Every licensed online casino, sportsbook, poker room, bingo room, lottery, or any other form of remote gambling operation, must adhere to the responsible gaming stipulations of their regulator. This social responsibility ensures that operators respect the highest standards of quality and provide players with a safe playing space designed to protect them from the possible negative consequences of gambling online. Here, we’ll take a look at the different angles of responsible gambling to give you a better understanding of it, including what it means for iGaming operators and what it means for players.
What is Responsible Gambling
Responsible gambling, also known as responsible gaming, is a set of social responsibility initiatives, policies and requirements put forth by the regulated gambling industry (governments, operators and vendors). It ensures that online gambling operations are being carried out with integrity and fairness as well as promotes awareness of harms associated with gambling, such as gambling addiction.
Gambling – no matter the form or the venue – is meant to be a fun pastime. Gambling is never meant to be seen as a way to generate income. Although the vast majority of people do treat gambling as a recreational activity and spend no more than they can afford to lose, for others, gambling goes beyond fun and can be a serious problem.
For instance, back in 2015, in the UK alone, approximately over 2 million people were either problem gamblers or were at risk of addiction. A report from the same year by the country’s regulator, the UK Gambling Commission, estimated that the number of Britons over the age of 16 suffering from a serious habit was about 430,000. This number was a third higher than three years previous, and trends suggest that the number of problem gamblers and those at risk of becoming addicted will continue to grow.
Top 7 responsible gaming initiatives
As previously mentioned, responsible gambling consists of several initiatives, with the primary goal being to provide gamblers with a safe playing environment. A safe playing environment includes protecting vulnerable players, preventing underage gambling, information privacy, payment protection, ethical marketing practices and beyond.
The following are the main responsible gambling initiatives that are typically followed by legitimate iGaming operators and online gambling software suppliers who provide these operators with platforms.
1 – Safe Playing Space
Operators need to provide a regulated, secure, trusted, and fair online environment for players where they can have fun knowing that all technical processes and payments are 100% safe.
Beyond payments, they also need to know that their personal data is secure, that gaming software is fair with a regularly audited RNG (Random Number Generator), and that they can depend on reliable customer support.
2 – Payment Security
A reliable online casino software platform offers efficient processing of casino payments that is trusted, secure and can protect the personal financial and sensitive details players provide when depositing and withdrawing.
In addition to safe depositing, withdrawing and securely holding money for players, the most responsible online gambling operators also put KYC checks (ID verification protocols) in place to protect against fraud as well as deter underage gambling.
3 – Criminal Activity Prevention
Responsible gambling measures also include preventing criminal activity. Just like eCommerce websites, online gambling sites are not invulnerable to attacks from hackers. Cyber criminals can attack iGaming sites with malicious software to obtain private and financial information.
To avoid these vulnerabilities, operators must integrate software platforms designed to detect and block hacking devices as well as block money laundering activities. For this reason, it is not only important for operators to have a user-friendly and functional front end, but a strong backend for their site as well.
4 – Privacy Protection
Operators make sure that a customer’s private details remain private. This is ensured through the implementation of a number of strong policies that make it difficult for anyone but the player to access their important and private data, including their name, address, and phone numbers.
A legitimate and reputable operator will not sell a user’s information to a third party and will implement certain security protocols to block access to prying eyes. It is an operator’s job to ensure information privacy is always respected, never compromised and is in line with the requirements demanded by most regulators.
5 – Protecting Minors
Protecting minors is one of the most important aspects of responsible gaming. Online gambling is prohibited to individuals who are under the age of 18, 19 or 21, depending on the jurisdiction. Individuals who are below the legal age are not permitted to gamble for real money.
As such, iGaming operators must take every necessary step to make certain that underage gambling activities do not occur on their sites and that the underage gambling laws of the licensed jurisdiction they are targeting is respected.
A clear registration process that includes mandatory identity verification checks to confirm the age of gamblers is necessary for all players.
6 – Protection of Vulnerable Gamblers
Another important aspect of responsible gambling is protecting vulnerable players. Vulnerable players are considered to be those who may become addicted to casino games or sports betting activities and spend more money than they can afford to lose to the point that their everyday lives are negatively impacted.
Operators protect vulnerable gamblers by following the regulations of the jurisdiction(s) from which they obtain their license(s). Typicallly, this includes providing responsible gambling tools that allow players to stay in control of their real money gambling at all times, such as setting limits, taking breaks and self-excluding. We’ll take a closer look at these tools later on.
7 – Responsible and Ethical Marketing Practices
Like most businesses, casinos rely on various marketing elements to attract and retain their customers. However, operators are required to comply with the most up-to-date regulatory advertising codes of practice to make certain that they do not target vulnerable (e.g. players who have self-excluded) or underage gamblers.
