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Do Responsible Gaming Policies Go Far Enough? An Insider’s Perspective

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Do Responsible Gaming Policies Go Far Enough? An Insider’s Perspective
Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Exclusive Q&A with GoodLuckMate CEO and Founder Nerijus Grenda

With responsible gaming ever at the forefront of discussions around gambling and with all eyes on the UK as it conducts its once-in-a-generation review of its gambling laws, there could be big changes coming to the industry as a whole.

GoodLuckMate CEO and Founder Nerijus Grenda makes the case for the iGaming industry going even further in its efforts to protect vulnerable players. And he believes that technology holds the key to removing cases of human error that can lead to costly lawsuits and fines.

European Gaming catches up with Grenda to explore how the industry might adapt over the coming years, whether that’s via changes to the law or by mutually beneficial cooperation.

 

First off, how has the industry changed its stance on responsible gaming? Do you feel that things are heading in the right direction?

I must say that responsible gaming has made great strides over the last decade or so. There is far more awareness about the issues on the part of the industry, the staff working within it, and the players themselves. All this can only be regarded as a good thing. Nowadays, many players around the world have access to free online tests for gambling addiction, tools to limit playing time, deposit amounts, and overall losses, and there is the opportunity to self-exclude from gambling altogether. Add to this the fact that it’s much easier to get help from free professional help via a wealth of links and advice articles and you can see that we’ve come a very long way.

From my experience of working within the industry for many years, I can also see how staff training programs have benefitted all parts of organizations, especially when it comes to spotting the negative behavioral patterns exhibited by some gambling addicts. And this training is usually extended to all parts of the business, from the C-level staff to the customer support teams that act as the first line of defense against gambling addiction. So, yes, I can honestly say that things have been and are continuing to move in the right direction. But now it’s time to go even further!

 

Do you think more can be done by online casinos and sports betting sites to protect vulnerable players? Can technology play a major role in this?

Absolutely yes to both questions. Without a doubt, there is always more the industry can do to help vulnerable players before problems get out of hand. And in addition to the training I mentioned above, technology has to play the leading role in tackling the problem. From some of the cases I have read about players suing online casinos, it seems like there is either not enough technology being used to detect issues in the first place or that these processes are being overridden by staff wanting to keep a player on the hook. For example, there should be no way that source of funds checks aren’t carried out as soon as a player crosses a certain threshold for depositing and/or losing significant amounts – with no exceptions. Somewhere in the chain, some of these things are being missed or ignored and that really needs to change.

Another way in which technology should be employed is in spotting sudden changes in betting behavior. I have no doubt that some companies are already doing this, but it should become the default across the entire industry. For example, if a player suddenly goes from betting a couple of hundred per month to thousands, there should be technological mechanisms for flagging the behavior and for an additional source of funds check to be carried out. By doing this, any potential gambling addiction cases or illegal sources of money are nipped in the bud. The same goes for employing technology to help staff spot fake IDs and other supporting documents in the case of underage players, for example. There are many ways in which technology can help us.

 

Will the UK Review of the Gambling Act 2005 shake up the wider industry? What changes do you see being on the cards once it has concluded?

While I am not based in the United Kingdom, I have been keeping a close eye on the reports coming out and the rather negative media attention being focused on the once-in-a-generation review – as I’m sure many others within the industry are doing. From what I’ve been reading lately, I think there will be further restrictions on the advertising of gambling products on TV, particularly at times when there are a lot of teenagers and young adults watching. For example, I believe that the ban on all gambling advertising before the 9 PM watershed might extend to all major sporting events where young adults are watching. Additionally, I’ve seen a lot of concern being expressed about the Premier League’s reliance on gambling companies as commercial partners. So, it might be the case that teams will soon need to change their shirt sponsors, too.

There is also intense media scrutiny on FOBTs (fixed odds betting terminals, otherwise known as slots). Because of this, betting limits have been put in place and I expect that some of these same ideas for limiting player losses to make the leap over to online slots, too. And another related area I see mentioned in media reports is the practice of cross-selling from one gambling product to another. With the UK being a huge market for sports betting, there is a natural tendency within the industry to move these players from relatively low-profit sports betting over to the far more profitable game types such as slots. However, there could be recommendations to limit cross-selling. Alternatively, players may need to have a separate account for each game type – hence making it more difficult for online casinos to convince players to make the switch.

