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  • Writer's pictureKevin Jones

Responsible Gambling Technology: Balancing Internal Development and External Solutions

Gaming Eminence explored the increasing significance of responsible gambling and its interplay with technology, offering in-depth analysis and expert commentary.

In recent years, responsible gambling technology has become a central focus for both gambling operators and regulators. As the gambling industry continues to grow and evolve, the demand for effective tools and strategies to promote responsible gaming behaviour has increased. In this article, we will delve into the key factors driving the growing need for responsible gambling technology. We will also examine how gambling operators are grappling with the decision of whether to develop internal tools or outsource tech-related solutions in this domain. To gain insights into this matter, we reached out to experts in the gambling industry, seeking their perspectives on key objectives, priorities, and the choices between in-house development and external providers, as well as the expertise and experience required within organisations.


The Growing Need for Responsible Gambling Technology


After analysing the market and its history, we have identified three key themes that underpin the growing requirements within the industry. We classify these themes as follows:


Regulatory Pressure: Firstly, governments and regulatory bodies worldwide are imposing stricter regulations on the gambling industry. These regulations often require the implementation of responsible gambling measures, such as self-exclusion options, spending limits, and real-time monitoring of player behaviour. Compliance with these regulations is not only a legal requirement but also a moral obligation for operators.


Public Awareness and Social Responsibility: Secondly, the public's perception of the gambling industry has evolved, placing increasing emphasis on social responsibility. Operators are under pressure to demonstrate their commitment to addressing problem gambling and its associated harms. Responsible gambling technology serves as a tangible demonstration of this commitment.


Industry Reputation: Lastly, building a strong and reputable brand in the gambling industry involves ensuring that customers can trust your platform. By proactively addressing responsible gambling concerns, operators can enhance their image and attract a more responsible player base.


Building In-House vs. Outsourcing: The Tradeoffs


In today's landscape of responsible gambling technology, firms face pivotal decisions about the approach they should take. These decisions are critical for ensuring compliance with regulations, promoting social responsibility, and safeguarding their reputation. Let's explore the key considerations when evaluating the choice between in-house development and outsourcing. We will also address the challenges firms encounter during this decision-making process.


In-House Development:


1. Customisation: Opting for in-house development empowers operators to craft responsible gambling solutions tailored to their specific needs and player base. This level of customisation can lead to more effective tools.

2. Control: Operators gain greater control over the development process, ensuring that the technology aligns precisely with their business goals and values.

3. Cost Control: Over time, in-house development may yield cost savings, as operators can sidestep ongoing fees associated with external solutions.


Outsourcing:


1. Expertise: External firms specialising in responsible gambling technology often bring a wealth of expertise and experience to the table. This expertise can expedite development and lead to more robust solutions.

2. Speed: Outsourcing can be faster, as external firms can leverage existing technologies and best practices, reducing time to market.

3. Resource Allocation: Outsourcing allows operators to concentrate their internal resources on core business aspects like game development and marketing, while entrusting the development of responsible gambling technology to experts.


Challenges in Decision-Making:


1. Costs: In-house development, while potentially offering long-term cost savings, necessitates substantial upfront investments in talent, infrastructure, and ongoing maintenance. External solutions often have more predictable pricing structures.

2. Expertise: Developing and maintaining responsible gambling technology requires a deep understanding of the complexities of problem gambling behaviour. Ensuring that an in-house team possesses this expertise can be a significant challenge.

3. Integration: Compatibility with existing systems and platforms is crucial. In-house solutions may encounter integration challenges. However by building internally firms can get ahead of this issue, but time is the issue, while external firms may potentially offer a more seamless quicker integration. Though integration challenges may still occur.

4. Evolving Regulations: The regulatory landscape is in a constant state of flux. Both in-house and external solutions must remain adaptable to meet new requirements.

5. Data Security: Whether developed in-house or outsourced, ensuring robust data security measures is essential in responsible gambling technology. Data breaches can have severe consequences, so operators must assess the security practices of their chosen approach.


The Impact on Operators and the Industry:


The decision between building in-house and outsourcing responsible gambling technology has far-reaching implications. It directly affects an operator's ability to meet regulatory requirements, fulfil social responsibilities, and maintain a positive industry reputation. Both approaches can be viable, contingent on an operator's unique circumstances.

