26 April, 2021

Achieving full potential

Simon Vincze, responsible gambling projects manager at Casino Guru, discusses the affiliate's new Global Self-Exclusion Initiative - including the motivation behind it and the challenges in helping problem gamblers with one worldwide system

Can you give us an update on how Casino Guru has been progressing generally in recent months?
For the most part, business as usual. We keep doing what we do best - broadening and updating our database of casinos and bonuses, helping players with casino-related issues, and making our website better overall, bit by bit. Our community has been growing, helping our forum catch up with its competition that has been around for years.

That said, there are some things standing out from the overall, continual improvements and growth. We have recently launched two projects aimed at overall industry improvements outside of the scope of Casino Guru itself: the Global Self-Exclusion Initiative and the Casino Guru Academy.

How did the Covid-19 pandemic affect the company?
As we all know by now, online gambling has experienced massive growth in 2020, as global lockdowns forced people to stay home and land-based casinos to close. We have also experienced growth in terms of visitors coming to Casino Guru. Luckily, most of our day-to-day operation is not impacted by the number of visitors we get, perhaps apart from the Complaint Resolution Centre

We had to strengthen the Complaint team to be able to assist the growing number of players who turned to us for help directly by submitting a complaint about an online casino. Then, there is the issue of being forced to work from home, but we dealt with it relatively well. Some of our team members have already been working remotely before, and others have adjusted reasonably well.

Can you tell us more about your recently launched global self-exclusion initiative?
A responsible approach to gambling has been one of Casino Guru's core values from the very beginning. We did our best to run our website with moral values and players' best interests in mind. As we grew, we started to look into potential improvements for the entire industry, which could benefit even people who have never even heard about Casino Guru. Laying foundations for change that can outgrow the direct impact of our own project…

One of the things we kept noticing was insufficient protection of vulnerable players across the globe. Self-exclusion can help addicted players limit their access to gambling, but its scope limited to a single casino or regulatory body restricts its full potential. Excluded players can still gamble in different casinos or look for foreign operators willing to let them play. While it is fine for some players, it is definitely not ideal for those who resort to self-exclusion because they struggle with gambling addiction. That is why the idea to create a global self-exclusion system was born.

Obviously, this is something we cannot do on our own, which is why we launched this initiative. We started by increasing awareness of the issue and collecting feedback from industry professionals. The goal is to find people and organisations that see the value in a global self-exclusion system and join the initiative, working with us towards making online gambling safer for players from all around the world.

How will the scheme ensure it is consistent internationally across different markets?
This is, in fact, one of the issues we expect to face. Unfortunately, most high-level discussions about responsible gambling and regulations are held within the limits of single jurisdictions. To overcome this issue, we will need to persuade other entities to start looking at things from a global perspective.

We expect it to be extremely difficult - if at all possible - to get licensing authorities to implement global self-exclusion into their regulatory requirements. Instead, we hope to take the route of creating a new industry standard enforced not by regulations but by reputation. Single-operator self-exclusion and national schemes can coexist with a global self-exclusion system, and it can be up to players to decide to opt into it or not when self-excluding.

That said, we fully expect to encounter many issues related to individual regulators, their approach to responsible gambling, as well as their specific self-exclusion systems and regulations. At this point, we cannot tell how exactly things end up working out - we will have to wait and see.

What is wrong with the current self-exclusion options that exist in gaming?
As I already mentioned, the issue of current options is their limited scope. Players can exclude from a single casino or make use of regulator-wide schemes, but they can basically always find a casino where they can play. This is an issue for players who self-exclude because they are addicted to gambling and want to limit their access to it.

Addicted players can experience massive urges to start gambling again, scouring the internet for casinos that will allow them to play. We have seen a number of players who self-excluded from all licensed operators in their country, only to end up playing at much worse and much less safe foreign operators. A well-implemented global self-exclusion system could create an effective barrier that helps addicted players truly limit their access to gambling on a global level. And that is what we are trying to achieve.

Additionally, we see huge room for improvement in terms of making sure excluded players see as few gambling ads as possible, as well as a closer cooperation with professionals helping problem gamblers recover from their addiction.

Given everything you've discussed above, what are your biggest challenges in successfully implementing this initiative?
I expect these challenges to change as we go along, so we plan to take it step by step. At the moment, the biggest challenge is to direct the attention of operators, regulators and other relevant parties to this issue, and show them the potential benefits of a cooperatively created global self-exclusion system.

However, I think the biggest issue we will face down the line will come down to technological implementation of the system. A system like this will have to work with sensitive information, which puts a lot of emphasis on data sharing, privacy and security. Additionally, with a number of entities involved, we will have to look for a solution that satisfies the requirements of regulators, operators and other members of the gambling industry.

That is why the first phase of the initiative is about collecting feedback and discussing the issue, so that we can look at the issue from all the important angles and consider everything that needs to be considered.

Overall, what are Casino Guru's aims for the rest of 2021? 
In terms of the Self-Exclusion Initiative, we will continue spreading awareness of the issue, discussing it with relevant parties and looking for support. Then, we will move to the second phase of the initiative - working on increasingly specific plans and solutions with other entities that join the team.

We are also working on a global database of problem gambling help centres, which will allow struggling players from all around the world to easily find the help they need. Additionally, we plan to work on new courses for the Casino Guru Academy, helping online gambling professionals to be even better prepared to create a balanced gambling ecosystem online.

When it comes to regular operation, the goal is to just keep improving our website in terms of features, content, technological improvements as well as the overall value we can bring to our visitors.

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