Monday, 19 July 2010

How effective is Self-Exclusion? The story of Joyce May Ross

I’ve been speaking to a number of stakeholders within the industry in the past few weeks about player protection. What I’m hearing is that one of the reasons why the levels of problem gambling has remained consistently low is due to operators offering players the appropriate tools to help them to manage their play, such as self-exclusions and limits. Many stated that these features have proved very effective.

This weekend I read about Joyce May Ross, who is suing B.C. Lottery Corp for $331,000 for failing to stop her gambling after she asked them to through the corporation’s self-exclusion programme. So whose fault was it that she lost so much money? Do lotteries need to do more to help gamblers such as Joyce? And are they the best placed to monitor gamblers?

For the online industry, one of the challenges to implementing effective player protection in the area of self-exclusion is how does one prevent a self-excluded player signing-up to a different operator? Adopting a pan-European approach would make sense, such as developing a common database where operators share relevant data, but implementing such an initiative could prove very challenging.

So back to Joyce May Ross. The question is will more lawsuits follow? You can read the article here.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Taming the ‘Inner Homer Simpson’ in you

As a student of and avid reader in the field of behavioral economics I wanted to mention Sunstien and Thaler’s ‘Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness’ (here’s a good review of the book. The book’s an excellent read, and although there are some assertions I may not entirely agree with, it is highly relevant to what we are doing at Bet Buddy. The authors say that everyone’s "Inner Homer Simpson" drives us to make flawed decisions, such as eating too many cashews long after you stopped wanting one to paying insane fees on your credit cards. Why do we make these decisions? We live by rules of thumb, are influenced by irrational cognitive biases, and we live in a world of too many choices, with insufficient time and information to make the best one and little feedback about the stupid choices we've made in the past. So, the etching of black houseflies into the wells of the urinals at Schiphol Airport, under the theory that "if a man sees a fly, he aims at it”, reduced spillage by 80 percent, so was a good thing. And when the ATM beeps to remind you when you've walked away without your bank card is also a good thing. And giving players a gentle nudge or reminder if their play habits change is a good thing too.

To regulate (or not)

I was having a chat with Roger Steare the other day about whether regulation in some industries is more necessary than others (Roger is a Professor of Organisational Ethics and a fellow at ResPublica). We agreed in the principle that over-regulating, regardless of industry, doesn’t lead to sustainable practices (take a look at the banking industry). Self-regulating generally leads to more durable settlements, however agreeing on the principles can be challenging. Take a look at the Retail Lending Initiative, a great idea to help promote better practices within the Credit Card industry that failed to get adopted due to challenges in getting stakeholders to agree a common way forward (click here to read more). So what about self-regulation in the gaming industry? I think this does make sense in many respects. There’s a risk that developing acres of legislation will actually encourage the undesirable outcomes that the legislation is intended to stop. And the operators who are already creating sustainable profits in a responsible way will be unfortunately leveled by a system that sets rules that promotes the wrong behaviours (see Tim Cowen’s blog). However, for self-regulation to work, the dialogue must embrace all industry’s stakeholders…