Exclusive Q&A with GoodLuckMate CEO and Founder Nerijus Grenda
With responsible gaming ever at the forefront of discussions around gambling and with all eyes on the UK as it conducts its once-in-a-generation review of its gambling laws, there could be big changes coming to the industry as a whole.
GoodLuckMate CEO and Founder Nerijus Grenda makes the case for the iGaming industry going even further in its efforts to protect vulnerable players. And he believes that technology holds the key to removing cases of human error that can lead to costly lawsuits and fines.
European Gaming catches up with Grenda to explore how the industry might adapt over the coming years, whether that’s via changes to the law or by mutually beneficial cooperation.
First off, how has the industry changed its stance on responsible gaming? Do you feel that things are heading in the right direction?
I must say that responsible gaming has made great strides over the last decade or so. There is far more awareness about the issues on the part of the industry, the staff working within it, and the players themselves. All this can only be regarded as a good thing. Nowadays, many players around the world have access to free online tests for gambling addiction, tools to limit playing time, deposit amounts, and overall losses, and there is the opportunity to self-exclude from gambling altogether. Add to this the fact that it’s much easier to get help from free professional help via a wealth of links and advice articles and you can see that we’ve come a very long way.
From my experience of working within the industry for many years, I can also see how staff training programs have benefitted all parts of organizations, especially when it comes to spotting the negative behavioral patterns exhibited by some gambling addicts. And this training is usually extended to all parts of the business, from the C-level staff to the customer support teams that act as the first line of defense against gambling addiction. So, yes, I can honestly say that things have been and are continuing to move in the right direction. But now it’s time to go even further!
Do you think more can be done by online casinos and sports betting sites to protect vulnerable players? Can technology play a major role in this?
Absolutely yes to both questions. Without a doubt, there is always more the industry can do to help vulnerable players before problems get out of hand. And in addition to the training I mentioned above, technology has to play the leading role in tackling the problem. From some of the cases I have read about players suing online casinos, it seems like there is either not enough technology being used to detect issues in the first place or that these processes are being overridden by staff wanting to keep a player on the hook. For example, there should be no way that source of funds checks aren’t carried out as soon as a player crosses a certain threshold for depositing and/or losing significant amounts – with no exceptions. Somewhere in the chain, some of these things are being missed or ignored and that really needs to change.
Another way in which technology should be employed is in spotting sudden changes in betting behavior. I have no doubt that some companies are already doing this, but it should become the default across the entire industry. For example, if a player suddenly goes from betting a couple of hundred per month to thousands, there should be technological mechanisms for flagging the behavior and for an additional source of funds check to be carried out. By doing this, any potential gambling addiction cases or illegal sources of money are nipped in the bud. The same goes for employing technology to help staff spot fake IDs and other supporting documents in the case of underage players, for example. There are many ways in which technology can help us.
Will the UK Review of the Gambling Act 2005 shake up the wider industry? What changes do you see being on the cards once it has concluded?
While I am not based in the United Kingdom, I have been keeping a close eye on the reports coming out and the rather negative media attention being focused on the once-in-a-generation review – as I’m sure many others within the industry are doing. From what I’ve been reading lately, I think there will be further restrictions on the advertising of gambling products on TV, particularly at times when there are a lot of teenagers and young adults watching. For example, I believe that the ban on all gambling advertising before the 9 PM watershed might extend to all major sporting events where young adults are watching. Additionally, I’ve seen a lot of concern being expressed about the Premier League’s reliance on gambling companies as commercial partners. So, it might be the case that teams will soon need to change their shirt sponsors, too.
There is also intense media scrutiny on FOBTs (fixed odds betting terminals, otherwise known as slots). Because of this, betting limits have been put in place and I expect that some of these same ideas for limiting player losses to make the leap over to online slots, too. And another related area I see mentioned in media reports is the practice of cross-selling from one gambling product to another. With the UK being a huge market for sports betting, there is a natural tendency within the industry to move these players from relatively low-profit sports betting over to the far more profitable game types such as slots. However, there could be recommendations to limit cross-selling. Alternatively, players may need to have a separate account for each game type – hence making it more difficult for online casinos to convince players to make the switch.
Do you feel that media attention on cases involving gambling addicts negatively affects the entire industry? And do these cases shape public opinion?
One hundred percent! Major cases are usually reported fairly high up in the news running order simply because the numbers make for an interesting read. People have a natural tendency to find out how a single person was able to not only bet but also lose hundreds of thousands, or even millions in some cases. And the way pretty much all of these cases are reported casts a negative shadow over the entire gaming industry. Almost invariably, we are made to see the online casino in question as the bad guy (and their statements are usually reserved for the very end of the article), with much of the focus being on how the source of funds checks were not carried out properly, or how the player was targeted with numerous offers and enticements over a sustained period of time, for example. All of this undoubtedly shapes public opinion negatively.
Finally, is there enough will within the casino industry to continue to push responsible gaming, or is the profit motive always going to supersede player protection?
While profit is and always will be the main motive behind choosing to set up and run an online casino or sportsbook site, I think a little more focus on responsible gaming would help avoid very costly lawsuits and/or fines later down the line. Furthermore, even if these costs can easily be factored in as a necessary part of the business, the negative press attention that comes along with these cases simply isn’t justifiable in the long run. By getting things right in the first place, there’s more opportunity to build a respectable brand that will endure for many years to come – and with that comes long-term profit, of course. I also think that if the industry works as a whole, shares data on any potential loopholes they’ve spotted, and continues to focus on responsible gaming as an entirely positive aspect of the gambling industry, then everyone wins.