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'People suffering harm can sound very confident they don't have a problem'

Sarah Ramanauskas talks to Caron Smith, Betfred's digital safer gambling manager

Gibraltar is the home of Betfred's digital safer gambling operation and its university runs courses on the skills required
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Sarah Ramanauskas: All UK-licensed operators have to track player behaviour and interact with customers playing in a risky way. What does that actually mean, day-to-day, for your team?

Caron Smith: Our aim is to interact at an early stage with someone who might show signs of possible harm. We try to get them to stop and think about whether they may be gambling a bit more than they can afford. We want to build a rapport so they know that if they do have any concerns they can contact us at any time.

My team and I are here to safeguard our customers and the best way to do that is to get to know them. We try to find out a bit more about them as an individual and build a relationship, so we never use scripts.

We always try to have a meaningful conversation and explain about tools available to them such as deposit limits, timeouts and self-exclusion, including Gamstop.

Do you think Betfred’s online customers understand you are there to help them?
It’s very difficult to get that message across. A lot of people think we are just ticking the box, but it genuinely isn’t like that.

There was a time when some operators didn’t understand safer gambling and so it was treated as another KPI (Key Performance Indicator) with time limits on calls, but that’s changed and calls last as long as needs be. It makes the job so worthwhile. We can step in at the right time and make sure we protect customers.

Are customers surprised when you call them?
They’re often surprised when they realise we're genuinely interested in keeping them safe. We need to spread the word, to get the public to understand how much gaming companies are investing in safer gambling efforts.

So you are tracking players' behaviour, looking at data such as time spent, playing patterns, age and so on. Do people resent this?
There’s been a huge change in the last year. More and more people are expecting calls and most don’t mind us contacting them. All gaming companies should now be doing this, so it’s a norm. It’s now much more likely someone will set a deposit limit, or take a timeout, after a call. Nowadays, it’s rare we get a negative response.

Are you looking at ways in which women might show risky behaviours that are different from men?
Yes, for sure. We have started monitoring their play differently as we know from research that women gamble for different reasons to men. The removal of auto spins [a new game design regulation introduced last month] is definitely going to help reduce the potential for gambling harm.

What sort of players give you the most concern?
Those in the most difficulty are also the ones most likely not to change their behaviour after we contact them. People who are actively suffering harm can come across as being fine as they are very confident they don’t have a problem, so you wouldn’t detect it in their voice or what they say.

It’s very difficult to detect their actual state. With some customers you can hear the distress in their voice. We have to understand not just what the customer is telling us but also what our data is showing us.

How do you support your team to build the skills needed to create these positive relationships?
The team has lots of ongoing training from organisations such as the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGam), as well as the university here in Gibraltar.

Betfred is investing in training and development not just to develop skills but also to help the team’s wellbeing, and help them cope with the stress of the job. People don’t always understand that the job can be very stressful and it takes a lot of mental resilience to give your best to every customer.

Do you look out for winning customers as well?
Definitely. If someone has a big win it can be a trigger for potentially harmful behaviour, so we interact with them to make sure they know about the safer gambling tools on the site and to encourage them to take time to think about their position. We keep an eye on them after that to make sure they are still gambling in a safe way.

Sarah Ramanauskas is a senior partner at Gambling Integrity, which helps operators focus on safer gambling. 

Read more:

Be honest with yourself and record all your bets to help stay in control

'If a customer started betting £200 each-way you'd say, that's not like you'

Why all punters should be paying attention to Safer Gambling Week

Breaking the invisible barrier: the stigma of talking about problem gambling

Women and gambling – are the right actions in place to tackle a growing problem?

Safeguarding gambling industry staff is overdue and needs to become a priority

The Racing Post fully supports Safer Gambling Week and acknowledges it as an excellent opportunity for us all to reflect on whether we keep our gambling in check. Although Safer Gambling Week is only seven days, its message is ongoing and remains important. We have lots of resources available on our dedicated Safer Gambling page and more details can be found at

With some customers you can hear the distress in their voice. We have to understand not just what the customer says to us but what our data shows us
E.W. Terms