After hailing “significant progress” and “strong momentum” last month following a strong Q3 showing and US entry, Bragg Gaming has built upon a number of igaming link-ups entered in recent weeks.
CasinoBeats has been speaking to Dominic Mansour, CEO of Bragg Gaming, to address the firm’s responsible gambling initiatives, advice to regulators and the most effective frameworks.
CB: Could you begin by talking our readers through Bragg Gaming’s responsible gambling strategy?
Dominic Mansour: I have several years’ experience in the betting, gaming and lottery sectors and have been involved in several responsible gambling initiatives in different jurisdictions.
I personally feel a responsibility to ensure we as a business and sector provide fun and entertainment to people who want to gamble. As the alcohol and beverage industry encourages ‘Drinking Responsibly’, we need to ensure we do everything we can to protect those who are vulnerable within our sector.
Over the years, we have seen the public perception of gambling change drastically, leading to mounting political pressure and tightening regulations. A plethora of restrictions have been introduced as a result, ranging from advertising bans and bonus restrictions to compulsory limits on time and deposits.
In our view, regulation around these matters are crucial and we encourage a socially responsible approach and attitude to gambling. As a supplier, we need to have responsible gaming at the forefront of everything we do. Operators carry legal responsibility for ensuring compliance, but in turn that means their B2B suppliers, such as us, need to ensure we have the necessary tools developed to support them.
“The underlying theme is to ensure player protection”
From our perspective, this goes beyond complying with the relevant laws, policies and regulations in the jurisdictions where we operate. We believe the industry needs to be seen as being proactive on responsible gambling and self-regulation, and that requires cooperation.
Engaging with the different industry verticals, regulators and responsible gaming groups as well as keeping up with technological developments, would speed up development of effective solutions that limit the harm caused by gambling to some individuals.
CB: What part do such considerations play upon entering new markets? Especially following the recent US entry.
DM: We analyse each jurisdiction before we enter, considering any potential barriers to launching. Regulation is a key factor, and as countries take a stricter approach to responsible gambling and introduce measures that affect how we can operate and be profitable, we may be forced to adapt our model or even in extreme cases choose to not enter.
In jurisdictions where the responsible gambling framework is not strong enough, we want to ensure that we as a supplier go over and beyond what is legally required to protect players. In the US online gaming is still a new industry, but as in most jurisdictions, responsible gambling is top of the agenda for regulators and policy makers when drafting new legal frameworks – a focus which we strongly encourage.
CB: What advice would you give to regulators regarding RG frameworks ahead of a market launch? What lessons could be learned from elsewhere?
DM: The underlying theme is to ensure player protection. This should not be restricted to the vulnerable and those likely to play beyond their means, but also to those who can afford to play within their means. For example, placing a £2 stake limit to online gambling, as is being discussed in the UK is creating a terrible structure. It is going to push those people who can afford to stake hundreds or even thousands to offshore, illegal, unregulated sites.
“Measures that are too strict or drastic can end up having severe consequences”
That plays into the hands of the criminals, protects no one and frankly takes much needed tax revenues offshore. For the first group, we need to ensure they are protected across the board; meaning, they don’t self-exclude from one bookmaker, with nothing stopping them from going to another over the road, or to play online.
A central cohesive system, where players are able to self-exclude from all channels, and all sites or shops makes a lot more sense. Furthermore, a system to allow those who have the means to play within their means (through source of funds, wealth checks etc) makes a lot more sense than blanket bet limits.
CB: Which jurisdiction/s do you believe have the most effective frameworks in place and why?
DM: I personally assisted the Danish gambling regulator in designing their online gaming regulatory framework ahead of it being implemented in 2012, with a specific focus on responsible gaming measures. The result has been successful, creating an environment where players are well protected, with tools such as the national self-exclusion system ROFUS, compulsory deposit limits and bonus restrictions to limit potential harm. But despite a strong consumer protection approach, the industry is still allowed to thrive which is key.
Measures that are too strict or drastic can end up having severe consequences for the industry. We have seen this in the UK with the £100 maximum stake on FOBTs being slashed to £2. This is one of the most ridiculous cases of so-called responsible gaming initiatives.
No one is arguing the FOBTs were causing disproportionate harm but the implementation of a £2 stake limit in one game, in retail only, did nothing to resolve the root cause nor assist people who are in need of help. It caused a significant decline in retail revenue for bookmakers, which in turn has cost jobs but actually in my opinion has not resolved the underlying issues.
“This should remain an industry driven exercise”
Vulnerable people could stand in the same bookmaker and make larger bets, in shorter periods of time on their mobile device. Furthermore, people who could afford to spend bigger had nowhere to go to play, even though they were neither vulnerable nor being affected by their losses.
CB: What more can the industry be doing on a global basis regarding such issues? How do you see such strategies and initiatives developing in 2020?
DM: Collaborate across the board! In this area we all have the same goal and are not competitors. It is crucial we come together from all corners of the industry, whether you’re an operator, supplier or affiliate, to ensure our customers are fully protected. I also expect we will see more initiatives launched by individual operators and suppliers as the importance of having solid strategies in place becomes even more evident.
This should remain an industry driven exercise, with expertise provided to government regulators to ensure that structures that are implemented create a healthy, thriving industry whilst protecting the vulnerable and ensure those with the means are not pushed to play illegally or offshore.