January 17, 2022 Interview

Seeking sustainability

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Gaming America sat down with Entain’s Chief Governance Officer, Robert Hoskin, to discuss a sustainable future, ARC and reconciling profit with safer gambling.

Early in November, industry giant Entain gathered some of its biggest names to discuss the operator's new platform, Advanced Responsibility and Care, otherwise known as ARC. The event, aptly named Entain Sustain, featured high-profile speakers, such as the company’s CEO Jette Nygaard-Andersen and Virginia McDowell.

Throughout the day, the operator highlighted some of its commitments to safer gambling and sustainability; from EnTrain, an initiative designed to educate and uplift those from underprivileged backgrounds, to the Entain forest, an effort to plant over one million trees to fight climate change. The star of the show, however, was ARC, a responsible gaming program with the aim of reducing problem gambling across all of Entain’s platforms. Built on seven cornerstones, including educating key stakeholders, empowering customers and promoting responsible attitudes, ARC is set to launch in the UK soon; with plans for an international launch in the works.

As the day came to a close, we sat down with one of the key thinkers behind ARC, Entain CGO Robert Hoskin. Here’s what he had to say.

ARC aims to provide safeguards for customers. Can you explain the technical process that goes into developing a platform like that?

"It starts with the research phase, where we look at it from three levels. There’s the identification phase, which is really the hardest bit; this is where we use Harvard’s division of addiction, Professor Mark Griffiths and Epic Risk Management to feed in that research. We are building something that is based on the best research and understanding of the issues, the problems and the red flags,  so then we can build models for markers of harm, or markers  of protection as we call them now. These models have become much more complicated and it is a much wider spectrum of markers than before.”

These models, as referred to by Hoskin, are fed into the operator’s data-led analytical system, which is then able to highlight signs of problem gambling and respond accordingly.

“On the second level,” Hoskin continues, “we create a portfolio of safer gambling tools so it is easy for players to set limits and self-manage their own experience. If they are self-managing, doing it themselves, you already tick that box in that it is less invasive than being told what you can and can’t do.

“Then, to the extent that some of the players don’t use our tools – and you have to remember this is a technology that is dealing with every single customer on a bespoke basis – you  can sensitively and proactively step in through our customer service operators; they are trained by Epic in safer gambling. We have seen wonderful results from ARC so far in the testing process. We have tested it with our smaller brands and will have soon rolled it out across all of our UK operations by the end of the year.

“Overall, it's multi-layered, we are very fortunate that we have the best technology stack in the industry, which means ARC is built on very solid foundations. This is going to be a very important chapter, not just for Entain but safer gambling in the wider gaming industry.”

How important is the lived experience, or human touch, a company like Epic brings?

“You heard Paul on the panel,” the CGO said in reference to Paul Buck, Founder and CEO of Epic Risk Management, who has struggled with problem gambling himself. “When you hear it from someone who has lived and breathed the issues, the problems (he has played on over 90 sites) he knows what doesn’t work, as well as where operators have potentially not helped matters. When you hear it firsthand it is powerful, not just for that audience but he and his colleagues will speak to people who work with customers; and it brings massive value to hear from someone who has had issues with the industry themselves. He has lived and breathed it.”

In your presentation you said ARC is a challenge to regulators. How will US governments approach this challenge?

“With the United States it is not just the case of ‘the US’, it’s multiple, multiple regions, and different states have different approaches to regulation. I have been in front of US regulators, as we are licensed in 16 states now, and every single one of them has asked me about responsible gambling. It’s on their radar even though the industry is at a much earlier stage than it is in the UK, for example. However, I would expect regulators to focus more and more on responsible gambling and we, as in Entain, are running a number of projects with our US partners; focused on educating stakeholders and not just regulators but the sports authorities and colleges. “

How will ARC enter the US, via BetMGM perhaps?

“BetMGM is a joint venture, MGM Resorts has been a very successful land-based operator for many years and we should not underestimate the land-based experience and their focus on responsible gambling. For us, it’s a case of developing ARC and we know it will have to be tailored for different countries. In due course, I expect we will sit down with BetMGM and MGM Resorts to show them what ARC does, and then we can take it from there."

As the day came to a close, one thing was certainly clear: Entain wanted to project an image of care, responsibility and sustainability to its customers, shareholders and the gaming industry at large. However, despite the panels, statistics and speakers, how does a company reconcile sustainability and responsibility with the need for growth and profit? We posited that question to Hoskin.

How does a company reconcile that want for responsibility and sustainability with the need for profit?

“I think it is about a long-term commitment to the customer. We have seen today that operators in the past have been too focused on short-term profitability; if we can get ARC right, which I’m confident we will, we are building additional goodwill with the players. We will be protecting them, in the short term we might not make as much from them as we used to, but longer term we will have longer lifespans and longer relationships with the customer. So I think ultimately we want long-term growth and a long-term relationship with our customers.”

As the interview came to a close, Entain’s CGO concluded: “What’s great about this conference, not only is it nice to see everyone, but we have really made ESG into something tangible. In the past, not just in this sector but in the governance world, whether it's CSR or ESG, people dealt with particular matters but it did not always feel that tangible. With today and our social impact report people can see, really clearly, what we are doing and how it's joined up to our sustainability charter.

"It supports that, and as I mentioned on my panel I hope we do another next year, so people can see how we have developed and perhaps focus on more international matters.

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