Additionally, legitimate operators are required to ask a player’s permission to provide them with marketing materials before they can send them advertising directly through the customer’s preferred channel (e.g. email, SMS, push notifications, etc.). Players also should have the option to opt-in or opt-out of receiving promotional advertising at any time.
Operators – whether they are white label or running an independent iGaming business – who do not follow the required responsible gambling code of conduct, can face legal repercussions. They may be blacklisted, face step legal fines, lose their licenses and/or shut down.
Responsible Gambling for Online Casino Operators
Providing players with a safe gaming environment, secure payments, prevention of underage gambling, protection against criminal activity, information privacy, and ethical marketing, is a natural part of an online gambling operators commitment to responsible gambling.
However, this responsibility is taken one step further by providing players with responsible gambling tools and resources, to help them stay in control of their gambling and encourage them to seek support when they want or need it.
Responsible gambling tools
The most common responsible gaming tools and resources industry regulators require online operators to have include (but are not necessarily limited to):
Setting Limits – This includes setting limits for:
- Depositing – Players can choose to put a limit on the amount that they can deposit (daily, weekly or monthly), as well as a delay on how long a deposit increase can take, etc.
- Betting – Players can set limits on the size of the bets they make or on how much money they can spend in one playing session.
- Playing time – Players can set playing limits to control how much time they spend playing in one gaming session. Depending on the casino, once the time limit has been reached, players are automatically logged out.
Once limits have been reached, players will not be able to continue playing until the restriction period they have put into place expires.
Reality Check – This is a feature that keeps players informed about their gambling activity. Players who activate it will have a Reality Check message pop up after a certain amount of time (e.g. every 10, 15, 20 minutes, etc.) – as previously chosen by the player – has passed. The message informs the player of how long they’ve been playing, their total bets and total wins and provides them with the option to continue playing or log out.
Taking breaks – Players can choose to take a break or a “cooling off” period, which will restrict them from logging into the site for a certain number of hours or days (e.g. 24 hours, 48 hours, 7 days).
Temporary Suspension – Players can choose to restrict their access to their gambling account for a longer period of time (e.g. 30 days, 60 days or 90 days).
Self-Exclusion – Players who choose to Self-Exclude are unable to play for a period of 180 days (6 months). During this time, they will not be able to gamble or deposit on the site from which they self-excluded and will not receive any marketing materials from the brand, either. Additionally, a player’s self-exclusion will apply to any other account that they may have on the operator’s license.
Additionally, depending on the jurisdiction, players may be able to self-exclude from all online gambling activities. For instance, in Denmark, players can exclude themselves form all gambling activities in the country by register in the Register Over Frivilligt Udelukkede Spillere.
Self-assessment quiz – It is common for operators to include free self-assessment quizzes as part of their responsible gambling tools. This is usually a short quiz that consist of a series of statements that asks players to rate how much the statement applies to them on a scale of 1 – 10. Sometimes quizzes are also set up in the form of yes or no questions.
Problem Gambling Support Resources – Many iGaming sites will also provide a list of organizations designed to offer support and guidance to individuals suffering from problem gambling as well as support for their families and friends. Usually, the resources provided are specific to the jurisdictions they target. For instance, examples of organizations commonly listed in the UK include:
- Gamblers Anonymous
- National Council on Problem Gambling
- Gambling Therapy Helpline
- Helping Hand/IGC
Breaking regulation laws
Breaking the responsible gambling laws that have been laid out by regulators can cost gambling operators millions in fines, lead to their licence being revoked and criminal action being taken against them.
For instance, back in 2017 gambling giant 888 Holdings was fined a hefty £7.8 million by the UK Gambling Commission for failing to protect vulnerable customers who had self-excluded. The issue was that although the customers who had self-excluded from 888 were barred from playing casino or sports, an unforeseen loop-hole in 888’s system permitted them to play online bingo. As a result, more than 7,000 customers were allowed to make £3.5 million in deposits between them, with one customer losing £1.3 million, including £55,000 that they stole from their employer.
Likewise, in 2018, after an investigation conducted by the Gambling Commission, William Hill was required to pay a £6.2 million penalty package for systemic social responsibility and failure to protect consumers and prevent money laundering.
The point being, as an iGaming operator, it doesn’t pay to neglect responsible gambling regulations.
Responsible Gambling for Players
For players, responsible gambling online means:
- Staying in control of your real money betting activity
- Having limits
- Knowing when to stop
- Protecting minors
- Recognizing when you may have a problem
- Getting the proper support for the problem
The following is a brief look at how players can gamble responsibly and the warning signs that there may be a problem.
