Sky Bet chief Flint unveils four-point plan to reduce gambling harm
Sky Bet chief executive Richard Flint has told the betting industry it needs to listen to its opponents and the public and recognise it has a genuine issue with problem gambling.
Speaking on the first day of the Ice show in London, Flint unveiled a four-point plan he hoped the wider industry could adopt to reduce harm, saying it was clear the industry can and should do more to help vulnerable customers.
He said: "In order to do this the industry must first of all recognise it has an issue. And I don’t just mean a PR or reputational issue. I mean a genuine, evidence-based subject that it must play its part in addressing."
Flint added: "In the past our industry has also not done itself any favours – and I include Sky Betting & Gaming in this criticism – in its attitude towards harmful gambling.
"The major online players in Britain, including Sky Betting & Gaming, now need to build on this start and become part of the solution, rather than part of that problem. And to do so we will need to work together and we need to support the work of regulators and government."
Using customer data
Flint said the account-based nature of online gambling meant operators had more customer data than ever before. He added that that data and technology could be used to reduce harm and suggested a four-point plan to ensure safer gambling.
The plan covers using customer data to understand player behaviour, monitoring for signs of harm and then interacting with customers when they show those signs.
Flint said operators needed to promote safer gambling through self-help tools while also increasing interventions to stop customers harming themselves in the most extreme cases.
He continued: "Yes, this will lead to more difficult conversations with customers who don’t like their behaviour being challenged. 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."
Flint said the only way to protect UK customers was for this to be regulated by the Gambling Commission.
"These measures, together with the establishment and successful operation of GamStop – the one-stop shop for self-exclusion – will provide a fair and consistent approach from all operators to those who may develop problems with their gambling," he added.
An industry ombudsman
Flint also said the industry should not fear a statutory levy to help fund research, education and treatment "but embrace it".
He added the sector should listen to customers and consider the establishment of an industry ombudsman, saying: "This would broaden the remit of the existing Alternate Dispute Resolutions, such as IBAS, to deal with issues such as social responsibility and act as a source of industry-wide information on issues affecting consumers."
However, he described any attempt to ban television gambling advertisements as self-defeating, as such gambling would move online with non-regulated companies.
He said: "Instead we should continue with the current arrangements that ensure only regulated firms who take a responsible approach to what they are broadcasting can advertise on television."
Flint said there needed to be a balance between individual freedom, technological advancements, and the need to protect and defend the vulnerable.
"This is the only way we will reclaim public trust and ensure a sustainable and proud future for an industry that really does provide great pleasure and enjoyment for millions of adults in Britain," he concluded.
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