From new job positions and titles to new campaigns, it seems every significant gambling operator is sending more life rafts and manpower into the deep end of the pool.
Only time will tell if the increased presence and attention on preventing, identifying, and throwing a life-raft to problem gamblers comes from genuine concern OR if the resources are being deployed with the hope that proactive industry action can soften the blow of regulation.
Whatever the case may be, I for one don’t care.
I’ll gladly take help from anyone that wants to lend a hand or more importantly a dollar ($), pound (£), or Euro (€).
But Is It the Best Approach?
While I’m happy to see this added support, I do question whether our current approach is the best approach.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many great new developments that should be continued and built upon. But at some point, I think we need to draw lines in the sand. We need a set of rules and boundaries that allow each stakeholder to do what they do best.
The most obvious reason for each stakeholder sticking to what they do best is that it eliminates internal conflict and confusion.
I can’t help but question how c-level management at gambling corporations will be able to implement responsible gambling guidelines when many of the suggestions will fly in direct opposition to the goals of the organization—to make a profit from providing gambling products.
I’ve seen at least one company that is tying company-wide bonuses to hitting responsible gambling metrics. I applaud this approach and the bold attempt to change internal culture and beliefs. But, I struggle to believe it will be enough to overcome the fact that most of an employee’s success and future employment is tied to metrics that improve the company’s bottom line.
And I also question whether it’s fair to the employees and management to impose such an expectation in the first place. I fear they will forever be walking the tight rope of “is this a problem gambler?” or “is this a recreational gambler?” as we still can’t definitively define the difference.
Should operators take steps to curb problem gambling?
Absolutely! After all, nearly every operator will say that they do not wish to profit on addiction so implementing internal tools to identify and help those that might be at-risk should continue on.
But, I think we need to be deliberate about where we draw the line. At some point we need to allow operators to be operators and begin to shift the responsibility to a third party who has a different set of goals and a unique set of tools to back them up.
A second reason for “staying in our lanes” is that it allows our messaging to be more authentic.
Even if an operator is 100% committed to only accepting wagers—and therefore profiting—from non-addicted, recreational gamblers playing within their means, there will always remain public doubt and scrutiny of any and all responsible gambling campaigns.
“Why trust the bookie?” critics will say.
Instead of focusing on the message, the public will look at the campaign as a half-hearted attempt to check a box off in the corporate social responsibility section.
Many great efforts and funding will not see it’s full potential met due to skepticism. I just don’t see any way for this not to be the case.
A Different Approach
As I have hinted at before, I believe a better approach would be to allow everyone to do what they do best. Let operators focus on promoting their products, while prevention and treatment specialist focus on prevention and treatment.
This doesn’t mean operators shouldn’t expand their responsible gambling campaigns. They should absolutely continue them.
However, I think they will be more successful if they focus on their internal processes to help curb problem gambling and allow other organizations fully focused on reducing problem gambling to bring responsible gambling messaging to the public.
And operators can help out there as well by directing funding towards independent groups that specialize in prevention and treatment.
With Different Optics
Look at it through the eyes of the public to see how much different the optics are of:
- A) a gambling operator running RG messaging alongside their logo or messaging
- B) a gambling operator promoting their financial support of a prevention or treatment firm that in turn creates their own campaigns and messaging
The first if rife with conflicting messages, while the second is free from conflict and will result in operators being applauded for supporting independent efforts to address problem gambling and gambling harm.
Not only will the optics be much better, but I believe the efficiency will be as well.
When everyone does what they do best, we all win through improvements in efficiency and effectiveness. So let’s continue to talk and begin to sketch out the lines in the sand that allow all of us to do our best work.
Finally, I’m all about being transparent. I have one agenda—to reduce problem gambling and gambling harm. At some point, I plan to make a career out of developing campaigns and education programs that address responsible gambling, problem gambling and gambling harm. It’s a passion of mine and is work I see myself doing. I point this out as the proposal above outlines a system from which I could personally benefit (Yes, I may not always be 100% self-funded. Shocking, I know.). While this should have no impact on whether you agree or disagree with the proposed changes, I’d rather be up-front about my long-term plans than to have my suggestions minimized in the future due to a hidden conflict-of-interest.
Two Great Books on Focus
This post is inspired by two of my favorite books The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown.
In each, the authors point to specialization and elimination of distractions as the path towards success. Check them out. I think you will really enjoy them.