Christer Fahlstedt, CEO of Finnish gaming operator Paf, acknowledges national loss limits represent the shape of things to come but contends that rather than taking an adversarial approach to online gambling, European governments must “shoulder the responsibility” of ensuring the sector is properly regulated.
The Corona crisis is speeding up underlying trends in our society. We are witnessing a breakthrough in remote medical care, a surge in home delivery services and most of us have probably come to the conclusion that we will do less business travelling even when we are allowed to.
Our industry has seen an irreversible trend towards increased regulation and player protection. This trend has gained momentum over the years and now with the Corona crisis it has leapfrogged several years ahead. The crisis has required a wave of rapid and draconian decisions – some have also impacted our industry. In many cases it has been hard to see the underlying rationale, in reality there is very little evidence supporting increased gambling addiction – in fact, most numbers point to the contrary.
But none of this matters. The regulated online gambling industry is a heavily regulated industry at the mercy of political decisions. Political decisions are not necessarily based on facts but rather on emotions and perception.
This crisis has shown us what the future of regulated, European online gambling will look like. It shows us how those who make up the rules we play by feel about us – and it is not a pretty picture.
It is clear that there is no trust and that we as an industry will not be allowed to “self regulate”. Instead a range of sweeping, very restrictive limitations are imposed. Spanning from Latvia simply shutting down all regulated gambling to Sweden imposing the toughest set of limits seen so far in the regulated industry.
Fine. So now we know we can’t be trusted.
But this also brings the implication that the authorities must step up and assume the full responsibility. Since we obviously cannot be trusted, how can they expect us to make the correct decisions regarding vulnerable players? Surely we cannot be deemed fit to decide who has enough money to gamble or not?
And I agree – we can’t and we shouldn’t be trusted.
Instead the authorities should do the only sensible thing and shoulder the responsibility of deciding how much its citizens should be allowed to gamble. For far too long they have shied away from this very uncomfortable and controversial decision – it has been so easy to push that impossible decision upon the individual operators and then penalising them when they fail.
We must now finally reach a point where the authorities establish national, mandatory loss limits. Limits that span across operators – not like in Sweden where very low limits are imposed on each operator, but there are 70+ operators to choose from so in reality the limit for someone who is addicted is sky high. (While still severely uncomfortable for a healthy gambler wishing to stay loyal to his/her favourite brand).
Government maintained, national loss limits are the future. At Paf we have been screaming about this for years but now we see also others moving in the same direction. Notably Danish giant Danske Spil is pushing hard for it and we are happy to see that also Svenska Spel is moving towards this position.
Maybe now, when the government’s own companies also see this as the only serious, long term option we can finally get to a point where authorities stop taking the easy way out. Instead assuming the vital role of protecting its vulnerable citizens. A role only they can reasonably be expected to succeed in.
It is not easy to balance the individual’s right to privacy and right to make his/her own decisions while at the same time singling out those who are sick and preventing them from harm. We know, but now it is your turn to try.