly only in some jurisdictions. Granted, the data isn't an exact science – it offers a strong estimation of the situation, but you can bet that it's there, and closing your eyes won't make it vanish.

GSES presentation

What's next?

Online gambling is a very young and dynamic industry, and what's seen as the norm today can just as easily be outdated tomorrow. Yet, it's slowly progressing towards a more sustainable sector where its members aren't seen as sketchy dealers profiting from human suffering. This is a journey I and Casino Guru will proudly contribute to as much as we can. Moving beyond mere sentimentality, my attention and focus are directed towards ensuring that the Self-Exclusion Standards project leaves a genuine mark on the industry.