Jo Abergel: “The impact of SGW will be higher if the focus remains clear”

Jo Abergel: “The impact of SGW will be higher if the focus remains clear”

Jo Abergel: “The impact of SGW will be higher if the focus remains clear”
We start our Safer Gambling Week 2023 coverage with an interview with Jo Abergel, Co-founder of the Ethical Gambling Forum, and a seasoned veteran in the gambling industry who has dedicated her life and career to improving responsible gambling and strengthening consumer standards. In this interview, Abergel shares her opinion on the ethics of gambling, and how clearly defined focus is paramount for success in helping raise awareness for problem gambling. She addresses the ethics of gambling and how consumer groups are impacted differently by the current status of gambling promotions. Q: Jo, this question may come across as a little crude – but what is the point of Safer Gambling Week, and do you think the initiative is hitting its mark? I believe there is always value in having cross-industry initiatives like this, where we can continue to raise awareness and focus on a particular topic with the aim of making the [gambling] sector a safer place for both players and colleagues. I think Safer Gambling Week is definitely growing – each year we are seeing more and more events and people coming on board with their own projects to increase understanding of the issues involved. Whether or not it is “hitting its mark” is quite subjective. According to the UK’s Betting and Gaming Council the hope is “to spark a nationwide conversation about responsible gambling” and “highlight the safeguards put in place by the regulated industry”. If that is how we measure the success of a Safer Gambling campaign I think it is beginning to have an impact. However, whether or not it is contributing to a reduction in the number of problem gamblers remains to be seen. Q: Has there been a positive impact on businesses and consumers as a result of Safer Gambling Week, do you think? Let me answer for the jurisdiction where I am based – Gibraltar. Here I think it has had a very positive impact. Gibraltar is a small place where businesses, consumers, researchers, regulators and suppliers can get together relatively easily. For Safer Gambling Week 2023, the Centre for Excellence in Responsible Gaming at the University of Gibraltar is hosting a conference for Safer Gambling Week which looks to be the perfect example of a cross-industry initiative on “Safeguarding Gambling Industry Employees against Problem Gambling”. These types of initiatives are hugely positive and allow for the sharing of ideas and collaboration. Local operators will also be running their own programmes aimed at customers and colleagues. Q: Where do the real challenges of creating meaningful initiatives geared towards raising RG awareness come from? I think we need to have a more holistic approach to raising awareness and a major challenge is always balancing this with the operator’s business needs. Responsible Gaming isn’t just about having a team in place to handle any concerns: it needs to come from the top and be intertwined in all aspects of the business to really have an effect. For example, casino games are deliberately designed to entice players to stay and bet more – that’s the nature of the business and for most players, this will be absolutely fine. They play recreationally and know when they need to stop, but for problem gamblers the ease and accessibility they have to these games only exacerbates their addiction. There is no easy answer to this challenge. Q: Do you think Safer Gambling Week is just about informing and raising awareness, or is it also about posing deeper questions – such as the ethics of gambling? As a co-founder of the Ethical Gambling Forum, where we aim to challenge the industry on the ethical dilemmas it faces, I would love Safer Gambling Week to go deeper! But honestly, I think it is good to have a clear focus. The ethics of gambling are far-reaching and encompass many other topics. The reality is that the impact of Safer Gambling Week will be higher if the focus remains clear. Q: What would you like to see in the future as part of the Safer Gambling Week format? I would like to see a move towards operators sharing information on problem gamblers and vulnerable players. It is all too easy for a player to self-exclude (or be blocked) from one operator and just go somewhere else. This is not solving the issue and is not benefitting the industry. I appreciate this is something Casino Guru tries to promote with the Global Self-Exclusion tool. I would also like to see more initiatives to support the families of problem gamblers. I think this is a group of people who are indirectly impacted hugely and there is a real opportunity to offer more in the sphere. Image credit: Casino Guru News

13 NOV 2023

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