“Every day is Valentine’s Day for me darling”. That’s my usual line when persuading my lovely wife that an evening spent amongst couples who have called a temporary truce in order to slurp spaghetti together might not be the best idea in the world.
And by and large, it is true. I don’t think it takes Casanova to figure out that couples who love each other don’t need to set aside a special day in order to remind themselves of the fact.
I have similar feelings about the recently-completed Safer Gambling Week. Yes, it is good to make an effort to remind players about the importance of gambling responsibly. It is right to talk about the ways in which we are making gambling safer and ensuring it remains what it surely is, a fun pastime enjoyed by millions of people who get an awful lot of pleasure from it (I’m one of them).
But shouldn’t we be doing that all year round? Yes, a week is good, but a commitment to safer gambling for the full 52 weeks in the year would be even better. It was heartening to see ClearStake customer Hollywoodbets make precisely that point last week - and they are exactly right.
That commitment doesn’t just extend to telling players what to do and how to behave in order to stay out of trouble. An awful lot of Safer Gambling Week activity effectively amounts to advice for punters: ways to stay out of trouble, advice for keeping gambling under control, how to spot signs of danger and so on. All well and good, but it does rather suggest that gambling issues are a problem (and responsibility) for punters, not operators.
This year, the current ongoing ‘war’ over affordability checks, or financial vulnerability checks, makes a lot of this messaging even harder to swallow. I don’t like to criticise operators, but I think it’s worth calling out the fact that some of them are an awful lot more proactive than others when it comes to protecting their customers in a meaningful way (see Hollywoodbets above!)
And whilst most of those operators are (quite rightly) refusing to lend their weight to the current campaign against affordability checks, it might be nice to hear some of them openly support the concept. Yes, racing and gambling are not the same, certainly not today, but to an outsider looking in, it sometimes appears as if ‘the industry’ is totally opposed to the idea of checking a player’s finances before taking significant amounts of money in stakes.
That perception, in turn, might well make that same outsider wonder why on earth players are being urged to gamble safely during one particular week in November when operators aren’t ready to help ensure they do just that?
Of course, perception isn’t reality, despite what the marketers say. In truth, a sizable number of operators understand that affordability checks are the only route to a sustainable, profitable industry. They also understand that in a world where players already need to be asked for financial data in order to meet anti-money-laundering requirements, they aren’t necessarily anything new either.
We know, because some of them are already ClearStake customers and others who aren’t yet have told us the same thing. Does anyone really have an issue with checking that players spending thousands of pounds have the necessary funds to do so? No.
So here’s my wish for Safer Gambling Week. Let gambling operators come out publicly as backing sensible, proportionate affordability checks for players. Let's see them proactively engage with the conversation, and by doing so ensure that when checks like these are inevitably implemented, it is in a way that is sensible, proportionate and - to put it simply - done in the right way.
That intervention would be beneficial for everybody concerned. The truth is that checks performed using Open Banking are fast, easy, and painless. We know from our own data that customers like them, or at least greatly prefer them to the old-fashioned printing out of bank statements. In fact, revenues would actually increase when compared to the way things are done today.
If there is a Santa for Safer Gambling Week, that’s what I am asking for. And I promise to be a very good boy if that will make any difference.