It is challenging to write this issue of the GSES progress report as Europe enters the worst security crisis of the 21st century. I live in Bratislava, where most of the work on the Initiative is done. The immediate presence of military invasion in Ukraine, Slovakia's neighbor state, makes me want to rethink the overall priorities and completely shift my focus away from regular work. However, like the dedicated defenders of Ukrainian sovereignty, I too must not become paralyzed and continue with my responsibilities while looking for safe ways to help out in this horrifying situation.
Apart from recent struggles, I dedicated the past two months to the Initiative's progress from the office table and, together with my team, we are now close to significant milestones. In summary, we have the Global Self-Exclusion System (GSES) blue paper finalized and under review. The document outlines the system's technical specifications and implementation, the reasoning behind the proposed implementation, and its benefits for the players. The paper will be released during ICE London, where the Initiative will be present in the Consumer Protection Zone. Furthermore, we have already started developing an assistance tool for self-exclusion from active online gambling accounts, made several updates on our website, and worked closely with lived experience individuals. Let's take it one by one now.
After showcasing the Initiative at the Discovery conference last year, we will increase awareness of the global scheme and look for partners directly at ICE London. We will be promoting the Initiative in a stand within the Consumer Protection Zone among organizations like Gordon Moody, YGAM, GamCare, or Responsible Gambling Council. I am thrilled about the opportunity to talk with visitors from around the world about the possibilities of increasing the protection of players through the Global Self-Exclusion System.
The biggest benefit of the upcoming discussions is their ability to be as specific as never before. We will arrive in London with a clear vision of system requirements, functionality examples, technical implementation, and proposed solutions to problematic areas, all encompassed in blue paper. The first official documentation of the GSES reflects the feedback from countless discussions of the past year and combines it with our understanding of the industry into a specific proposal for creating the system. Doors for explicit collaboration talks will now open.
To highlight some of the essential details of the proposed GSES implementation:
The last point may seem surprising but is necessary due to the complex challenges of creating a functional worldwide self-exclusion solution without any authority enforcement. Fortunately, we have figured out a way how to bridge the gap with self-exclusion from existing gambling accounts.
As mentioned above, the suggested solution for GSES is based on blocking new registrations only. This is due to the fact that self-exclusion from existing accounts is highly technically demanding. Operators joining the system would have to dedicate a considerable amount of work from their IT department to make it possible, and any downtime of the data verification process could cause significant losses. Not a perspective pitch. As I mentioned in previous progress reports, we started working on an assistance tool for self-exclusion from existing online gambling accounts. Although we intend for this solution to be one of the additional features of the Global Self-Exclusion System, we plan for it to be already functional and available independently in the upcoming months.
The Global Self-Exclusion Assistance Tool will essentially provide support for self-exclusion from all existing accounts within gambling operators in our database. We believe that even before the GSES is functional, the assistance tool can bring immediate help to players with problematic gambling as they often possess multiple accounts at gambling websites, possibly in various jurisdictions. The baseline for the assistance lies in providing information about available responsible gambling tools of every online operator in the Casino Guru database, which currently contains more than 4000 brands. In particular, data about the possibility of self-exclusion through account settings, e-mail, or customer support chat, and the option to withdraw funds during self-exclusion will be provided. The tool will help users to easily find operators they have accounts with and proceed with self-exclusion according to the presented instructions and advisory content.
Analyzing the data about responsible gambling tools has revealed many fascinating insights. Our data team is confident to claim that our database includes 99% of accessible online casino operators as the list is being updated every day. Good news is that approximately 99,6% of them (including those with no license at all) offer some sort of self-exclusion – most commonly by e-mail, represented by 70% of all operators in our database. However, only roughly a half of all online casinos offer exclusion directly in account settings, which we currently see as the best practice for seamless self-exclusion. Worrying is also the fact that only 26% of them offer the possibility to withdraw funds during self-exclusion. That could represent a showstopper for those who want to put an immediate stop to their gambling but still have some money in their gambling accounts.
Our database also includes information about other self-limiting tools and shows that the deposit limit is the most prevalent one, currently available in 67% of all online casinos. In comparison, the wagering limit, (used only by 25%) is the least available self-limiting tool, with time and loss limits scoring very close. There are also considerable differences among individual licensing authorities. For example, while almost every online casino with a license from Sweden, UK or Malta has a reality check, for those that feature license only from Curacao, the reality check percentage drops down to less than 20%. With the database containing loads of important information, we plan to use the data to further contribute to the gambling harm reduction.
We have also updated the Global Self-Exclusion Initiative website's timeline and plan to make the website reflect our recent progress. As I continued to gather feedback through discussions with experts, we extended the "What experts think" section and added additional comments about the creation and impact of the worldwide scheme. I am incredibly grateful to those who helped push the Initiative’s development with their valuable knowledge. My progression would be much slower without precious conversations and insights from areas of RG research and practice, addiction treatment, operators' experience, and regulation insights.
In addition to that, I also received beneficial support from the area of lived experience with gambling addiction. As mentioned earlier, we frequently receive requests for exclusion from all gambling websites to our Initiative mailbox. Even though the system is not ready yet, I am always trying to respond in a way that provides support to anyone in such a difficult situation. Recent communication with Charlie resulted in an interview where his story of gambling addiction and the impossibility to exclude globally was revealed. Charlie now occasionally posts on our forum's responsible gambling section to support others with similar experience and issues. Through conversations with him, I was also able to look at the issue from a player's perspective and to subsequently apply my findings to the Initiative's work.
There is still some time left until the ICE London conference takes place, and we will fine-tune our materials until then to promote the project in the best way possible. I hope that by the time we meet there, better circumstances for mainland Europe will be ensued. We, the GSES team, are looking forward to meeting you!