The start of the 2020s has seen a range of new challenges emerge for the gambling industry, as questions are raised over responsible betting and regulators across Europe overhaul frameworks governing the sector.
This was the main topic of discussion of the opening panel of the Leadership track at this week’s Betting on Sports Europe (BOSE) event – the Sportradar-sponsored SBC Leaders – Corporate Stewardship 2030 panel session – moderated by Anton Kaszubowski, Managing Director of SBC Advisory Partners.
One of the primary points repeatedly highlighted by the panellists was the need for greater education of regulators, requiring greater collaboration between operators and other key industry stakeholders.
For Paris Smith, CEO of Pinnacle Sports, the differences between varying regulatory environments across Europe require particular attention, and operators should adopt more flexible practices and cooperate with and inform regulators in order to address this challenge.
“As an organisation we have to invest a lot into that,” Smith explained. “We have to make sure that we’ve got the right people and make our systems as flexible as possible. When somebody leaves the industry, they go into payments, maybe the next big move is going to be that they go into the regulatory compliance solution space.
“It’s just this constant lack of understanding and everybody putting in the same thing in a different way. I think if there was more working together and if everybody can have one standard that will help.”
Agreeing with Smith, Niels Onkenhout, CEO, Nederlandse Loterij, reiterated the need for education of regulators around the nuances of the betting and gaming industry, in areas such as player protection, whilst also adding that the sector must self-regulate – promoting a positive image to regulatory authorities and legislators.
He remarked “Gambling is as old as humanity – the Assyrians, Sumerians, Egyptians, the Greeks and the Romans all gambled, it has been there, so let’s accept that as a society and better than that, organise it in a sensible method through a legal framework and good regulation.
“There’s a lot of emotion around gambling, a lot of emotion with the regulators and politicians, and so indeed, educating them and informing them well is a good idea. Secondly, I think there’s a huge importance of self regulation.”
This was a view shared by Jan Svendsen, Coolbet CEO, who outlined his belief that regulation and regulators are ultimately a positive force in the industry, and that operators should take ultimate responsibility for enforcing safer gambling practices.
“I think regulations are very good – they’re needed,” the CEO asserted. “Somehow, I don’t think our industry was able to self-regulate enough. It’s been too much Wild West, too much greediness, but I guess it’s moved on because the industry has been growing very quickly over the last 20 years. It’s time to shape up and grow up and accept what is happening right now.”
Tim de Borle, CEO of Napoleon Sports, however, maintained that operators are just one part of the gambling ecosystem, and require greater cooperation and open mindedness from both regulators and operators in order to achieve sustainability.
“We can take our responsibility, but we are only one part of the ecosystem of a safe gaming environment and if regulators and legislators are not open to say even speak with us and listen to what’s really going on, we will never get to a regulation that is balanced.
“That eventually brings what we all achieve or are trying to achieve, which is a safe and fun gaming environment for our players.”
For Onkenhout, meanwhile, self-regulation was still of vital importance. Continuing, he added: “If we don’t organise ourselves in a sensible way, with advertising restrictions, you’re meant to kind of make sense and resonate well with the public and as politicians.”
“We need to make sure we have a real definition of what our problem players are and have specific policies in place in every company to build this that will get the emotion out of the discussion. This leads to sensible regulation as opposed to an ever increasing burden of regulation, which ultimately will stimulate the black and the grey markets.”
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