All companies of a certain size, regardless of the industry that they work in and the geographic market that they operate in, take corporate social responsibility (CSR) very seriously.
The importance of CSR has even lead to an entire industry being created. The idea behind it is that as well as making money; businesses are around to enrich the community around them and wider society. Of course the cynical among us will perhaps take the view that it’s simply done so that companies can look good in the eyes of their potential customers.
So it’s safe to assume that CSR is a pretty big deal. If companies operating in industries with relatively clean images such as technology and manufacturing view it as so vital, just how much effort should be going into gambling CSR?
Industries that are perceived as harmful to their customers are constantly being engaged in battles. Gambling is often bracketed with alcohol, tobacco and other such industries as those that are scorned by some as detrimental to society.
This is particularly the case in the UK where TV programmes such as BBC’s Panorama and Channel 4’s Dispatches have both presented negative portrayals of the industry recently.
What makes gambling such an easy target for those on their high horses is that, more often than not, gamblers are left with no tangible assets as a result of their gambling spend. As a result the industry has taken a lot of stick. Perhaps this is not so much the case for iGaming operators but guilt by association is something that’s more common than we might think.
But is all of the criticism deserved? Most from within the industry will have seen their fair share of big spenders with tens of thousands being lost by an individual in a matter of days or weeks. In order to protect against this and make up for it in other ways, are companies actually being socially responsible?
In the UK there’s the £5 million fund set up to establish and maintain organisations such as Gamcare who help to fight and, where possible, prevent problem gambling. This was partly set up as a result of the Gambling Act 2005 which requited that land based casinos in the UK adhered to three licensing objectives.
These were ‘keeping crime out of gambling’, ‘ensuring gambling is conducted fairly and openly’, and ‘protecting children and vulnerable people from being harmed or exploited by gambling’.
As a result of these objectives and, perhaps, a sense of moral necessity, pretty much all gambling companies endorse problem gambling
support organisations. For iGaming sites that usually comes in the form of a Gamcare logo as a run-of-site footer and possibly a link through to the organisation’s site.
But some gambling sites have gone a bit further than this. At this year’s EGR Awards Mr. Green took home the award for Socially Responsible Operator of the Year and for good reason. The Swedish casino operator has included a clearly visible betting limits controller on the site that goes by the name of Green Gaming.
While many iGaming operators offer some form of betting limit service, few are as easy to find as Mr. Green’s – it’s right there as soon as you log in. The company has also used this opportunity to be quite innovative. There are three different limits that players can set – one for how much you deposit, one for how much you wager and one for how much you lose.
But, encouragingly, Mr. Green aren’t the only ones to take problem gambling seriously. Betfair aren’t known for their sympathy towards gamblers but were highly commended in the category that Mr. Green won. At the Gaming Awards much earlier this year it was Skybet who took the plaudits.
While obviously commendable, their award for Socially Responsible Operator of the Year does suggest that most gambling company’s CSR could be far inferior to that of companies in other industries. Sky is, after all, primarily a media company and the chances are that Skybet’s social responsibility strategy will simply be piggybacking on BSkyB’s company-wide strategy.
Helping the Wider World
BSkyB have put considerable effort into their social responsibility and due to their wider brand recognition have had to justify their efforts in the gambling sector. As such deposit limits, self-exclusion, strict age verifications, breaks in play after prolonged losses and time warnings have all been part of the service.
But Sky’s CSR goes much further than that. Their Bigger Picture shows just how much they do with environment, sport, arts, schools and just about every way of helping that you could imagine.
Fortunately, this is an area where, in gambling, Sky isn’t alone. In fact, William Hill have put considerable work into their Project Africa by helping with projects, donating and raising funds for a school in Kenya. Betfair have shown their interest in ensuring the welfare of racing horses by sponsoring the World Horse Welfare Conference and many others are going about things in their own ways.
One gambling company who have done this to great effect is Microgaming who were recently rewarded for their CSR at the Isle of Man Awards for Excellence. The fact that this award was won ahead of companies from other sectors is somewhat encouraging.
Speaking about the award, Microgaming’s CEO Roger Raatgever said: “We believe that responsible gaming, which players trust and respect, is essential to the online gaming industry. We aim to achieve the highest standards in this area.
“Furthermore, we are delighted to be able to support the Island’s local community through various sponsorships and donations.”
It’s hard to over emphasize the importance of this award and how many more like it would be welcome. The reason being that gambling operators are being recognized to be doing more than the average to help those around them. And for companies where the opposite is usually said, that could prove to be a very big benefit.