Progress Report #3: Feedback from Problem Gambling Help Organizations

Progress Report 3

Most of June was a bit slower compared to previous months in terms of progress. The holiday season started a bit sooner this year, due to the uncertainty of COVID-19 developments in later summer months. Nevertheless, it was still highly productive in the quality and number of reactions I have received related to the Global Self-Exclusion Initiative.

This month, I focused on problem gambling help organizations and reached out to them for their feedback and input. As expected, these organizations have a lot to say about self-exclusion, responsible gambling, and harm reduction. I will cover their feedback in this article.

Getting back to reactions from trade organizations

But before we get to problem gambling help organizations, I would like to return to my endeavors from the previous month, in which I focused on gambling trade organizations.

After several unfruitful attempts to get feedback from EGBA (European Gaming and Betting Association), I got lucky after publishing the previous progress report article and sharing it on my LinkedIn account. Maarten Haijer, EGBA's Secretary General, left a comment expressing concerns related to the lack of national self-exclusion schemes in many EU countries. He pointed out the benefit of a wide coverage that a global self-exclusion system would bring, however, he can also see many legal and practical challenges in setting it up. That said, he is keen to hear of the progress in addressing those.

Indeed, there are only a few fully functional national self-exclusion schemes available in European countries. The European Union lacks a proactive framework for cooperation in the matter of safeguarding players within or across or the borders of individual countries.

Harmonization of responsible gambling regulations is an important factor that affects player behavior and limits their protection. Even though there will likely be a higher number of functional national self-exclusion schemes in the upcoming years, the additional level of protection that can be added by a global scheme could benefit all countries. Especially those that still will not have their own national scheme, but also those that will, as there will always be some gambling sites without a local license aiming to capture a part of the local market.

It is great that organizations like EGBA see the possible benefits of a global self-exclusion scheme, and, of course, it is reasonable to mention the associated risks as well.

There are certainly many challenges on the path towards a global scheme. The feedback I have been collecting over the past four months has helped me discover more of them. Addressing issues related to technical implementation, data sharing, and verification of self-excluded players is my priority for the upcoming months.

Feedback from problem gambling help organizations

Reactions from problem gambling help organizations have been positive but also critical. Over the past five weeks, I have approached more than 22 organizations focused on national or international player seeking help. I have received a response from more than seven of them. Still only approximately 30% response rate, but the quality of the responses has been great.

Problem gambling help organizations approached
Name Location
Gamblers help Australia
Multicultural Problem Gambling Service (MPGS) Australia
Selbsthilfegruppe Anonyme Spieler Austria
Schuldner-hilfe Austria
National Drugs, Alcohol and Gambling Helpline Bulgaria
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Canada
Gamtalk Canada
Safer Gambling (National Betting Authority) Cyprus
Peluuri Finland
Pelirajat'on Finland
Responsible Gambling Kenya Nairobi
Responsible Gaming Foundation Malta
Gambling helpline (East Africa Center for Responsible Gambling) Kenya
Hjelpelinjen Norway
Spielen ohne Sucht Switzerland
Mindler Sweden
Beroendecentrum Stockholm Sweden
Oasas USA
The National Council on Problem Gambling USA
Spelfriheten Sweden
Gamblers help online Australia
NECA United Kingdom
Gambling therapy United Kingdom

Concerns about specifically targeting excluded players

A response from Richard from Gamtalk addressed several areas of associated risks, including the uncertainty related to companies specifically targeting players excluded on a global level. This is a valid point and an actual issue for national self-exclusion schemes like UK's Gamstop or Sweden's Spelpaus.

Unfortunately, there will likely always be some sort of a black market targeting these players, despite measures taken against this behavior. Perhaps a global self-exclusion scheme with a high participation rate will contribute to spotting these companies more easily.

Insufficient self-exclusion options in their jurisdiction

A positive reaction from Kenya was one of the first responses I have received. Dr. Alfred Gitonga from Responsible Gambling Kenya replied that he would be "happy to extend the platform to help those gamblers that are affected in our jurisdiction." According to IBIA (International Bet Integrity Organization), there are insufficient details available for the implementation of self-exclusion measures in Kenya. I am eager to explore how a global scheme can help here.

It is similar in Bulgaria, where I received feedback from Solidarnost, Association for Rehabilitation of Addicted People. Bulgarian national self-exclusion scheme has been postponed and currently is not able to accept new registrations. Svetlana Nikolova from Solidarnost commented on this and the Initiative: "We are still receiving calls from people asking for the self-exclusion register and that is why we believe that many problem gamblers would use any option of such kind if existed. This makes your initiative important and potentially very useful."

Further research and collaboration

I also received a reaction from Spielen ohne Sucht located in Switzerland. They welcomed our efforts to protect vulnerable players and found our concerns important. They added that "especially in online gambling, it is important to create structures that protect vulnerable people" and that they will gladly link to our website once the final product is ready and they see a benefit in it. Lastly, they would be interested in the evaluation of the scheme, for example in terms of the participation of people from Switzerland compared to other countries.

The global self-exclusion scheme has an ambition to become a source of anonymous data about self-excluded players, which can be helpful for further research in this area in cooperation with problem gambling help organizations and other key parties in online gambling. Cooperation is vital here, and I certainly hope that it becomes a trend in the industry to work on resolving these issues together, instead of just focusing on one jurisdiction, organization, or company.

Working together is also important for other problem gambling help organizations. According to Spelfriheten from Sweden, "self-exclusion is a first step from many towards the recovery from gambling addiction and connection with problem gambling help organization is important in the matter."

They welcomed the initiative to create a global scheme, as 9 out of 10 people who contact them are excluded through the Swedish national scheme and continue to gamble on foreign sites. These operators have no possible way to find out that the players are self-excluded in Sweden, even if they wanted to. The Global Self-Exclusion Scheme is dedicated to changing this.

What is ahead

The discussions I had over the past few months were very enriching, and I am thankful for the opportunity to discuss about issues related to responsible gambling with industry professionals.

The discussions definitely helped me and the rest of the team to better assess and consider the risks seen and expected by the industry. We will do our best to address them in the following stages of the project, moving the Initiative forward.

There is a long journey ahead of us towards a functional, widely used, and appreciated global scheme for self-exclusion, but I am convinced it is a journey worth taking. We will keep working on making it a reality, and I am thankful for every potential partner or piece of feedback we get along the way.