Dr. Guy Bohane - Playing Safe: Protecting players when the chips are down

Dr. Guy Bohane - Playing Safe: Protecting players when the chips are down

Tuesday, May 8, 2018 Posted by Michael Lawson
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Bohane is an academic with a PhD in Business Ethics.

British gambling is in a state of flux. The government is poised to impose the harshest measures possible on the highly-divisive fixed-odds betting terminal (FOBT), and the impact this will have on the retail sector remains to be seen.

In contrast, the casino sector has recently been praised by the National Casino Forum (NCF) for its willingness to implement responsible gambling measures. Totally Gaming spoke to Dr. Guy Bohane, who spearheads the NCF’s Playing Safe responsible gambling initiative, to find out more.

Totally Gaming: Hi Guy, firstly, for those who are uninitiated, can you introduce Playing Safe and describe the main aims of the initiative?

Dr. Guy Bohane: Playing Safe was launched in 2013 and it is the land-based casino sector’s responsible gambling initiative. The Playing Safe Executive is made up of independent academics and industry experts, who work with casino operators to promote best practice across the industry and carry out research projects to evaluate their performance.

Its accreditation panel (ACE) inspects the casinos of all the major operators to ensure they are adhering to Playing Safe’s core principles; inspections are carried out on a rolling basis and more than 80% of operators have been assessed. Our aim is to go beyond compliance and help operators work together to embed sound principles at every level of every business

TG: Broadly speaking, what kind of success has Playing Safe had in the first five years of operation?

GB: Playing Safe was set up to demonstrate that the casino sector’s commitment to responsible gambling meant embracing the spirit as well as the letter of the law. It has done this successfully.

Operators understand that there is no off-the-shelf solution to promoting best practice; each operator needs to devise a bespoke approach tailored to its own customers. However, there is a vast amount of knowledge in the sector and the closer operators work together the more successful they will be at raising standards across the industry. They collaborate closely through the National Casino Forum’s social responsibility groups, which means that knowledge is bring shared effectively.

TG: Playing Safe’s annual report recently praised the casino sector for its willingness to come together and apply responsible gambling practices. Do you believe the casino sector outperforms other areas of the gambling industry with regards to this?

GB: The casino sector was the first in the industry to launch a national, multi-operator self-exclusion scheme and has been a pioneer in this area. Since SENSE was launched in August 2015, more than 10,000 customers have enrolled in the scheme. A customer can enroll either through a casino or through the National Casino Forum and they cannot then enter any casino for at least six months; if they want to return to casino gambling they must be interviewed by a manager.

One of Playing Safe’s Executive’s core functions is to evaluate SENSE; our most recent survey of the database showed that 44% of customers who have self-excluded had not returned to casino gambling two years later.

Last year, the National Casino Forum became the first trade association in the gambling industry whose members guaranteed that 0.1% of their annual Gross Gaming Yield (GGY) would go directly to the charity GambleAware.

TG: Looking to the future, what does Playing Safe have in store to ensure the casino industry continues to adapt responsible gambling measures?

GB: Playing Safe will engage more directly with customers and hold more focus groups to ensure the voice of the customer is heard. The challenge is to move beyond concentrating on customers who have a problem with their gambling behaviour and to work on prevention.

The other major challenge, set by the DCMS, is to provide hard evidence that the sector is reducing risk and harm to machine players. Playing Safe has been working with the National Casino Forum and casino operators, in collaboration with the Canadian firm, Focal Research, on a major research project which seeks to identify behaviour patterns associated with problem gambling on slot machines.

Five major operators are providing customer data for the project and live trials are underway. Focal has developed complex algorithms to identify the higher probability of risk for customers who may have a problem now or in the future; this allows staff to interact with those customers and encourage less risky behaviour. Initial results will be available within the next 12 months.

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