“We cannot make the operators the police,” said W2 founder and CEO Warren Russell, as he called on all key stakeholders within the UK’s igaming industry to work collaboratively to identify problem gambling and become better aware of its real dangers. Russell spoke to SBC News about why Know Your Customer checks are not just a task for the onboarding phase and how solutions from W2 can help identify behavioural changes on an individual level, while stressing that the technology should enable players to effectively ‘self moderate’ rather than cede full responsibility to the operators.
SBC: How do we break the perception that KYC is only taken seriously at the onboarding phase?
WR: Historically in the iGaming space, Know Your Customer (KYC) checks have been associated with ticking a box for regulatory requirements. A simple verification check of customers to ensure they are who they say they are, but one which operators want done as quickly as possible to get their customers using their platform.
But with problem gambling on the rise and an ever-increasing number of customers at risk of gambling related harm, operators are beginning to understand that a Know Your Customer check at the onboarding phase is simply no longer fit for purpose.
Situations change, knowing your customer is capable of gambling safely at the onboarding stage might be correct at the time, but having no method of detecting a change in their situation or behaviour is dangerous to both the customer and the operator.
SBC: Why are operators failing to monitor players closely enough throughout the whole journey?
WR: There is a simple and extended answer to this question. The simple solution to operators failing to monitor players closely enough comes down to lack of guidance from the regulator.
Brick and mortar gambling is on the decline whilst iGaming, not so present in 2005 when the Gambling Act was released, has, and continues to grow in popularity.
The sheer number of customers operators have betting frequently means it becomes difficult to monitor each one comprehensively despite having a requirement to do so. It is not uncommon for a story to hit the press of an operator failing to monitor players correctly and therefore being fined or sanctioned.
The industry is littered with stakeholders wanting to make a difference but there is still a disconnect between the intention to help players avoid problem gambling and it actually being actioned.
SBC: How difficult is it to balance solutions to prevent problem gambling for all ages ranges and demographics?
WR: The difficulty of balancing age ranges and demographics goes deeper than this. Yes, different demographics and ages may have general behavioural qualities but each individual within that also will display altering behaviours. Being able to accurately identify player changes and behaviour on an individual level is what is really required.
Affordability has become somewhat of a buzzword in the industry over the past few years, and whilst there are solutions available which can identify affordability on a geo or demographic level, you cannot be fully confident that the information you have and the decision made on whether the player is acting in a responsible manner is the right one, unless the analysis is based on that individual and their current situation, not a blanket approach to their age or geographic location.
SBC: Could there ever be technology, enforced by regulation, which completely takes the onus away from the player in terms of eliminating problem gambling? Or will the responsibility always be shared between the player and the operator?
WR: I have been quite vocal on this and share the same opinion as many other key stakeholders in the industry whilst we are in a key stage for the future of iGaming.
I am passionate that whilst technology, such as the identification and monitoring solutions we offer here at W2 for operators to use not only to comply with regulation but to help tackle problem gambling, it is not solely the operator’s responsibility to take the onus completely away.
The technology should be used to enable the player to self-moderate with the operator only stepping in as a last resort – we cannot make the operators the police, it is not fair on the operator or the player.
The industry as a whole is definitely at a turning point, but it cannot be up to one part to solve problem gambling. It is the responsibility of the regulator, operators, suppliers, players and all key stakeholders to work collaboratively on identifying problem gambling and being aware of the real dangers of it.
But one thing is clear, it is time to actually know your customer.