'There is no one thing that tells you someone is a problem gambler'
Bill Barber speaks to Sky Bet's first head of safer gambling Ben Wright
Sky Betting and Gaming were one of the first online gambling operators to recognise that the industry needed to take the issue of safer gambling seriously, with former chief executive Richard Flint leading the call for action.
In January this year Sky Bet appointed their first head of safer gambling in the shape of Ben Wright.
He works with teams based in Leeds and Sheffield whose job it is to protect Sky Bet's customers from suffering gambling-related harm.
"We have a team of ten who work on things like research, how we speak to customers, customer relationship management and organising projects," Wright says.
"We have a bigger risk team who do the safer gambling interactions. There are about 70 of them who work 24-7, 365 days a year.
"My job is quite easy in comparison to them because they do the hard one-to-one interactions. That person might be experiencing gambling-related harm and they have to deliver an outcome to them that is potentially us not taking bets from them anymore."
The tools on offer to Sky Bet's customers include cool-offs, deposit limits and self-exclusions, while Wright believes one of their most successful features is Sky Bet's profit and loss tool which has been available for around a year.
"We're really proud of it because there is a big thing about the normalisation of safer gambling," Wright says.
"We have this paradox where we know from research our customers think safer gambling is really important, they want to bet with an operator who takes it seriously but on the other hand they say safer gambling is for everyone other than me.
"So things like the profit and loss tool really help, because it's a really neat thing. It's really simple.
"If you have a lot of accounts it's really hard to see your profit and loss with a bookmaker. There's no bigger nudge than reality. That's been really successful."
The online gambling industry's self-exclusion scheme GamStop has been criticised by some, but Wright believes it is continuing to develop and improve.
He adds: "There is no magic bullet to make sure people who want to stop gambling can't get back to it. What I would say from talking to people is to get a bank with a gambling block – all banks should be encouraged to build that.
"You should get Gamban-type software which stops you from being allowed to open sites on your phone and your devices.
"With GamStop as well there is a strong triple lock of how to stop yourself from gambling. We are trying to make that lock as strong as possible."
Looking ahead Sky Bet are aiming to develop ways of spotting those who may be spending too much time gambling.
"Time is a concern," Wright says. "If you are spending 12 hours a day on the site that's not healthy but if you are transacting at a low level it's more difficult to spot those people. There are things we want to do in that area."
Collaboration between gambling operators is becoming increasingly encouraged and expected.
"The Gambling Commission to their credit have been driving a lot of initiatives around collaboration and sharing of best practice which is good to see," Wright says.
"There are obviously things we are doing through the Betting and Gaming Council – there's the affordability group that we're in, there's one on game design as well – so there is a lot more coming together to share things than there ever was before.
"It's quite alien for me because I have worked in a commercial role before where everything's a secret, but now everyone's a bit more of an open book on things which is really good – it's refreshing."
Wright also believes the industry coming together to promote Responsible Gambling Week is important.
He says: "It's the only time when there is universal messaging. If I go into a physical casino, if I go into a bookies or if I go on the internet, I will see the same consistency of message and brand. That's a good thing in my opinion."
However, Wright accepts there is a lot more to do.
"If you look at the growth of technology, we need to continue to develop that," he says.
"We need to build new models, add in more factors. It's like when you have your eyes tested – it's adding lenses until you get the true picture of the customer behaviour because there is no one thing that tells you someone is a problem gambler.
"Everyone's addiction can be different and as a result trying to identify that requires a lot more investment in technology and different products to allow us to stop them and for them to seek help."
If you are concerned about your gambling and are worried you may have a problem, click here to find advice on how you can receive help