Autumn is now behind us, and unusually warm and sunny days across mainland Europe are finally over. It has been more than two months since I last wrote an update article about the Global Self-exclusion Initiative (GSE), so it is about time. The last report has outlined that the autumn months will be about industry conferences that came back after 18 months of social distancing.
Participation and contribution from the team behind the Initiative were more intense than expected and covered all major events of this year. We also took some time to work in the office and made progress with the blue paper describing the functionality of a global self-exclusion scheme. We also ignited the preparations of an independent global self-exclusion support tool.
Recently, I came back from the SIGMA conference organized on Malta. This event marks the peak of my in-person activities within the GSE for this year. It was a great experience. The little island below Sicily is truly the hub for international gambling, and I had the opportunity meet people from various parts of the world. I also took part in the talks about 'super affiliates' where I discussed the power and responsibility we have to influence the market in a positive way and exchanged views on future opportunities with my fellow panellists. But let's go through it all one thing at a time…
Being part of industry events is an integral piece of the Initiative campaign. Creating a global self-exclusion scheme is not something that a single organization can do independently. It is now clear the main accelerating power for the GSE lies in collaborative self-regulation by the industry leaders. Active advocation, participation in discussions, and search for appropriate measures to protect self-excluded players pushes the Initiative into the right direction.
The first two stops in September were in Barcelona and Amsterdam. Major gambling business exhibitions and conferences in Europe covered all verticals and hosted stands for payment solutions, game and platform providers, affiliate programs, content and SEO consultants, and safer gambling services and solutions. It is terrific to see a shift towards this area on business-oriented events. I am convinced that embedding safer gambling measurements within general business strategies is a way forward to a more sustainable gambling industry.
In Spain, I had the pleasure to join the discussion on KPIs of problem gambling with the leaders of UK-based charities Gordon Moody and Betknowmore, and Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association. The main takeaways from the talks were that AI-powered risk assessing tools promise considerable impact, but the individual treatment of problem gamblers remains vital. The latter significantly applies to the self-exclusion process, as solely providing a barrier for a certain time can quickly become ineffective.
The contribution in the Netherlands was more focused on the affiliate side of gambling harm origination and reduction. The annual exhibition welcomes affiliates and affiliate programs from around the globe, and the topic of responsible gambling (RG) is still quite rare. Nonetheless, it found its place in the program, and I was contented to have the opportunity to present how affiliates can contribute to sustainable online gambling. Unfortunately, the perspective that affiliates are just mere doorways for players with little power to influence their gambling behaviour prevails. One of my goals is to change this paradigm and I hope our initiatives will be the shining examples.
In early October, the Responsible Gambling Council – a Toronto-based organization with a global reach and over 35 years of experience in the area – organized its annual Discovery conference focused on research and innovation in RG. The conference covered topics about using effective responsible gambling education to prevent gambling harm, incorporating safer gambling to all activities of a gambling operator, creating international safer gambling standards, and others.
The last mentioned is one of the main topics of the Global Self-exclusion Initiative as well, more specifically the international standards for self-exclusion. To successfully run a global scheme, its processes and functionalities must be generally applicable to a worldwide range of players with different backgrounds. Diversity in these standards can be seen almost across every jurisdiction. Optimistically, the conclusion from the discussion was that functional methodologies could be developed this way, but the communication and self-exclusion process should be culturally and nationally adapted. That sounds quite positive for the sake of a global system.
What is more, the whole concept of the GSE Initiative was positively accepted by the audience. I am thankful for the opportunity to present it within the 'Self-exclusion: Spotlight on Global Innovations' session with two other projects:
The beginning of November is traditionally dedicated to the UK initiative, Safer Gambling Week. In recent years, the industry's engagement in this project went beyond UK borders and was even upgraded to the European level by EGBA with a series of webinars. Casino Guru has elevated it to the global level by its experiment with engaging safer gambling content and messages. The awareness of safer gambling and related tools is an essential topic for the Global Self-exclusion Initiative as well. Creating such content, naturally consumed and understood by players, represents a challenge that needs to be dealt with.
Part of the Safer Gambling Week was the EGR UK Summit organized in London. Focus was mainly on UK gambling regulation and safer gambling standards. I travelled to the West Ham stadium to learn more about the current situation there. Two crucial conclusions came out of this event:
Sky Vegas's recent "error" of sending a free spins offer to 120,000 self-excluded players did not help at all. It shows how sensitive such a database can be.
Besides traveling and engaging on events, we did some work behind the desk too. We have published our long-prepared article covering the possible benefits and risks of a functional global self-exclusion scheme. To create a transparent picture of how the world could look with the active international self-exclusion system, we went through the insufficiencies of current options for individual stakeholders. To each deficiency, we assigned a solution that the global scheme might bring, as well as the possible risks associated with it. Transparent communication has always been at the forefront of the Initiative. Feel free to share your thoughts about the content or anything else with me.
Ever since we have created a possibility to reach out to us regarding the initiative, we started receiving requests from hopeless players to be globally self-excluded. We had to tell them that, unfortunately, such system is not ready yet, and provide them with information on how to seek help available in their region. They sometimes shared their stories with us about how they were struggling to create a successful barrier from gambling through self-exclusion. They often had multiple accounts and, even though they managed to block these, they always found a clueless online operator that accepted them. Before hearing these stories, we have only seen specific cases of failed self-exclusion from our work with player complaints. Now, we know that the gap is wider than expected.
As the conference season is closing, we will have more time to focus on desk work and accelerate the creation of the Global Self-exclusion Initiative's blue paper. A document reflecting months of discussions and collecting feedback about the possible functions of a global self-exclusion system will be very helpful for future negotiations with operators and other uses. There still will be much to develop, including international standards of self-exclusion, but creating a detailed description of the scheme's operation will boost its possible reach. Besides that, we are actively working on an independent support tool for excluding from multiple online casinos at which the player already has an account. The synergy of a guide with specific examples and the biggest database of online casinos will provide a handy tool that will help players cover all their accounts in reduced time.