A few weeks ago I moderated a panel about the UKGC’s recent report issued on June 15th, an update on their October 2019 “Industry Challenges” report. The consensus of my panelists was what the UKGC is calling for- not to mention several other reports that are circulating such as the Gambling Related Harm APPG’s- is way over the top and includes proposed restrictions that would surely push players into the black market if implemented.
Panelist Jesper Kärrbrink, Chairman at Green Jade Games, has always been an advocate of implementing tools to help players gamble responsibly and he believes such tools in conjunction with affordability checks is a much more reasonable way to approach problem gambling prevention.
“Regulation is key for this industry because it guarantees a long term sustainable growth of the industry and we’re getting less and less stigmatized, so that’s a good thing in itself”, said Kärrbrink.
“For me, this is quite simple, actually…its about affordability. Focus on should the player spend this amount of money, yes or no. And today, with the digital era, with all the reports and tax filings, etc, etc, we could solve that. We have amazing software out there like beBettor– they’ve already solved this”, he pointed out.
In Kärrbrink’s opinion, imposing such a scheme should be the job of the regulator- they should run, operate and own the affordability checking program.
“Combine that with loss limits – where I put my own loss limits – and then you see if these are matching or not and then I think you’ve solved it. Actually, we’ve solved it, because if I can’t spend more than I should, then the risk of this going the wrong way is very, very little”, he explained.
There are already a number of scanning tools available today to check player behavior, such as Sveska Speil’s player scan and Mr. Green’s Green Gaming Tool, an initiative of Kärrbrink’s, in fact, while he was Mr. Green’s CEO. According to Kärrbrink, operators should be taking full advantage of such tools while also working together to support safer play.
“We should see this as individuals but we should also know that these individuals are playing at different casinos and bouncing back and forth, so we have to catch them in a nationwide system, like Spelpaus in Sweden. It works perfectly well. You’re banned in one casino, bam. You’re banned in all casinos”, he said.
One question that came up during our panel was if the percentage of problem gamblers has increased while the iGaming industry has grown and technology has become sharper. Without question, the numbers are not signaling an increase in problem gambling since the inception of the industry roughly 20 years ago.
“For the last 20, 25 years they have been doing prevalent studies in Sweden and the numbers have been around 2%. In the U.K. they are 0.7. It’s a different definition in Sweden and if you look at the core, compulsive gamblers they’re all .5, .6 in Sweden, so that’s probably the same roughly as the U.K. numbers. This has been the same. Ever since we started”, explained Kärrbrink.
“Look at gambling and gaming 25 years ago and look at it today. It has exploded. Its probably double the size, it’s hundreds of casinos, advertising is everywhere, TV commercials, its football sponsorships, its fast games, its slamstop, etc, etc. And you know what? The numbers are the same. Actually, the trend in Sweden is they are a bit on decline right now”, he confirmed.
“So there is no logic into this. If sponsorship and slamstop was the problem- is the problem- well, then, we shouldn’t have had any problematic gamblers back in the ‘80s or ‘90s. But we had the same number”, Kärrbrink added.
In response to the UKGC’s suggestion to slow games down, reduce consumer appeal and more, Kärrbrink pointed out how everything digital moves faster today and there are more choices than ever before across all sectors- this is a development of society.
“We don’t have one hamburger chain in Sweden these days, we have 20, 30. We don’t have two cars, we don’t have two TV channels, we have hundreds. We have films around the clock, we don’t have one cinema in the center anymore. We can watch Netflix whenever we want. This is how society is developing. Gaming is developing accordingly”, said Kärrbrink.
“And trying to stop that and say, ‘no, no, no, no, you know what, we should have not as fun games’, then [players] will go and play somewhere else”, he added.
Several times during our panel and during this interview Kärrbrink reiterated the importance of regulation and taking problem gambling seriously. He believes the industry as a whole is on the right track and pointed out how a number of operators have implemented play scans and made changes to their VIP programs, for example.
“There are absolutely more things that we can do, absolutely operators out there being a bit shady, especially on the black market, but once again, solve the affordability check and I think that’s the best start because once again, this addiction starts with you losing more than you can afford”, he said.
“So this is affordability. And that’s digital, we know exactly how much you pay for and we should be able to see if you can afford it. There are systems out there doing this today. Regulators, embrace those. Take them in as your system, control them. Force me as an operator to hook up to the system”, Kärrbrink encouraged.
“And then let me work with the customer with the nicest and best products ever or I will lose them and then most likely lose them to the black operators”, he warned.