The Young Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM) has made history by becoming the first charity partner of ICE London (6th – 8th February, ExCeL, London, UK). Ahead of taking his place at the world’s largest gambling technology event, YGAM founder and chief executive, Lee Willows explains the independent charity’s ambitions which include working with at least 100,000 young people over the year and the importance of building relationships with the gambling industry as a way of influencing social responsibility measures as the charity seek to build at least ten further collaborations with the sector at ICE.
How do you view the relationship between regulated gambling and gaming – is there an unequal playing field?
The playing field certainly isn’t equal and the lines are becoming even more blurred when it comes to regulated gambling and gaming, which is not yet regulated in the United Kingdom. The regulated gambling industry is facing considerable challenges as operators are viewed ‘as one’ by the general public. Secondly there is political, media, regulatory and consumer pressure building and finally we know the Gambling Commission is issuing significant fines for non responsible gambling compliance.
The gaming industry, being currently unregulated, is currently immune to such scrutiny, yet the growth of this industry is staggering. With that comes a huge moral responsibility for companies to protect young people and the vulnerable. Over 50 percent of the professionals who YGAM work with suggest that is it gaming that is the growing issue that young people, parents and professionals themselves need more information about. Young people are spending significant amounts of time (and money) to maintain their virtual status among their peer group and this is affecting their real world lives, studies, mental health and friendships groups. Skin betting, loot boxes and other forms of gaming and their potential impact on young people have made the media recently. Against this backdrop, it is a no brainer that the gaming industry could learn a lot from the gambling industry and so there is a huge need to work together and share learning, not least to protect the next generation of young people who are growing up in a world where both gambling and gaming are normalised.
In terms of social responsibility, is enough ever enough?
Social responsibility is about the attitudes, thinking and behaviours of businesses, not just how much they contribute to good causes or how they interpret regulatory guidance around player protection. Working with organisations like Clarion, YGAM has been afforded a platform to develop relationships with many of the leading stakeholders from within the regulated gambling industry. This has enabled, perhaps for the first time, opportunities for people who have been affected negatively by gambling-related harm a place at the boardroom table to share, in detail, the absolute destruction that gambling addictions can cause.
Building relationships and seeking to influence social responsibility from a position of being at that top table is the approach YGAM has taken and we believe we are starting to make an inroad. From working with operators to develop specific and highly specialist nationally recognised qualifications for those who work in the industry around risk management and safeguarding, safe gambling and customer care; to providing opportunities for player protection teams to participate in YGAM’s training with education professionals; to potentially pioneering new apprenticeships standards for the industry. YGAM is able to work with the operators to develop highly relevant, quality-assured and authentic opportunities that puts safer gambling front and centre and brings those affected by harm in the same room as operations to find solutions. This is social responsibility as I would define it, strengthening the DNA, changing the behaviours of business and working in strong collaboration.
What is the relationship between personal responsibility and corporate social responsibility?
As with any activity, the individual needs to take personal responsibility, and with an addiction it is the individual who needs to take back control. This is easier said than done given the availability of gambling – and gaming – products, but it is possible.
Effective Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) absolutely has its place, but YGAM feels this an underdeveloped opportunity by some operators. We often see CSR simply being implemented as an extension of regulation, such that the approach is principally compliance led. There is a huge opportunity to turn this on its head and almost separate out compliance from CSR, which may improve the public standing of gambling in the United Kingdom. The British Banking sector has gone through such a transformation and now many lead on showcase educational and humanitarian programmes across the globe. For the banking sector, good CSR equates to good compliance and good business; it is this balance that we should be seeking to achieve.
ICE London is the world’s most international business-to-business gaming event, with 151 countries represented by the record 30,213 visitors who attended the 2017 edition. Featuring world-leading innovators drawn from across the gaming landscape, ICE London provides visitors with the most comprehensive shop window on the international industry. To register for 2018 edition of ICE London, which will comprise 500+ exhibitors occupying a record 43,500sqm of net space, visit: icetotallygaming.com