GVC launches global responsible gambling campaign

GVC Holdings PLC, the multinational sports betting and gaming group that owns the Ladbrokes Coral Group, has announced a global responsible gambling campaign, Changing for the Bettor, which is being spearheaded by a major new research project into problem gambling with the Division on Addiction, Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital.

Its press release (that can be downloaded below) states:

The guiding principle of Changing for the Bettor is to further establish GVC as the most trusted and enjoyable betting operator in the world.  The campaign comprises of seven pillars, each of which have substantive projects attached:

  1. Understanding the problem and best solutions – Including today’s announcement of a five-year, multi-million pound research project with the Division on Addiction, Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital (further details below).
  2. Educating our key stakeholders – Including the national roll out of youth education programmes with the charity GamCare in the UK – the largest project of its kind in the UK, as well as a state-school awareness campaign with EPIC Risk Management.
  3. Promoting responsible attitudes – Leading the industry in recently agreeing a ban on pre-watershed gambling adverts on television, around live sports.
  4. Empowering customers – Rolling out a ‘markers of harm’ algorithm to all UK facing parts of the business.
  5. Funding treatment for those in need – Doubling our donation to research, education and treatment on problem gambling to 0.2% of gross gaming revenue (GGR).
  6. Championing responsible product design – Developing more responsible product design principles.
  7. Drive cultural change within our business – Ensuring that a safer gambling approach underpins all aspects of our business. Accordingly we are working in consultation with the Safer Online Gambling Group.

Fundamental to GVC’s commitment to better understand and reduce the potential for problem gambling behaviour to develop will be investment in rigorous research. Accordingly, the Group will be investing $5 million into a new partnership with Harvard Medical School faculty at the Division on Addiction over the next five years.  GVC will provide Harvard faculty at the Division with access to anonymised player data across a range of its brands, sports betting, and gaming products.

The research will be broad ranging, focusing on a number of areas including, but not limited to:

  • Patterns of normal internet gambling behaviour
  • Behavioural markers of gambling problems among internet players generally and on specific betting and game types
  • Cross-product analyses
  • Cross-brand analyses
  • The effects of the expansion of gambling in new markets

Within this approach, researchers will seek to evaluate the effectiveness of algorithms used by GVC and other operators to detect at-risk behaviours, assess the effectiveness of intervention messaging and the impact of operator’s responsible gaming tools.

Commenting on the announcement, GVC’s Director of Responsible Gaming, Grainne Hurst is quoted as saying:

Whilst the vast majority of our customers enjoy playing with us in a safe and fun environment we are aware that for some players, gambling can impact their lives negatively. We are committed to leading the industry in minimising potential harm caused by problem gambling. That is why we are today launching Changing for the Bettor and have partnered with Harvard faculty at the Division on Addiction to help us to better understand and tackle the issues around problem gambling.

Mims Davies MP the UK’s Gambling Minister, is also quoted:

Gambling operators have a key role to play in protecting people from harm and identifying potentially risky betting behaviour. Research is essential to progress in this area and GVC’s ‘Changing for the Bettor’ campaign will make an important contribution to tackling problem gambling. We are committed to protecting consumers across the country and are working with industry to create a healthy and more socially responsible sector.

as too is Dr. Howard Shaffer, Morris E. Chafetz Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the Field of Behavioural Sciences, Harvard Medical School and Director, Division on Addiction:

It is only by taking an evidence-based approach to examining gambling that we can develop better strategies and tools to limit its potential to cause harm. The collaboration with GVC that we have announced today will play a significant role in advancing our knowledge about gambling and intemperate gambling and is warmly welcomed.

The announcement will also be welcomed by both the Gambling Commission and GambleAware, each of whom will no doubt await announcement of similar initiatives by other major operators.

UPDATE: Less than two weeks following the launch of the above-mentioned global responsible gambling campaign, GVC subsidiary Ladbrokes has found itself on the receiving end of allegations in The Guardian newspaper (in an article entitled “Ladbrokes accused of conflict on interest over problem gamblers“) that the company introduced a scheme last year to incentivise staff to encourage customers not only to play slot machines and use self-service betting terminals in its betting shops but also sign up for online accounts. The scheme is alleged to be directly linked to the reduction in maximum stakes on FOBTs that will come into effect on 1 April this year. A Gambling Commission spokesperson is quoted in the article as saying:

Our remit doesn’t extend to commenting about any operator’s consultation processes with its employees but we will be seeking assurances from Ladbrokes Coral that they are marketing to customers in as responsible a manner as possible – such as not targeting vulnerable customers, and alerting customers to the gambling management tools available.