 

Gaming Eminence engaged with industry experts to discuss responsible gambling technology and address the challenges faced by operators in the gambling industry. We spoke with Graham Cassell, Partner at Circle Squared to get his perspective having worked on this topic from an operator perspective and now on the consultancy side. Alongside, Graham we spoke with Duncan Garvie, Trustee and Founder of BetBlocker who has for over a decade managed consumer disputes in the iGaming industry service professionals are individuals with extensive knowledge and experience in these domains.



GE) In your opinion, what are the key objectives and priorities when it comes to responsible gambling technology in our industry?


Graham Cassell) "Ultimately working to protect customers is the first priority of responsible gaming technology and the key objectives need to be focused on how best to deliver this as seamlessly as possible. It’s important to find ways to support the business without negatively impacting the customer experience. There are several building blocks to support this.


- You need to make this a key concern and a ‘first class citizen’ for everyone in the organisation. Teams throughout the organisation (Commercial, Product & Technology) need to be educated, informed and ideally incentivised for getting this right. Ensuring that there is senior management backing coupled with dedicated compliance product leadership available to drive the right answers will ultimately lead to better results. Getting the balance of this is really important and being clear on your commitment to supporting this is key to building good protections for customers but also as an attraction and retention tool for what is becoming a more socially responsible workforce.


- Focus on leveraging tools, data and insight that raise the levels of pro-activity in this space. It’s easy to be passive about it and the expectation on operators has shifted significantly in recent times to the point where it’s easy to be left behind if you don’t embrace a quicker more active response. If you aren’t careful it’s easy for your customer journeys to demonstrate that you are just paying lip service.


- Doing this seamlessly is hard, you need to focus on building this into your journeys early on. It’s important to try and find good solutions that protect customers that don’t make it unwieldy. Have to consider this a part of the product rather than something to bolt on afterwards.


- For those multi-country and jurisdictional companies finding ways of supporting these from a single codebase needs to be a priority otherwise you end up building many bespoke instances. Focus on flexibility and configurability are tough but likely going to make easier as regulation and requirements change."

 

Duncan Garvie) "There are so many different ways that technology can advance our understanding of gambling addiction and help us develop strategies to minimise the harms associated with access to gambling.


Making progress in AI and machine learning will help us identify at risk players faster and ensure that we can intervene earlier to minimise the potential for harm.


Improving the technological barriers between player and illegal gambling operators will help us prevent predatory businesses exploiting vulnerability.


From BetBlocker’s own perspective, we’re constantly working to find ways to keep up with the changing OS platforms improve the strength of our blocking software, so that we offer the most robust service possible.


And perhaps most important of all, we need to work to develop tools and resources to educate players that “responsible gambling” isn’t just for people with a problem. We need to fundamentally change the dialogue. Responsible gambling is for everyone. Across many different sectors we’re now seeing apps being developed building on CBT principals to help people manage their own behaviour and interactions with various activities. From money management, to dieting, to exercise, apps are now helping people learn about their own behaviour patterns to help them make smarter decisions. There’s no reason that gambling can’t be approached in the same manner."

 

GE) When considering responsible gambling technology, do you think it's more advantageous for companies to leverage their in-house development teams or outsource to specialised providers?


Graham Cassell) "The right outcome here is to focus and commit to doing it regardless of whether it’s internally developed or not. Not embracing the need will never lead to the best result for either the organisation or the customer, so just starting and behaving like it is something that is important (because it’s the right thing to do) rather than just something you need to is always going to be the best option.


There are definitely pros and cons with both internal and external teams:


- This can be incredibly complex and leveraging expertise that is able to cut through noise and has seen and done it can be very beneficial. There are lots of good specialised providers in the market and they offer excellent solutions and save internal teams from re-inventing the wheel.


- Leaving to external providers means it’s never your teams/technologies problem. Accountability and ownership are crucial. This is because it is hard to engineer this into systems and customer journeys retrospectively and needs to be part of initial and holistic product and architectural thinking. If that isn’t connected to the internal teams it’s likely to become disjointed very quickly.


