At Kindred, we work closely with a broad range of stakeholders to investigate ways to expand the responsible gambling field. We know that collaboration between researchers and operators can significantly enhance research in Responsible Gambling and we are eager to support and promote research in this area. We recently launched an online research library with an aim to share and highlight relevant pieces of research. We have spoken to well-known researchers in the field and will share their insights over the coming months. Today, we have spoken to Professor Mark Griffiths.
You have worked in the field for several years now. What are the biggest changes you have seen to the industry when it comes to responsible gambling and player protection?
I’ve been working in the gambling studies field for 33 years and in 1996 I first began to think about my research in terms of social responsibility issues. In the early 2000s, some of the more forward-thinking gaming operators started to bring in socially responsible gambling features. Over the past decade, responsible gambling has really come to the fore, and many gambling regulators around the world will not grant operating licences unless the gaming operators can demonstrate what they are doing for player protection and harm-minimisation. The biggest changes are arguably in the online medium because there are so many protective measures that can be initiated online, such as various limit-setting features, temporary self-exclusions, the use of behavioural tracking tools and more.
Focusing on your study “An Empirical Study of the Effect of Voluntary Limit-Setting on Gamblers’ Loyalty Using Behavioural Tracking Data” can you tell us a bit about the key findings, and how you view voluntary vs mandatory limits and other control tools?
Kindred kindly gave us access to a dataset of 175, 818 players who had placed at least one bet or gambled at least once from January 2016 to May 2017. We looked at active players over a one-year period and found that the percentage of active players in the first quarter of 2017 was significantly higher in the those who had set voluntary money limits in the first quarter of 2016, compared to players who didn’t.
This suggests that players who set voluntary spending limits were more loyal to Kindred than those who do not. With regards to the issue of voluntary vs. mandatory limit-setting, I’m personally in favour of it being mandatory for players to set their own time and money limits if they want to gamble. Many players don’t set their own limits, but I think making it mandatory would help players manage their budgets. Some companies have default global monthly limits on how much money players can lose, but that can become restrictive for those who can afford to gamble with larger amounts of money.
How do you think operators and the academic world can work together for a safer and more sustainable gambling industry in the coming years?
If both academics and the gambling industry have a shared goal of preventing and reducing problem gambling, I think there are good pragmatic reasons to work collaboratively. Personally, I think some of the best gambling research that I have done is working with gambling companies (and I would stress that I am working with gambling companies and not for them) simply because of the high-quality data that gambling operators have. Obviously, there are many academics who have criticised me (and my colleagues) for such collaborations, but I think the positives of working together outweigh the negatives. As long as we have complete independence to publish the results of what we find without interference from the operators, I do not have a problem in working together. Over the past eight years, Dr Michael Auer and I have evaluated the efficacy of limit-setting, mandatory play breaks, pop-up messaging, personalised feedback, loss-limit reminders, and other gambling operator initiatives. Some of these appear to work and others less so. To move the field forward and to help maintain safe and sustainable gambling, collaborative research needs to continue.
Kindred has set an ambition to reach 0% revenue from harmful gambling. What do you see as the key steps towards 100% enjoyable gambling?
The aim is laudable but will be difficult to achieve because harmful gambling (including problem gambling) can never be totally eliminated – although I do believe it can be kept to a minimum. I’ve always argued that problem gamblers have a relatively short customer life for gambling companies and that sustainable companies need long-term customer retention. Problem gamblers cannot give companies that and gambling operators need to think about lifetime customer value with decades of repeat business from those who gamble within their limits over a long period of time, rather than relatively high spending from a minority of customers who may only gamble with the company for a few years. There are a number of key steps that all gambling companies should take if they want sustainable and safe gambling including informed choice. These include (but are not limited to):
- Providing customers with all the information they need so that they can make an informed choice about whether they want to gamble.
- Responsible marketing and advertising.
- Robust age verification checks of customers.
- Robust financial checks of customers.
- Mandatory limit-setting for customers.
- Using customer data to intervene and help high-risk gamblers via bespoke pop-up messaging and personalised messaging.
- Partnering with gambling prevention and treatment agencies.
- Robust voluntary self-exclusion schemes.