European iGaming Operators Recognize New Responsibilities During Pandemic

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A group of European iGaming operators agreed Tuesday that any gains they’re making during the COVID-19 crisis are likely to be temporary, and they have a responsibility to protect their customers from harming themselves during a vulnerable period.

The executives, taking part in a panel discussion by webcast from their homes during the SBC Digital Summit, pronounced themselves satisfied they have not seen extreme spikes in play from many individual patrons since mid-March.

“You’d expect people staying at home would maybe get bored and play more, which is not really the case,” said Ariel Reem, CEO of Genesis Group. “We believe in the longevity of the business, so we don’t want to have a player lose all his money and have a sad story.”

He and representatives of three other European-based iGaming companies said any uptick in business has come from adding new customers in recent weeks, including those who had been devoted primarily to sports betting in the past.

The boost is in players, not individual spending

“We have increased in business — however, we don’t see the players spending more. It’s been at the same level,” said Alexander Stevendahl, CEO of Videoslots. “In some cases they’re actually spending less, but we have more customers.”

The gaming industry across Europe was a predecessor of New Jersey’s, in that unlike most of the U.S., the continent has long had a robust online/mobile sector for both sports betting and casino-style games.

As in the U.S., the European sportsbooks have taken a big hit for the past six weeks with the shutdown of most professional soccer and other major sports. Ivan Filletti, COO of Gaming Malta, noted that online casino play is now the “go-to product” for gamblers in many nations.

The panelists said huge responsibility comes with that, in terms of not taking advantage of the crisis in over-marketing their sites.

“Our product is one of the most addictive, and in a situation where people are locked down and in distress, our product may be the one they will go to,” and the companies need to help customers avoid doing “stupid things,” said Alex Tomic, CEO of Alea.

That was acknowledged by GeoWild Gaming CEO Itai Zak in commenting that his company’s present marketing avoids incentives to players to make new deposits.

“We are focused more on the entertainment … the non-harmful aspect of the business, with no incentive to make them deposit more, but also make them realize the responsible gaming measures in place,” Zak said.

Responsible gaming tools are seeing more use

The heavily regulated European operators have responsible gambling tools in place on their online/mobile sites, such as player-initiated options to limit the amount of money deposited or spent or the time they devote to the site. Such voluntary protections are also featured by New Jersey’s online gaming operators.

The European company executives said that since the pandemic spread in mid-March, they have noticed an increase in use of such tools, which they encourage.

They have also increased their own messaging to players reminding them about responsible gambling, they said, while beefing up their staffs that are devoted to monitoring the issue and responding when a player’s behavior changes in a potentially harmful manner.

“Our responsibility is not only protecting business but the customers, making sure we are getting something for long-term sustainability and not just a short-term gain,” said Zak, whose company is based in Romania.

The industry should focus on what can benefit operators and customers for years, panelists agreed, rather than prioritizing current revenue.

“Let’s face it, if this crisis goes on people will cut their money spending that is not necessary, and gambling is going to be one of the first,” Tomic said. “The increase now is nice, but I don’t count on it for the future. … It’s temporary.”

Photo by Shutterstock.com

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Gary Rotstein

Gary is a longtime journalist, having spent three decades covering gambling, state government, and other issues for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, in addition to stints as managing editor of the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette and as a reporter for United Press International and the Middletown (Conn.) Press. Contact Gary at [email protected].

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