 

Do you feel that media attention on cases involving gambling addicts negatively affects the entire industry? And do these cases shape public opinion?

One hundred percent! Major cases are usually reported fairly high up in the news running order simply because the numbers make for an interesting read. People have a natural tendency to find out how a single person was able to not only bet but also lose hundreds of thousands, or even millions in some cases. And the way pretty much all of these cases are reported casts a negative shadow over the entire gaming industry. Almost invariably, we are made to see the online casino in question as the bad guy (and their statements are usually reserved for the very end of the article), with much of the focus being on how the source of funds checks were not carried out properly, or how the player was targeted with numerous offers and enticements over a sustained period of time, for example. All of this undoubtedly shapes public opinion negatively.

 

Finally, is there enough will within the casino industry to continue to push responsible gaming, or is the profit motive always going to supersede player protection?

While profit is and always will be the main motive behind choosing to set up and run an online casino or sportsbook site, I think a little more focus on responsible gaming would help avoid very costly lawsuits and/or fines later down the line. Furthermore, even if these costs can easily be factored in as a necessary part of the business, the negative press attention that comes along with these cases simply isn’t justifiable in the long run. By getting things right in the first place, there’s more opportunity to build a respectable brand that will endure for many years to come – and with that comes long-term profit, of course. I also think that if the industry works as a whole, shares data on any potential loopholes they’ve spotted, and continues to focus on responsible gaming as an entirely positive aspect of the gambling industry, then everyone wins. 

Interviews

Crypto Millions Lotto’s Sulim Malook on What Happens When Lotto Meets Bitcoin

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

The proposition of Bitcoin lotteries is simple. If you go to a casino, you have to buy chips from the cashier to play. When you finish playing, you can cash your chips in for money, or keep them for next time. With a digital lottery, you play with a digital currency. In the case of Crypto Millions Lotto it’s Bitcoin. Think of bitcoin as the chips you have to buy to play Crypto Millions Lotto. Players deposit bitcoin to play, and if they win, they get paid in bitcoin. One exception is that if you’re lucky enough to win the jackpot, this innovative digital lotto gives you the option to take your winnings in bitcoin or a local currency of your choice.

There are some really strong arguments for considering bitcoin lotteries vs traditional ones. There are two major reasons. The first is that if you play games across borders using a credit card or any other traditional form of payment, then there are complications and frustrations around whether the payment can be made or if it will be blocked, the exchange rate, and payment periods. Using bitcoin removes all of that because it knows no borders. 

The second reason is that by operating digitally using bitcoin companies like Crypto Millions Lotto can avoid a lot of infrastructure costs, including payment processing charges. According to Sulim Malook “Having a low cost base allows us to offer bigger jackpots. Our jackpots are bigger than the majority of state-run lotteries and bigger than any of our online competitors.”

 

How Does a Digital Lottery like Sulim’s work? 

“We allow people to play the numbers of eight of the world’s biggest lotteries on our website. Although they choose the numbers on our site, they’re actually betting on the numbers of a state lottery, so numbers are drawn by each of the underlying lotteries. That way we remain completely independent.

This means people can play every time one of those eight lotteries has a draw, in total 14 times a week.

In case people don’t see the live draw, we announce all of the winning numbers on our website, and we notify all winners by email immediately. Payment of winnings is made within minutes of the lottery ending.”

 

Bitcoin lotteries are the natural progression from digital lotteries

The first big shift was from offline to online, but all that really changed was how we bought and received tickets for a single lottery.

The next shift was allowing people to play many different lotteries online, and for that people needed a better way to buy tickets and to receive winnings. Sulim says “That’s where bitcoin came in. So, we haven’t adopted bitcoin just because it’s a digital currency. We’ve done it because it’s the best currency for the job.”

 

Covid’s Effect on The Lottery

Contrary to what you might imagine, historically, the lottery performs well in downturns and recessions, as people try to generate fast money for themselves. Covid, of course, has put a lot of the world into recession, so the lotto industry as a whole as well as the gaming sector has performed well. 

