Shifting from red to green: Using data to address RGSB’s priority actions

Shifting from red to green: Using data to address RGSB’s priority actions

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 Posted by James Walker
Simo Dragicevic: ‘The industry’s biggest challenge to improve internal operational processes’

Last month, the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) published its first assessment of how much progress has been made with delivering year one of the three-year National Responsible Gambling Strategy.

TotallyGaming.com caught up with Simo Dragicevic, CEO of gaming analytics firm, Bet Buddy, who said data remains one of the UK gambling industry’s most vital tools when it comes to addressing the RGSB’s priority actions.

Totally Gaming: How the industry can address the RGSB’s priority actions over the next 12 months?

Simo Dragicevic: The RGSB’s National Responsible Gambling Strategy was launched in April 2016. The RGSB plays a pivotal role in shaping the UK gambling regulatory environment, acting as a key independent advisor to the Gambling Commission.

While the report said there has been “considerable activity” in the first year of the strategy, the board added that some of the elements have been more successful than others. It flagged up both ‘red’ and ‘amber’ levels of concern in terms of how to understand and measure harm, as well as engagement with relevant public-sector bodies, consolidating a culture of evolution and piloting interventions.

The RGSB provided summary guidance on year two priorities, and the Senet Group has called for more to be done to improve the execution of the strategy.

Bet Buddy took a closer look at some of the priority action areas where the industry can most practically and independently influence the responsible gambling and compliance agenda over the next 12 months – and help move the RGSB’s assessment in priority action areas from ‘red’ and ‘amber’ to ‘green’ when the strategy is next assessed in 2018.

TG: What are the biggest challenges currently facing the industry, particularly when it comes to understanding and measuring problem gambling?

SD: Whilst the RGSB outlines strategic research guidance to move this priority action forward next year, and the industry waits for the outputs from GambleAware-funded research in furthering understanding the causes of harm, the industry can draw upon the significant peer-reviewed body of research already undertaken and published in the past 10 years by researchers using player data.

The industry has a good understanding of what data to use and what behaviours to track. Although forthcoming research will undoubtedly provide welcome new insights, there is sufficient research to provide guidance today.

The industry’s biggest challenge now is in improving internal operational processes that label gambling-related harm and improving methods used to mine player data to classify players on a risk continuum. This means investing in training and updating technology, processes and procedures.

In terms of identifying harm and labelling players correctly, operators should start investing in customer support staff training to enable front line staff to be able to understand when players experience harm.

In parallel, enhancing the processes and systems to capture harm data accurately will be critical, as is offering players access to voluntary self-assessments that are captured and used to inform systems that detect harm.

These actions will help the industry overcome issues with using traditional methods that have labelled harm, such as self-exclusion, which in some cases has become more ‘noisey’ in the past 12 months.

TG: How can operators improve their methods of identifying harmful play?

SD: The RGSB points to a lot of recent welcome activity in the industry. However, this priority action remains ‘amber’ due to more progress required in demonstrating the effectiveness of these approaches, improving their transparency and ensuring that proven good practice is adopted across the industry.

Arguably the biggest challenge for the industry is to implement what we at Bet Buddy term as ‘effective harm prevention strategies’ using player data, such as identifying those non-problem gamblers who show signs of risk.

Harm minimisation, as defined by BetBuddy, is focused on those who are likely already experiencing harm. A good example of a national initiative to minimise harm is the National Online Self Exclusion Scheme (NOSES). However, evidencing that the industry is effectively widening the net to ensure data analytics is used to protect moderate to high-risk players – as opposed to problem gamblers – will be a challenge that will be keenly observed by policy makers and stakeholders.

The RGSB’s emphasis on transparency and effectiveness are sending strong signals to industry that simply ‘doing’ will not be enough. Openness with regard to the objectiveness of the methods deployed and the rates of at-risk detection within operators, verticals and across the industry, alongside maintaining KPIs on harm prevention initiative successes (and failures), will be essential to prevent this priority action moving to ‘red’ within the next 12 months.

A move to ‘red’ for this priority action next year is a key industry risk. If sufficient progress isn’t observed, restricting gambling availability could be used as a strategy to help prevent and minimise harm – as is expected to be the case with a reduction in FOBT stake sizes this autumn.

TG: How can data be used to help the industry implement best practice responsible gambling strategies?

SD: The industry is arguably savvy and very data-driven. Techniques for calculating lifetime player values, segmenting players and optimising the player user experience through A/B testing are highly data intensive methods and evidence to this.

The RGSB state that it has not, however, yet seen sufficient evidence of evaluations of player protection interventions being widely carried out, and that where evaluations are taking place, there is insufficient focus on impact as opposed to process.

An example of this could be PwC’s audit of the ABB’s player awareness systems, which to date have focused more on process rather than measuring outcomes.

Operators who have effective risk assessment analytics in place are now well placed to start deploying and trialling responsible gambling intervention best practices in the field and to start evidencing a proactive responsible strategy.

To move this priority action from ‘red’ within the next 12 months, operators will need to demonstrate the effectiveness of their responsible gambling initiatives. These can be relatively simple analytical assessments that identify underlying behavioural changes following a series of responsible gambling interactions with the player.

More advanced Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) can be designed to provide more compelling evidence of responsible gambling effects, and also have the advantage of being publishable in peer-reviewed journals if the operator wishes to do so.

RCTs generally require large sample sizes to produce statistically significant results, and are more suited to medium or larger operators, especially if multiple hypotheses are to be tested, such as the impact of personalised versus normative messaging; the impact of responsible gambling interactions on VIP versus non-VIP at risk play; or the impact of message channel on changing behaviour.

We recommend that operators start investing in building robust evaluation methodologies and frameworks and repeatable, or ‘agile’, automated tests and also start sharing outcomes with the regulator and industry, with the RGSB and GambleAware well place to facilitate this.

The more robust the methodologies deployed, the more influence the industry has on shaping the regulatory frameworks in place.

TG: How much focus should the industry place on addressing the RGSB’s priority actions over the next 12 months?

SD: The RGSB plays a pivotal in shaping the UK gambling regulatory environment, acting as a key independent advisor to the Gambling Commission on the national responsible gambling strategy.

The one-year update on the implementation of the national strategy provides the UK industry with very clear guidance on what is expected in terms of focus and investment over the next 12 months to help in delivering the strategy.

Whilst addressing these areas requires a co-ordinated and sustained effort from all stakeholders, industry activity is firmly under the optics of government, stakeholders, and the regulator, and this is unlikely to change.

A failure to adequately address the ‘red’ and ‘amber’ priority actions outlined by the RGSB will place the industry under even greater regulatory risk in 2018.

In fact, we believe over-delivering on the RGSB’s priority actions is the only way the industry can respond to ensure stakeholders can entrust the industry to continue to have freedom to build the world’s most innovative and enjoyable gaming experiences and to continue to grow.

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