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Knowing When to Fold ‘Em

Innovation in responsible gaming technology gives players more resources than ever

Knowing When to Fold ‘Em

Slowly, inexorably, an enlightened message greets gamblers, vendors and the wagering industry. It has begun resonating, reaching higher pitch and sounding like a normal disclaimer across gambling floors and hand-held apps: please, gamble responsibly.

Operators, and the vendors who supply their products, embrace the rising industry conscience.

All sides find a sweet spot to tout restraint without discouraging business. Acceptance of that theme breeds creativity across the board.

Consider:

Player-controlled time, wager and loss limits, along with resource information placed on websites, indicate one form of sophistication. Commercials involving NFL coaches and responsible gambling game plans are another.

A disclaimer precedes major segments of the Betting Exchange and

Bettor Half Hour, televised nationally on the Madison Square Garden network. Before hearing analyst opinions, gamblers hear a prerecorded announcement about wagering responsibly, on every show. This is high-profile reinforcement of an important theme.

Amid that backdrop, vendors manage to embed products into the apps of operators, who consider them good business and insurance against a potential backlash from regulators.

Whyte Notes Improvement, Seeks More

Keith Whyte, the executive director for the National Council on Problem Gambling, thinks the gaming industry can target a substantial borderline segment.

Whyte says 75 percent of players encounter no problems. One percent might always struggle and should consider giving up gambling entirely.

That leaves 24 percent of gamblers, representing “billions and billions of dollars,” a prime target for the industry’s enhanced educational tools, he asserts.

“The industry in general continues to make strides,” he says. “There is an increasing consensus that responsible gambling is important. We are seeing more indications that it’s also important to put your money behind.

“Most online operators have an extensive suite of responsible gaming tools. The challenge is that many customers still aren’t using them.

“Some in the industry are doing a great job and others are doing little or nothing. I prefer to think of this as the glass being half full.”

Whyte, who celebrates 25 years on the job in October, has seen numerous advancements in the last quarter century. More may be coming.

“There is emerging evidence coming from Europe that customers who engage with responsible gaming tools are more sustainable in the long term,” Whyte asserts. “That may boil down to customers not being burned out by chasing losses and also knowing that the people they are playing with are looking out for them.”

Whyte believes customers who set their own limits with the help of a casino or website will support the measure more than one that comes from a government body.

Some problem-gambling roots are based in mathematical probability, he adds. Whyte says a 2021 survey reveals that the number of verticals one plays is strongly associated with problem gambling.

Customers who engage in 10 or more verticals, ranging from bingo to lottery, sports betting, blackjack and casino games are five times more likely to develop problematic factors. Fantasy sports is another wild card, linking with the same elements known to day-trading on Wall Street.

Just as a salesperson always closes, Whyte is always stressing some fundamental point about responsible gaming.

One involves the four quadrants of problem gambling. A player may have a problem if he or she:

  • Lies about gambling
  • Feels restless and irritable while playing
  • Relies on others to pay bills
  • Needs to gamble more for the same feeling of excitement
  • Gambles while intoxicated
  • Makes a large deposit, even two, in the wee hours of the morning
  • Gambles too rapidly
  • Chases to get even

Due to the industry’s education efforts, more of these problems are coming to light and being addressed.

A September to Remember

Pavilion Payments“Responsible Gaming Education Month (RGEM) is an opportunity for the entire gaming industry to come together to discuss arguably its most important issue,” says Christopher Justice, CEO of Pavilion Payments.

“RGEM is about honesty; it’s about taking account of the reality of problem gaming and developing solutions. As a payments provider, there is a special onus on us to address responsible gaming concerns, so it’s especially important for us to incorporate responsible gaming technology in our offerings.”

Justice applauds industry efforts to prevent proliferated gambling from becoming problem gambling. That awareness, in Justice’s view, begins with his own company.

“Our solutions have had a tremendous impact on our patrons,” he says. “Giving patrons tools to control their spending gives patrons and operators confidence. Pavilion Payments also supports many responsible gaming organizations and initiatives, including the NCPG and the American Gaming Association’s Have a Game Plan initiative. Through these partnerships, we promote responsible gaming awareness throughout the industry.”

As the largest vertically integrated payments provider serving the gaming industry, Pavilion Payments takes its commitment to responsible gaming seriously, Justice asserts.