But more significant than that, Covid has exposed the flaws and tensions in the traditional lottery model. Specifically, that it relies on a network of small retailers to sell tickets, most of which have now been closed and certainly were not contactless anyway.

The result, according to Sulim, is that people have gone online. “So not just us, the whole online lottery industry has seen a big uplift, while the traditional lotteries have seen a negative impact.”

And yet the lifting of COVID restrictions has not impacted this sector negatively. Sulim was clear that “On the contrary, the effect has been positive. With some state lotteries closing down for months, playing online was the only option. In our view, this is a good thing for an industry that has been living in the dark ages.

I’d liken it to working from home. Covid has opened many people’s eyes to the benefits of home working. Some people might go back to the office after Covid restrictions are lifted. But for many others, they’ve discovered a new way of doing things and will stick with it. It’s the same with the digital lottery. We introduced it to many people who now prefer it and who won’t go back to the old way.”

Business is booming at Crypto Millions Lotto and the team has a lot in the pipeline. So what comes next for a business of this ilk? 

“We have lots of exciting things in our pipeline. We’ve recently added six new lotteries, and we’re planning to add more. We also plan to add more games, as well as offering players the ability to get bitcoin using their credit cards directly on our site.

As our user base expands into more countries, we want to offer Crypto Millions Lotto in multiple languages.

We have also just launched an affiliate program, which we believe offers a more attractive proposition than other affiliate programs already out there.”

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Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Sergey Tsukanov, Head of Sportsbook at Betby

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Exclusive Q&A with Sergey Tsukanov, Head of Sportsbook at Betby
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Are big summer events the most important part of the year, or just an added benefit to day-to-day activity?

Summer sporting events are a big deal for global sportsbook suppliers as they present endless opportunities to boost engagement and deliver unique promotions, but I see it as a bit of both.

After a prolonged period without any major football tournaments and over a season’s worth of fixtures being played behind closed doors, the European Championships and the Copa America have arrived at the perfect time for sport lovers around the world.

The spike of growth in the number of users around these events is very much influenced by the market and depends on many factors, like whether a local team is playing in the tournament and what sources the operator gets its traffic through.

We see a similar number of bets placed on a given day of the European Championships as we do on the night of the Champions League final, with the latter stages of the tournament only attracting more users. This is a testament to the popularity and appeal of summer sporting competitions.

 

How can sportsbook suppliers prepare for these huge events, which should see significantly increased traffic?

Betby prides itself on the flexibility of its products and ability to pivot its platform to suit specific requirements. Preparation for tournaments of this size is key due to the huge spike in user activity during the games.

Work schedules around the time of major events are changed to facilitate the increased number of bets being placed before games, as well as requests from clients to run campaigns in the build up to the tournament.  We also tend to increase the number of markets of bets ahead of these competitions to set it apart from regular sporting events.

 

Are regional sporting events, such as the European Championships or Copa America, popular globally or only within those regions where the games are being played?

For the most part, there is little interest in the Copa America in Europe, and the same can be said for interest in the European Championships in Latin America, but there are always sport enthusiasts and other outliers that must be catered to.

For example, the Argentina-Brazil clash will undoubtedly see some interest around the globe thanks to the prominence of superstars like Lionel Messi and Neymar. That said, when you consider the time difference and abundance of smaller ties, global figures will always be smaller in comparison.

This problem is not specific to football; we see the same issue in the NBA where European followers are expected to sacrifice sleep and brave the early hours of the morning just to watch their team play.

 

Can the Olympics ever become a major betting event?

This is a very complex question. There’s a feeling that the Olympics is slowly losing relevance in the sporting community.

Perhaps we should not talk about the Olympics as a whole, and rather focus on the separate events that make up the competition. The tennis is always interesting to watch from the start due to the ‘knock-out’ nature of the ties, whereas football in the Olympics only becomes a knock-out once teams pass the group stages.

The dedicated following that we see at club and international level in football, rugby and other global sports audiences is just incomparable to the following that Olympic sports like rowing or fencing get throughout the year.

