Responsible Gaming: Opposites United

Gambling is normally seen as a reckless activity (mostly by people not actively involved in it). In popular culture, it is represented as an exciting and passionate tango one dances with Fate, a game of chance where riches are won and lost at a turn of a card, egos clash, and Reason never steps over the casino’s threshold.

Although there is some truth in that romantic picture, it is by no means all of the truth. Apart from luck, gambling requires a calculating mind, self-possession, and responsibility. In fact, gambling can and must be, despite the seeming controversy, responsible.

The Concept

In a nutshell, responsible gaming means protection for vulnerable players. Providers of gaming services, online as well as land-based, must make sure that the players are offered both safe and fair gaming experience, and protect them from negative consequences that gaming might result in. Gaming operators are required to prevent underage gaming and fraudulent or criminal behavior, make sure that the customer receives fair gaming experience and is promptly and accurately paid, ensure that private information about the customers stays private, commit to players’ satisfaction, create a reliable, secure gaming environment, and conduct marketing campaigns in responsible and ethical manner.

Various organizations and regulators have developed numerous codes of conduct to ensure that gaming service providers and operators commit to upholding the responsible gaming principles. As these multiple sets of rules grew in number and overlapped, it became clear that a golden standard is needed to define the concept for good. In 2011, the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) published “Responsible Remote Gambling Measures”, the first collection of client protection measures for online gambling in the European Union. eCommerse Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance (eCOGRA) agency, an independent London-based auditing company, checks the compliance with these measures on a regular basis.

Underage Gaming

Game operators and gaming service providers must do everything in their power to prevent underage customers from gambling. Age restrictions depend upon local laws in every particular jurisdiction where the providers offer their services. The main method of preventing underage gaming is to ensure that during the registration process on the gaming or betting web page the operator clearly informs the customer of the policies and regulations concerning underage gaming. Also, each gaming resource must have certain controls to verify the age of its clients.

While it is fairly easy to prevent underage individuals gambling in land-based casinos, the problem becomes much more difficult to solve when it comes to the internet. There are no 100%-reliable safeguards that prevent anonymous gambling or entering fake information about one’s age. However, certain controls allow verifying the client’s age, identity and residence with higher than average accuracy using systems that require the players to provide supporting documentation, such as bank account data.

Problem Gambling

Problem gambling, that is also referred to as “compulsive” or “addictive” gambling, is an urge to continuously gamble, disregarding any harmful consequences that might arise from such behavior, and, sometimes, even the player’s own desire to stop. In some cases, problem gambling can be diagnosed as clinical, if specific criteria are met. As in the case with other similar disorders, pathological gaming seeks to activate the reward mechanisms in the brain. This behavior may be coupled with alcohol problems, as the two share certain mechanisms.

For an individual to be diagnosed with problem gambling, at least four of these symptoms need to occur within a year:

  • Preoccupation with gambling (constantly thinking of past experiences, planning new gambling ventures, etc.);
  • Lying to deny or conceal the involvement;
  • Constantly increasing the amount of money that is necessary to experience excitement when gambling;
  • Causing desperate financial situations by gambling irresponsibly;
  • Failing to control or stop gambling, despite the attempts;
  • Damaging a meaningful relationship or career as a result of gambling;
  • Becoming aggressive or restless when trying to cut down on gambling;
  • Trying to chase one’s losses;
  • Gambling when feeling distressed or anxious.

In many ways, addiction to gambling resembles chemical addiction. Pathological gamblers often have lower levels of norepinephrine, which is secreted when the person is stressed or thrilled. With this chemical at a lower level than normal, problem gamblers must make up for it. Also, winning at a game activates the brain in a way not unlike the cocaine infusion. Similar to substance addicts, problem gamblers display certain physical symptoms during their withdrawal from the game.

Responsible gambling aims at reducing the likelihood of vulnerable customers developing problem gambling. Preventive measures include self-exclusion programs, the practice of setting limits to how much the player can spend during a gaming session, and support for those who are experiencing the issue or are afraid they might develop addictive behavior.

Anti-Money Laundering Policies

As an industry that has huge amounts of money circulating through it on a daily basis, online gaming is immensely attractive for perpetrators of all kinds, from petty criminals faking IDs to large-scale villains aiming for the big win (Danny Ocean style but with so much less charm). Responsible gaming principles demand that operators and game providers apply anti-money laundering procedures to prevent the funds flowing in the wrong direction.
Criminal behavior prevention tools include Know Your Customer (KYC) processes that are implemented when onboarding new customers and working with the existing ones. KYC is about identifying the clients and verifying their data.
Typically, KYC mechanisms include the following:

  • Gathering and analyzing a client’s identity information;
  • Matching the client’s name against a list of known parties;
  • Setting an expectation of the client’s transactional behavior;
  • Examining a client’s transactions against his or her recorded profile and expected behavior;
  • Establishing the potential risks based on how likely the client in question is to commit such violations as identity theft, financing terrorism, money laundering, etc.

Of course, as the industry changes and technologies progress, KYC regulations are constantly updated to ensure the best possible result.

Fair Gaming

Despite the popular opinion that regards gambling as an industry that “sells hope in exchange for money”, gaming companies put a lot of effort into creating a safe, reliable, and, most of all, fare environment for their customers. All gaming products are thoroughly tested by independent organizations, such as “Certified Fair Gambling”, to make sure that the rules of the games are adhered to, and the gaming process is fair and random.

Online game operators publish the methods that can be used to verify every transaction in the game. Normally, open source algorithms are used for random number and seed generators and hashing. With these algorithms, any player can test the game’s response and evaluate the result once the game has been played.

Often, the player is allowed to reshuffle the deck before dealing. After the deck has been shuffled on the server, it is presented to the player with a hash, before any wagers are made. When the player makes a wager, a client seed is automatically generated by the browser. This client seed is then used to reshuffle the deck in a deterministic way. When the initial shuffle is revealed, the player can verify that he or she was given the right hash, and that the deck was reshuffled correctly. Because the system is not aware of the value of the client seed before the hand is dealt, the outcome of shuffling cannot be manipulated.

Responsible is the New Sexy

Responsible gaming practices are being actively employed and promoted all over the world. In 2008, the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) organized the first Responsible Gaming Day conference and opened a broad discussion of the multiple issues faced by the gaming sector. Responsible Gaming Awareness Week is held annually, bringing together representatives of the gaming industry and the community groups. The World Lotteries Association organizes events to discuss and promote the principles of responsible gambling.

Despite the diversity of approaches and opinions on the subject, it is universally recognized that ensuring that gaming operators and service providers prioritize fair and responsible behavior is of utmost importance.

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