Both with its solutions and in the initiatives it supports, the company strives to promote responsible gaming in everything it does to improve the entire gaming industry. Its vertically integrated strategy also enables a client to track all aspects of the payments experience and create better responsible gaming solutions.

VIP Preferred has been the company’s top performer in this sector. It is Pavilion’s industry-standard e-check/ACH network, connecting 3 million registered users to more than 400 in-person and online gaming institutions.

“It integrates configurable pre-set spending limits, cooling-off periods and voluntary self-exclusion into VIP Preferred,” Justice says. “VIP Preferred also connects to brick-and-mortar solutions like VIP Mobility and VIP Financial Center, bringing its responsible gaming technology along with it.”

“Our anti-money laundering (AML) solutions also help curb unhealthy payments behavior. VIP Shield, Pavilion Payments’ AML and Title 31 compliance solution, helps to identify issues with payments and protect gaming institutions.”

While the ascent of online sports betting has led to additional focus on problem gaming given its broad appeal, it has also given players additional tools to control their spending, Justice asserts. Digital technology may enable easier access to funds, but also delivers advanced ways to monitor their play, he says.

This ultimately provides patrons with the tools to play safely. Data that spots problems will protect patrons throughout the gaming industry.

“If someone is concerned about problem gaming, they should become familiar with the responsible gaming tools available to them,” he says. “There are also a number of other resources provided by the industry to offer help to those who feel they need it.”

Setting Sights on Innovation

“While responsible gaming is a year-round philosophy for Sightline and the products we bring to market, RGEM brings a sharp focus to this issue and its importance to the health and success our industry and our consumers,” says Andrew Crowe, senior vice president, investor relations and growth initiatives for Sightline Payments LLC.

“As we expand access to gaming and modernize the casino floor, we must emphasize the expanded RG tools that come with this, including greatly enhanced visibility into player behavior, along with better player controls, budgeting tools, and access to problem gambling support.”

Sightline works directly with the leading mobile sports and iGaming operators and over 180 tribal and commercial properties to provide omnichannel payment solutions, cashless slot and table play, and loyalty mobile apps, Crowe says.

“As a payment solution for iGaming and mobile sports, our product is imbedded in the operators’ apps and they control the entire UI/UX,” he asserts. “For brick-and-mortar casinos, we are integrated directly with their CMS platform to support a full range of loyalty applications and enable cashless play for slots and tables.”

Crowe makes important distinctions regarding the “problem gambling” term.

“The first step for our industry is to help remove the stigma associated with problem gambling, compulsive behavior and general mental health,” he says. “RG tools should be made widely available and become a natural part of the gaming experience.”

The second distinction concerns looking at the online market, he adds.

On one hand, it is perceived as a floodgate-opening lever to the masses, some of whom can become problem gamblers. On the other, it provides a significant improvement to the RG tools, controls, and analytics available to regulators, operators and the players themselves, Crowe indicates.

Here is the rest of his overview:

  • Regulators: Digital player engagement means extensive data on actual player activity and behavior. This is a massive improvement over anonymous cash play, and the new level of insight will drive well-informed decisions on how to balance the industry’s commercial aspirations with the very-important public policy considerations.
  • Operators: This same view of player activity and behavior will help operators gain a much better understanding of the impact of marketing initiatives and opportunities for and effectiveness of RG tools that can be deployed in support of healthy gaming play.
  • Players: In addition to the benefits to regulators and operators, digital play also gives the players total visibility into their gaming activity, including spend levels and historical win/loss rates. Players can also leverage new RG controls, such as time tracking, funding and wager limits, and self-exclusion functions.
  • Banks: Often lost in the RG discussion or debates about credit card funding is the role that the player’s bank can play in this process. For example, when a credit card is used to fund gaming activity, the issuing bank adds an entirely new level of oversight into healthy gaming activity—the bank knows the player’s income, credit quality and general credit card usage.  They also know this is a gaming transaction and their approval of each individual transaction is an expanded layer of visibility and control that is not available to regulators or operators.

Play +Sightline’s flagship product, Play+, enables players to use a single digital payment method across all gaming channels and throughout the entire resort through a secure account. It’s currently the cashless solution of choice with more than 80 partners in 40-plus states across the sports betting, lottery, horse racing, and online and brick-and-mortar casino markets.

Sightline’s mobile loyalty platform, Mobile+, gives casino resorts the ability to offer patrons a fully customizable app capable of providing access to all patron-facing services as well as tracking and applying loyalty across the entire property.