 

How has Betby approached the bumper sporting summer of 2021?

Without going into too much detail on our plans for the upcoming summer, I can confirm that we have changed our priorities to assist the launch of a host of additional football markets for the European Championships.

We recently reimagined the ‘classic’ sportsbook in the design of our site’s new layout, so it now boasts a fully responsive user interface, easy site navigation and swift betting placement, which addresses feedback we received from our users.

With a brand-new sidebar, high-quality widgets and more markets than ever before, we have done everything in our power to make this summer as enjoyable as possible for our audiences. After all, there has been so little to celebrate over the past 18 months that a touch excitement is long overdue.

 

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Interviews

Spiffbet – Rhino Gaming’s next-level gaming experience

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Spiffbet - Rhino Gaming's next-level gaming experience
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Spiffbet’s Head of Game Development Riaan du Randt shares his thoughts about Rhino Gaming’s re-launch, new focus, and opportunities ahead. 

Riaan, please tell us about your background

I started working in the igaming industry in 2005. During this period, the industry was tiny yet innovative. After many years in igaming, I started focusing on R&D for mobile gaming in the casual gaming market for a period of time instead. It was exciting, and I learned a lot, but it never really motivated me as much as igaming. The next chapter of my career was the most exciting, as the entire online casino industry started moving towards HTML 5. This prompted me to move back to igaming which has always been my passion. I joined Spiffbet in 2018, and it has been one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences to date.

Spiffbet recently rebranded parts of their game portfolio to Rhino Gaming. What is the rationale behind the rebranding?

We see Rhino Gaming as the next chapter in our game production journey. When we started the studio, our priority was to balance quality with quantity since we needed to grow our portfolio as fast as possible. Now that we have established ourselves as a solid gaming studio, we are switching gears to start producing games that stand out from the crowd, emphasizing innovative games with robust features. We have a talented and creative team that I am proud to be part of.

Can you describe the concept and the type of games that are produced under Rhino Gaming? How does it differ from Spiffbet’s other portfolio STHLM Gaming?

In this competitive market, it is essential to offer the operators something special. We believe the best way to achieve this is by developing unique game mechanics combined with high production quality. Our STHLM Gaming products cater to a specific market that likes fun games with easy to relate themes. With Rhino Gaming, we aim to appeal more to players looking for edgy games and players in growth markets.

Do you have a particular target group for your games?

Yes, I believe our main target will be the plus 20-something to middle age that likes fresh, innovative games. A great example would be to look at Metal Casino. Niche operators like these will give us an audience that is seeking an edgy content.

Game development is a sector where the competition is fierce. How do you relate to your competition, and do you have clear-cut competitors?

Our goal is not to compete with the top-tier studios head-on, but to target niches with unique games and stand out by creating a next level experience and meeting the preferences in new growth markets.

Today Spiffbet has completely changed its character and is now perceived as a B2C player. What is your comment on this change?

The recent year with high growth within the B2C casino business will strengthen the overall operations. However, people tend to forget that we, Spiffbet, comes from game development. Last year’s acquisitions have certainly overshadowed that part of the company. Many have not picked up all the positive changes that have taken place within the game development. The relaunch under Rhino Gaming will hopefully put the spotlight back onto our games. We welcome that other studios of similar size have taken the step out in the spotlight by becoming publicly traded companies. Good examples are Fantasma Games and LL Lucky Games (Lady Luck). Fantasma Games has as a similar operating model as STHLM Gaming but is somewhat larger. Lady Luck is similar to Rhino Gaming. Currenty, Lady Luck games is supplied along side our games on our platform. These companies are both interesting benchmarks when we evaluate our development and future steps.

What benefits do you see working within a larger group like Spiffbet with one foot in casino operations and the other in game development?

It puts us in a unique position that presents many opportunities to take advantage of. It all played a big part in our decision to push the production value up a notch. We also get valuable feedback from Spiffbet’s online gaming branch on the games we produce.

Looking ahead, what can we expect from Rhino Gaming?

We got plenty of exciting stuff in our pipeline. Check out the teaser for our upcoming release of Dragons of Asgard. Stay tuned!

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