Duncan Garvie: “We’re fighting very hard to change the narrative around RG”

Duncan Garvie: “We’re fighting very hard to change the narrative around RG”

Duncan Garvie: “We’re fighting very hard to change the narrative around RG”
Duncan Garvie, Founder and Trustee at BetBlocker, shares his thoughts on how BetBlocker is helping the industry tackle problem gambling and promote safer and sustainable gambling practices. BetBlocker’s strength lies in its free model, which introduces anonymity, security, flexibility, and improves the user experience, making people who suffer from problem gambling more likely to adopt the solution. Yet, BetBlocker certainly isn’t a magic bullet nor a fix for gambling addiction by itself, Garvie cautions. There are other forms of support that need to be present in order to make solutions such as BetBlocker the most impactful and worthwhile. Read this insightful conversation with Garvie in its entirety below. Q: Duncan, can we first start by telling us what BetBlocker is and where the company is today? BetBlockeris a charity that offers blocking software to those in need of support managing their access to online gambling. Blocking software is an app that you install on a device that prevents the device from accessing online gambling websites. We are the only blocking software that is offered free of charge to anyone who needs it. Currently we restrict around 80k domains and 1.5k apps. Q: Our next question has to do with the why of the matter – why was BetBlocker necessary in the first place and how is your product better than existing market alternatives? That’s a big question! The why is simple – to support those impacted by gambling disorder we need to put as many barriers between the person and being able to return to gambling as possible. The restriction that blocking software provides is one of the layers that we can create to support vulnerable players. As to the advantages ofBetBlockerover market alternatives: – BecauseBetBlockerruns as a charity, and offers our services free of charge, we do not need to gather user information. This comes with a host of benefits including: i) Anonymity – gambling addiction is often associated with feelings of guilt and shame. By allowing users to access the service anonymously we remove the stigma that can come with signing-up to an addiction support service. ii) Security – as we don’t collect user data, we don’t have a list of contact information for vulnerable people that could be lost, stolen or sold. iii) Flexibility – our service isn’t required to fit our exclusion periods to a billing cycle. This allows us to offer blocks of any length to suit the user’s needs. We currently offer from 24h up to 5 years. iv) User Experience – not collecting user data/payment information also speeds up our activation process. It’s possible to go from download to blocked in under 2 minutes. Many of the users who engage with blocking software are at a crisis point when they download. They can swing from committing to stopping to chasing their losses very quickly. It’s critical to ensure that the activation process is as quick as possible. Alongside the inherent benefits of offering blocking software free, we offer a number of other features that are unique toBetBlocker. – Calendaring: Our Calendaring feature approaches gambling harm from the opposite side. The standard continuous block is generally used as a response to a crisis. The player has already lost more than they could afford to, and is looking to stop themselves gambling more. Our Calendaring feature offers user who aren’t currently in crisis the opportunity to plan ahead, setting the block to come on when they know they may be vulnerable. For instance, if you know that you are vulnerable to gambling too much after a few drinks, you can set the block in advance to switch on every Friday/Saturday. Or if you want to make sure your bills are paid before you gambling, you can look up your payday and set the block to switch on for a week after your payday each month. Or if you want to make sure that you spend your time with your children while they are off school, you can set the block to come on during the school holidays. Our Calendaring feature is all about harm minimisation. A genuine responsible gambling tool. No other blocking software offers any similar function. – Languages: We currently offer the app in 7 different languages and we’re working to expand the service to other languages as a priority. – Parental Controls: We offer a Parental Controls setting that allows users to switch the block on/off with a selected password. As the name suggests, the Parental Controls feature is intended to allow parents to lock down adult content on any device that they allow a child access to, but allows them to lift the restriction as/when they’re using the device. Interestingly, we’ve found many of our users are engaging with this feature in a different way – getting a friend of family member to set-up a block for them and only lift it when they know they can afford to gamble. Q: Has BetBlocker been welcomed by the industry and players, or is there still a fair degree of mistrust when it comes to universal self-exclusion tools? There is a spectrum to the responses we’ve received. Within the industry we see some operators who are enthusiastically engaging with responsible gambling. We see others that are still dismissive, see responsible gambling as a box ticking exercise and showing minimal interest in responsible gambling support services. There would be an obvious divide, generally between weaker and stronger regulatory systems, with the operators subject to stronger regulators showing the greatest interest. Though we do still see some well licensed operators who remain dismissive. That said, it’s important to acknowledge that we have many enthusiastic supporters within the industry that have been crucial toBetBlockergetting to where it is today and continue to support our team in many different ways. Players are a different story. Broadly speaking, players like the idea ofBetBlocker, but many of them don’t thinkBetBlockeris for them. They view blocking software as for people who have problems. No it’s not!BetBlockeris for everyone. You wouldn’t go rock climbing without a harness and helmet. You wouldn’t drive while drunk. Gambling is a risk based activity. Thinking about when it’s safe for you to gamble and what you should do to keep yourself safe is something that EVERY player should do. We’re fighting very hard to change the narrative around responsible gambling right now and we want every player to consider engaging with our Calendaring feature. Addiction can happen to anyone. Keep yourself safe. Think about it before the problem, so that gambling doesn’t become a crisis for you. Q: Do you think BetBlocker alone is sufficient to help players overcome their harmful gambling habits, or is the tool just a part of a long and comprehensive process that will ultimately involve other solutions and specialists? BetBlocker, or indeed any blocking software, certainly isn’t a magic bullet. It is not a fix for gambling addiction by itself. It makes up part of the solution, but the truth is that blocking software is far more effective when used in conjunction with other forms of support. That’s why last year (2022) we developed our Responsible Gambling Directory (RGD). This is a list of 1.2k organisations that help support people impacted by gambling addiction, geo-targeted to show only the services that are available to people from the user’s location and broken down into different types of support. We would encourage everyone to view blocking software as one tool in the tool kit available to help people manage their gambling. Not as a single source fix for gambling addiction. Q: You recently launched the Spanish-speaking version of BetBlocker. Why is BetBlocker needed in other jurisdictions beyond the English-speaking world, do you think? Gambling addiction is no different is Argentina, Somalia or Japan than it is in the UK, USA or Australia. The physiological and psychological processes at play are the same. The misery that it can bring to lives is the same. The language spoken doesn’t change that. Whilst I foundedBetBlockerto address the needs created by UKGC regulations coming into force, I’ve ensured thatBetBlockeralways remained available to anyone, from anywhere, that needed it.BetBlockeris a charity, and I have strong views that as charity our objective should be to help as many people as we can. While we do have to pay mind to these things, our priorities shouldn’t be geographic or financial. Many of the people engaging withBetBlockerare in the middle of a crisis. They’ve just lost more than they could afford to lose. The physical response that their bodies are experiencing is overwhelming. Their hearts are racing. They feel physically ill. Their head is thumping, blood thundering in their ears. Someone in this condition is not well placed to take information in. Blocking software can be complicated to set up. Ask someone in this condition to engage with that process in a language that they don’t speak, or are not confident in, and you’ve let them down. While our team is small and we do use free translation tools to help us support users that contact us in other languages for technical support, it’s really really important that the app itself be available in a language that the user can easily engage with. Otherwise, these users may not make it past the set-up process. Q: What is next for BetBlocker? There’s so much still to do. For a start, we only have a handful of languages available at the moment and need to improve that. We want to simplify our user interface, to make the service more intuitive. We want to improve and extend our Calendaring feature. We want to upgrade our iOS app to make it more robust. But all of this is contingent on receiving the funding to move forward. Image credit: Casino Guru News

01 DEC 2023

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