It’s been less than two weeks since GVC Holdings announced its Sustainability Charter. Today, it took its first concrete step towards implementing it.
The company, which will soon change its name to Entain, became the first official partner of PlayPause. This is a new responsible gaming tool developed by the non-profit Conscious Gaming. Launched in September this year, it is powered by geolocation company GeoComply.
GVC’s US operations consist of its own Partypoker and Party Casino brands, plus a joint venture with MGM Resorts International. The latter, called Roar Digital, operates the BetMGM brand for online poker, casino and sports betting.
One aspect of GVC’s Sustainability Charter is that it has committed to donate £100 million (roughly $132 million) over the next 5 years to support responsible gambling. It did not reveal exactly how much of this went to Conscious Gaming to secure official partner status.
This is the first initiative specifically made under that new commitment. However, it’s far from GVC’s first effort to advance the cause of responsible gambling in the US. It is a member of the National Council on Problem Gaming President’s Circle. It also collaborates with both EPIC Risk Management and a team of researchers at Harvard University working on addictive behavior.
GVC CEO Shay Sevev had the following to say about the partnership:
“We are delighted to be the first official partner of PlayPause. We believe the most responsible operator will be the most successful operator, and PlayPause’s innovative, multi-state approach to responsible gaming in the U.S. aligns with our firm commitment to providing our customers with the safest and most enjoyable experience possible.”
GVC aims for a squeaky clean reputation
GVC’s decision to rebrand as Entain may come in part from the simple desire to have a name more likely to stick in the minds of both customers and investors. However, it is also taking the opportunity to turn over a new leaf when it comes to compliance and social responsibility.
Donating to responsible gambling causes is only one aspect of that. The company has also made a number of other commitments, including:
- Exiting all unregulated gray markets, starting now and completing by 2023,
- Launching its own internal Advanced Responsibility & Care (ARC) program, and
- Tying executive bonuses to hitting responsible gambling targets.
The timing of these commitments is relevant on both sides of the Atlantic.
In Europe, the context is that the gambling industry as a whole is facing public backlash after its failure to self-regulated effectively. Legislatures and regulatory bodies in multiple countries have been imposing ever harsher restrictions on the industry, as well as cracking down in their enforcement of existing laws.
Meanwhile, in the US, GVC has seen the risk of its past catching up with it. It was nearly denied its Nevada gaming license due to the actions of one of its subsidiaries in Turkey, where online gambling is illegal. Although it did ultimately get the license, it was a close call that may have served as a wake-up call for the need to clean up its reputation.
After all, regulation in the US is state by state. There’s no guarantee that one regulator’s leniency means that others will see things the same way. Getting cut out of a new market due to having played loose with the rules elsewhere is a risk not worth taking.
What is PlayPause?
In a nutshell, PlayPause is a self-exclusion tool. It’s much more sophisticated than any of the registries currently being used in the US, however. For one thing, it allows players to self-impose restrictions that will extend to every state in which an operator is active.
Every state that has legalized online gambling has included self-exclusion requirements for operators. Players who feel they have a problem can ask the regulator to be put on a list, distributed to all operators in the state. The player in question will then be prevented from logging in to any existing accounts as well as opening new ones. Self-exclusion can be permanent or temporary.
The problem with this approach is that it’s state-by-state. Since US citizens can travel freely between states, a relapsing gambler can circumvent their self-exclusion simply by getting in their car and driving to another state.
PlayPause, on the other hand, will let players exclude themselves from all of an operator’s sites. The downside, for now, is that it won’t prevent them from playing at other companies’ sites. That may change as more companies adopt the solution.
That’s not all. It also allows a more focused and customized approach. For instance, a player who finds some games more habit-forming than others can self-exclude only from specific products, verticals or game categories. It also provides tools for players to monitor their own habits in the same way operators do.
Keith Whyte, Executive Director of the NCPG has given the product his approval:
“Creating a multi-state self-exclusion tool has long been a goal of all stakeholders that are committed to responsible gaming […] This is a prime example of how technology and innovation can be leveraged to advance consumer protection and foster a more effective responsible gaming framework across the gambling and sports betting industries.”
An interstate solution on the eve of online casino expansion
From 2013 to 2018, state-by-state self-exclusion wasn’t a big deal. At that time, the only states with legal online casinos were New Jersey and Delaware. Once a player had self-excluded in both those states, there was nowhere else to go to play online legally. The arrival of legal US sports betting changed things considerably.
Now, BetMGM is active in mobile sports betting in six states and has launched its online casino in West Virginia. It has its license to launch in Pennsylvania, and should do so soon. Meanwhile, Michigan could go live in a matter of weeks or a few months at the outside. Party Casino and Partypoker may come to these latter states as well.
Having PlayPause available from the get go will be a huge help as BetMGM and Party expand into these new markets. In that sense, the timing is perfect. It will also provide those brands with a unique selling point for those keen on gambling safely.
Adam Greeblatt, the CEO of Roar Digital/BetMGM addressed that aspect specifically in discussing the partnership:
“A multi-state approach to responsible gaming is an important step for the industry and advances consumer protection in a meaningful way. We’re delighted to play a leading role in collaborating on this important and timely initiative.”
Hopefully, GVC’s experiment with PlayPause proves successful, and its competitors soon follow suit in adopting it, or other similar solutions.