RICHARD Flint, the chief executive of Sky Betting & Gaming, has called on the betting industry to listen to its critics and do more to help vulnerable customers who find gambling harmful.
Mr Flint set out a four point plan to harness technology and reduce gambling harm at the ICE Totally Gaming conference in London, which is one of the world’s biggest gambling conferences.
In a speech to leaders of the gambling sector, Mr Flint outlined how the online gambling sector can create a sustainable industry that is trusted by regulators, politicians, and customers.
Mr Flint said: “There is no silver bullet to this, no one measure, no one company alone that can get us there.
“It will take sustained effort on a number of fronts - and commitment from all of us in the industry to work together to make that happen.
“I do not come here today to lecture you or claim that Sky Betting & Gaming is perfect. Like all companies, we do not always get everything right. But nonetheless, I believe the time has come for a mature conversation about where our industry is and where we should aim to be.”
Mr Flint said that debate about gambling often reflects the wider themes of politics and public policy.
He added: “Views on our sector have tended to fit neatly into one side or the other of the long-running argument between those who favour personal liberty and those who look to the state for protection.
“And, like in the rest of our politics, the most vocal participants in the debate are usually the most extreme. So those you hear in the media either argue for heavy restrictions because they view any gambling as a bad thing, or for limited regulation because they believe people should be free to spend their money how they like.
“Having spent nearly 20 years in the sector, it is clear to me that there is some truth on both sides. Many millions get great pleasure from gambling – you only need to go to a major race meeting, listen to football fans in the pub during a game, or follow the conversations around winning and losing bets on twitter on a Saturday night to see this.
“But I have also met a number of people whose lives have been greatly harmed by gambling, and as an industry participant it is clear than we can and should do more to help the most vulnerable customers.”
He added: “Gambling related harm may, or may not be growing, but we know that some gamblers experience severe harm and that harm is not restricted to themselves but affects those close to them as well.”
Mr Flint outlined his plan to harness technology and customer data to help reduce harm. He said firms must use customer data to understand player behaviour, and monitor for signs of harm.
He added: “We have to promote safer gambling by improving the accessibility, awareness and understanding of self-help tools such as deposit limits and cool offs.
“We must interact with customers who show signs of harm, discuss their gambling behaviour with them, and present details of their behaviour clearly and finally, we will have to increase our interventions with customers to stop them harming themselves in the most extreme cases.”
He said this will lead to more difficult conversations with customers who don’t like their behaviour being challenged.
He added: “And it will lead to greater lost revenues from customers who spend less than they otherwise would. We should also accept that in the fast moving world of technology, our industry won’t always get everything right, every time.
“But it’s the best way to protect customers, the best way to minimise potential harm, and the best way to a sustainable industry.
“Many individual operators are already trialling this type of approach in one way or another.
“And I believe there is a major role for the industry to play in discovering which markers of harm are most effective and in testing different models that identify potentially harmful behaviour.”
Last November, Leeds-based Sky Betting & Gaming revealed it had picked up an extra half a million customers over the previous financial year as its revenue soared by 38 per cent to £516m.
The company has also launched a new tech academy which aims to help plug the skills gap for mid level technology roles.
The Sky Betting & Gaming Tech Academy will target people who have already gained some experience with Linux, systems administration or tech support, with successful applicants attending a bespoke programme to deliver the skills needed to become a DevOps Engineer.