- We’ve seen many instances where engineering to resolve these needs has become convoluted, complex and nightmarish because teams don’t have accountability for the whole product and haven’t considered how it is part of it.


- Externals will not always understand to the degree your teams do, your customer, your journeys and your use cases. You more than likely need something that does the job but is sympathetic to your needs. You need really good, experienced suppliers that understand the industry well to get this right.


I think ultimately a balance between both is probably the best result and knowing where and when to leverage is probably the more pertinent question. The answer will depend on team maturity, technology capability, use cases and a whole lot more."

 

Duncan Garvie) "I don’t think the answer to that question is one or the other. It’s both. Of course the industry to look to develop experienced and talented teams internally, and build systems that meet the needs of their business. But there will always be valuable tools and services offered by third party providers. The best approach, in terms of minimising harm, is to leverage the strengths of both of these options – engage with the best of what is available both internally and externally."

 

GE) What expertise and experience within the organisation do you believe is necessary to effectively develop responsible gambling technology?


Graham Cassell) "Ultimately the thing that is going to give you the best chance of developing responsible gaming technology are people in the organisation that champion and commit to this. This needs to be throughout the various teams. Fortunately it’s something that can be nurtured and embedded over time and will likely be a good place to start.


Secondly, it can be very tempting to think this is a technology only issue as it’s such a big part of making it work effectively, but you have to tie any solutions you are considering to the whole product vision. If you don’t it will always appear as an afterthought. On this basis an essential is having product teams that understand the legislation, the requirements, where compromises or alternatives exist and ultimately how to translate these into good customer journeys amongst the sexier product features.


From a technology perspective it largely starts with data. Being able to understand, analyse, capture and instrument the masses of data that organisations have gives you the most options to deal proactively with the many and varied patterns and use cases that can occur. AI and machine learning can play a huge role in doing this well and further reducing the latency between seeing an issue and responding.


On top of this, having commercial, technical and product teams that are creative and empowered, who embrace the need to find low friction solutions to some pretty weighty and complex requirements will always add value."

 

Duncan Garvie) "When we’re looking at developing strategies to combat gambling addiction, of course we need to talk about lived experience. Lived experience gives us insight into the tools and strategies that those that have lived through addiction would have found helpful in managing their experience and minimising the detriment caused to their lives.


Alongside this it’s important to have expertise in the treatment of addiction. Psychologists specialising in the treatment of addiction help us gain insight into the behavioural patterns that lie as the root cause of addiction. They help us improve the language we use surrounding the issue, to better communicate and engage with those that need support.


We need the programmers and engineers to develop the tools that we offer to support players. We need the researchers and data analysts to develop the approaches we want to take. We need the UX designers to ensure that the tools that we do develop are easily engaged with.


There’s a whole spectrum of expertise that is vital to delivering successful responsible gambling technology, and removing any subset of that expertise diminishes the support that we can provide substantively."

 

The need for responsible gambling technology is undeniable, driven by regulatory pressures, social responsibility, and industry reputation. When deciding whether to build in-house or outsource, operators must carefully weigh the trade-offs in customisation, control, expertise, speed, and cost. Regardless of the chosen path, the ultimate goal remains the same: to provide a safe and responsible gambling environment for players while maintaining a sustainable and reputable gambling business. Responsible gambling technology is not just a compliance checkbox; it is a moral and strategic imperative for the industry. However, as the constant evolution of technology and player behaviour changes, firms must ensure they are continuing to adapt accordingly in this competitive landscape.


About our contributors:

Graham Cassell, Partner at Circle Squared: Graham has held several senior leadership roles at companies including Ladbrokes, Moneycorp, Paddy Power, Betfair and Flutter, running large-scale technology teams specialised in delivering and operating complex real-time, low latency systems. A progressive and collaborative leader, Graham has real expertise in the delivery of complex strategic and transformational programmes of work, with particular emphasis in building team environments that drive sustainable technology delivery and cultural change.


Duncan Garvie, Duncan Garvie has worked managing consumer disputes in the iGaming industry for over a decade, serving as the only regulatory approved affiliate based Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service. His business founded BetBlocker in 2017. In 2019 BetBlocker was broken off and established as a charity, for which he continues to serve as Trustee.

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