“Loyalty and payments should follow a player across all channels and verticals of the gaming experience,” Crowe says. “Sightline offers a single account that can move funds in real time between a player’s mobile sports betting app, mobile transfers in/out of slot machines, and to buy in and digitally cash out at tables games.”

That means a player can witness his/her entire spending pattern, including gambling, to make an assessment about it.

Responsible Tools: A Vintage Reservoir

There will always be a demand for new products and upgrades because, regardless of progress, periodic incidents underscore their necessity. As this story was being researched, the NFL suspended four players in late June for violating the league’s gambling policy.

Isaiah Rodgers and Rashod Berry of the Indianapolis Colts, along with free agent Demetrius Taylor, have been suspended at least through the end of 2023 for betting on NFL games in 2022.

Nicholas Petit-Frere of the Tennessee Titans is suspended for the first six games of the 2023 season for betting on non-NFL sports at the club facility.

This happens just as Calvin Ridley is getting back on the field. The talented wide receiver was suspended for the entire 2022 season for gambling on the Falcons. He reportedly lost more than $2 million by sitting out the 2022 season.

Like most people who have abused gambling, he has not been condemned. Ridley, now a Jacksonville Jaguar, talked about anxiety and depression leading up to his gambling mistake.

His story is worth noting and could help anyone avert a big problem if they experience the triggers Ridley had.

There is always something else to learn, always something more to do.

There are still major bettors who will drop $1 million on an in-game NFL wager. There are still some relationships that are harmed and perhaps some families torn apart.

But the key is “some,” rather than “many.” Responsible gambling has not only become fashionable; it may ultimately become chic. More operators will eventually view this as a necessary part of their blueprint.

That’s not only good corporate spirit, but a potential gold mine for the companies who fill this niche first.

PlayTech Protects

Playtech has, literally, kept its eye on the ball.

The company not only has a burgeoning presence in the American iGaming and sports-betting realm, but has made responsible gambling a cutting-edge participant. As it enters international markets, with varied regulations, it has some responsible gambling cache.

Company officials say that thanks to its responsible gambling platforms, Playtech Protect and BetBuddy, it can deliver a personalized approach to real-time customer interaction, even prevention.

This includes forcing breaks in play and issuing reminders of deposit limits in play messages.

The company’s award-winning IMS platform is at the center of Playtech Protect, a sophisticated, scalable technology that unifies Playtech products across all channels. IMS offers full visibility of the player life cycle and end-to-end player management from a single, centralized point.

BetBuddy is the class-leading responsible gambling analytics platform, company reports say. By combining the latest research into problem gambling with the power of machine learning, BetBuddy delivers an end-to-end solution for identifying and managing at-risk gambling behavioral patterns.

BetBuddy is a groundbreaking responsible gambling analytics platform, built around data mining and predictive analytics. The product combines the latest research into gambling behavior patterns with the power of machine learning, delivering a sophisticated end-to-end solution to proactively identify and engage with at-risk players.

This can become a critical asset, helping gamblers avoid falling over the edge.

BetBuddy’s artificial intelligence-driven machine learning models not only deliver greater accuracy, but are also fully explainable—a unique capability of the solution.

Engagement Centre enables proactive interaction and evaluation with players via personalized, real-time in-game messaging capabilities—to remind players of playing time, encourage breaks, suggest actions, and communicate directly at key interaction points.

In 2022, Playtech launched a four-year research partnership with Holland Casino, Erasmus University and the University of Amsterdam. This partnership will explore how to measure player risk and behavioral impacts from safer gambling interactions—an important focus area in newly regulated markets.

Playtech expects to share updates on this work in the coming months.

The responsible gambling arm accompanies Playtech’s foray into cutting-edge ventures. Under an exclusive multi-jurisdiction partnership with DAZN Bet, Playtech will specifically provide a range of new casino content for DAZN Bet customers. This includes a wide portfolio suite, including casino RNG games, table games and live casino games.

The casino and live casino partnership has already gone live in the U.K., with more markets to come this year, including expansions in Spain, Italy, Germany and other global markets.

Casino Connection Sports Editor Dave Bontempo is an award-winning sports writer and broadcaster who calls boxing matches all over the world. He has covered the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs, as well as numerous PGA, LPGA and Seniors Golf Tour events, and co-hosted the Casino Connection television program with Publisher Roger Gros.