TG Talk - Is gambling an industry where public perception can never be changed?

TG Talk - Is gambling an industry where public perception can never be changed?

Thursday, July 28, 2016 Posted by Andy McCarron
Can the gambling industry change how people - and politicians - view it?

October's EiG Expo in Berlin will be having a debate around the industry's reputation in its Mission Control 2016 stream - one of the issues to be discussed is: "Gambling is an industry where public perception can never be changed, much like the alcohol or tobacco industry. Do you agree?"

TG Talk asked some of the industry's experts to give us their perspectives on the conundrum.

Dan Waugh, Partner at Regulus Partners - History tells us that perceptions of gambling do change over time. This happens for two key reasons: 1) changes in the societal-economic backdrop that make gambling appear more or less acceptable; and 2) changes to the way that gambling is conducted (engineered by industry or government). Much can be done to change the second of these – but PR is not the answer. Tackling the negatives (chiefly gambling-related harm) is a critical step but the real gains lie in changing the nature of the product so that its benefits are felt more keenly among customers and the population at large.

Steve Donoughue, Gambling Consultant - Throughout history the British public has never had any major issues with gambling. The majority of the working and middle classes have always participated.

Opposition has always come from those who have been motivated by either religious or ideological reasons, or today, commercially embittered ones. They are small in number but usually well-funded. The problem has always been one of perception, especially in the media and in Parliament. The industry’s disengagement from the political battleground after the Gambling Act, its subsequent dependence on a few dinosaurs spouting outdated and inappropriate homilies and where we are now with inter industry in-fighting provides ample opportunity for the antis and the headline hungry to paint the industry with the stock stereotype of rapacious capitalists targeting the poor.

The industry has to do more, has to remember that it has survived by being ahead of the curve. It was the industry that first suggested a regulator (the Gaming Board), first to set up a levy and distribution of funds for problem gambling and got behind GamCare years before it had to. Its CEOs need to be reminded that their bottom line is as much about industry perception as it is about CPA.

Robin Hutchison, Business Director, Square in the Air - The operator will always be the Sheriff of Nottingham to the customer’s Robin Hood. But I think that a number of firms have moved to make that relationship less adversarial by being more customer friendly and cleverer with their sponsorships.

Focusing on customer retention more than acquisition will improve public perception too. Brands that have crazy acquisition offers to hook newcomers underestimate the annoyance felt by the loyal customers they exclude. It goes without saying that we also need to take responsible gambling seriously rather the seeing it as a necessary evil.

Lee Richardson, Managing Director, Gaming Economics - Whilst our industry has much to do in order to change public perception about betting and gambling in a positive way, it certainly has a wonderful opportunity to do just that. Our industry can offer people intellectual stimulation, and the opportunity, through the use of information and the assessment of risk, to back one's opinion and win hard cash when one is proved correct. Not many leisure activities offer that kind of experience and, properly presented, that's a powerful combination of benefits which we should be exploiting.

Gwenole Andrieux, CEO, Dice London - The general public have a visceral relationship with gambling which is sometimes contradictory. While many people would agree that an occasional flutter (like an occasional drink) is just a bit of fun, (The Grand National or the Lottery for example) there remains a suspicion of anything that can be harmful in excess. In the same way that a compulsive drinker is viewed unfavourably, so too are regular gamblers - unless of course, they are also regular winners. In those cases the gambler is seen as a hero, beating the mighty bookmaker at his own game. 

As an industry we must continue to promote the ideas of fun and competition and that money won, is twice as sweet as money earned!

You can find out more about the EiG agenda on the website at http://www.eigexpo.com/

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