How to keep your online gambling responsible
Maintaining responsible gambling practices is about making sure that you are in control of your real money playing habits, always. Here are some ways that you can stay in control as a player:
- Gamble only for enjoyment – Gambling is a form of entertainment and nothing more. It is not a source of income. Whatever you pay into it, you should never expect to get back. Think of spending on gambling as you would on any other form of entertainment, like going to the movies, buying a video game or a nice meal at a restaurant. Winning money is a possibility, not a guarantee. Remember, first and foremost, an online gambling site is a business and businesses are designed to make money, not payout their profits to customers, otherwise, gambling establishments – online or land based – would cease to exist. Never forget: the house always wins.
- Set limits – Don’t just bet blindly, have a strategy for your money and for how much time you will play. Set limits on how much you will deposit, the maximum size bet you’ll make, and the maximum amount of money you can lose per playing session before calling it a day. Likewise, it’s a good idea to set other limits, including time limits (e.g. only playing an hour a day) and winning limits. Whatever limits you create, respect them.
- Avoid chasing losses – It can be tempting to want to continue playing a game to win the money back that you’ve lost when you hit a losing streak. This is a common mistake slots players make, thinking that the more they play a machine, the greater their chances of scoring a big payout because the machine is “due” for a win. The reality is that every time you place a bet, your chances of winning is no more guaranteed than it was every other time you played. Think of betting like flipping a coin. You may think that because a coin landed on heads five times in a row that the next time it’s flipped the odds are greater that it will land on tails. However, this isn’t true. With each coin toss the odds never change. There is always a 50% chance the result will be heads and a 50% chance the result will be tails. No outcome is guaranteed. Stick to your losing limits and know when to call it quits.
- Do not play when you are emotional – Logic always needs to be in the driver’s seat when it come to gambling. Never gamble when you are feeling angry, sad, frustrated or any other powerful negative emotion. If you allow your emotions to call the shots, you are far more likely to make impulsive decisions and choices you wouldn’t typically make.
- Don’t drink and gamble – Although having a beer or whiskey may seem like the perfect complement to gambling as it is commonly portrayed in movies and television shows, the reality is that alcohol dulls your senses and your inhibitions. Drinking alcohol while gambling can lead to taking higher than normal risks, making rash decisions and paying beyond your limits.
- Track your gambling habits – Even if you don’t think you have a gambling problem, it never hurts to track your gambling habits, especially online. Gambling online is very different than gambling in a land-based establishment. It’s easier to access, more comfortable and more convenient. Take advantage of the responsible gambling tools and resources provided by the brand where you play, including setting limits, requesting a Reality Check and taking an assessment quiz every once in a while.
- Never play with more than you can afford to lose – Never gamble money you need to pay the bills, take care of your family, etc. Remember, you need to think of money you choose to gamble with as money you will never get back.
- When the fun stops – Stop! – Of course, the whole point to gambling is the thrill of winning. However, winning can’t be everything. If you’re not enjoying your play, if you’re becoming frustrated or angry and/or you’re only chasing what you’ve lost, it’s time to call it quits.
Warning signs of getting addicted to online gambling
Gambling addiction can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, the way they identify, wealth or heritage. It doesn’t discriminate and it is a serious affliction that can ruin the life of the gambler and the people that they love.
The following are some signs that may indicate you have online gambling addiction or are at risk of developing problem gambling habits:
- You continuously chase your losses
- Gambling is on your mind all the time
- Your entire life revolves around gambling and when you can gamble next
- You spend most of you time gambling online and ignore other basic priorities, chores and responsibilities
- You find it difficult to stop gambling online
- You lie to others about how much time you spend gambling
- You gamble with money that should cover yours and/or your families basic living needs
- You hide unpaid bills and debts
- You gamble until you have no money left
- You feel irritable and frustrated when you’re not gambling
- You lie about how much you lose and exaggerate how much you win
If at any point you recognize these traits in yourself or notice new troubling behaviours, avoid gambling and seek support from qualified professionals, such as Gamblers Anonymous. Organizations dedicated to offering problem gambling support can help you overcome and manage your struggles. It’s important to remember that you are not alone, that there is help and you don’t need to feel ashamed.
Just as iGaming operators are committed to preventing underage gambling, players can also do their part in making sure minors are protected by installing parental control apps and/or programs on their devices.
For children under 18, you can install parental control software on computers or mobile devices like Net Nanny, or software that is specifically designed with anti-gambling in mind, such as GamBlock.
Responsible Gambling – Final Takeaway
The bottom line is that responsible gambling is meant to keep iGaming operators socially responsible and keep players – especially vulnerable players – protected. Responsible gaming is an essential part of the industry and necessary to operate a legitimate and respected online gambling business that provides players with a safe real money casino gaming and betting environment.
The best online casino platform providers offering white label and turn-key platform solutions respect responsible gambling regulations. Check out TCS reviews to learn more about these companies and how they can help you start or grow a socially responsible iGaming businesses.