The other day, I was sitting in a Uber on my way to a local casino with the aim to do some field research. A young driver in his twenties was teasing me because I would already go to the casino in the middle of the day. I laughed and explained him that I would work in the gambling industry. Then, Marc, his name, vividly told me a story about when he made quite some money with a slot machine by simply pushing a button without even inserting any money. Apparently, the guy, who had played at the machine before him, had not used all his credits.
In the same instant, he felt he needed to stress he would not gamble, generally speaking. No. He had found a much better way to make money by using a terrific app on Telegram. There, he would receive texts every couple of minutes with tips which items to buy and sell. He went on detailing how much money he had made in which period of time, seemingly without any effort. In his view, with a little practice, there was no risk but happy winning/earning only. Those who were sending the tips would do nothing else but monitor the financial markets. I listened carefully, asked some questions, had him show me the app and thought that someone calculating probabilities on which others would place money sounded pretty familiar to me.
Again, on another day, I got a call from a headhunter asking me for my availability to work with a gaming company based on blockchain. It would not be really gambling since players could also participate in tournaments for free and win awesome prizes. No money involved. Looking on the website for more details, I noticed that, in order to be successful in tournaments, it would help very much to buy footballer cards. The better the footballers were, the more expensive the cards resulted. No money involved? Perhaps, not in the classical sense.
For good reasons, the UK gambling regulator, one of the most advanced regulators worldwide, repeatedly stressed the need for tackling trading products (not necessarily by the UKGC, since it is not gambling as it is understood today) such as non-fungible tokens or crypto currencies. This even more so, since in trading, and particularly when crypto assets are involved, the value fluctuations can be seen as an additional risk. Chasing losses is one of the critical issues when we talk about gambling problems. When all of a sudden a crypto asset loses value, this is one more reason to continue gambling. Also the French Prime Minister has recently issued a Decree that forces operators to identify customers before they use digital assets.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES AND PRODUCTS REVOLUTIONIZE THE INDUSTRY
Why do I mention all this? From the examples above, one realizes how quickly the gambling scene is changing nowadays and how fast the lines between gambling, gaming or trading blur. We are confronted with a full range of advanced technologies and new products: AI, mixed reality or metaverse are gaining speed thanks to 5G; crypto assets and currencies are becoming more and more common and accessible due to crypto exchanges; new EU legislation creates reliability in the crypto sphere. Virtual sports, fantasy sports, crash games, trading apps, loot boxes or skill based slots attract, in particular, younger generations of customers. Mobile gambling is meanwhile more prominent than laptop gambling.
It is not easy to keep up with this large amount of developments, but it is inevitable to do so. Of course, it is very important to revise and enhance existing regulations along the way, analyze data and deduct recommendations, look into different forms of advertising, include tools that detect harmful playing. We have to bear in mind, however, that as long as new products have got no regulation at all, there will be no protection at all either, but and instead, a parallel new black market will be developing. What is more, these products are mainly used by younger generations, those who have got higher risks of developing harmful behaviors as many studies and surveys already show.
WAYS TO TACKLE THE CHALLENGE OF ACCELERATING INNOVATION
So, what would be reasonable to do? Well, it might be worth considering working on a concept how to approach new technologies and products, and not necessarily only in the gambling and gaming industry. Our world is changing today at such a fast pace that legislation, often, is many steps behind what is going on. To this effect, regulatory authorities might need dedicated staff or departments that monitor developments and anticipate what has to be done next. In order to set up enhanced and enlarged regulatory frameworks, one would need evidence-based data from research. But how to create data quickly with new sectors? Surveys could be a starting point, followed up by empirical data analysis.
In addition, it would be essential to provide primary legislation that only regulates very basic elements and that allows adding decrees and ordinances easily and quickly. For instance, one could even define in which regular periods such decrees are going to be issued in order to give operators better planning and preparation authority. But such decrees, again, would need regular adjustments after additional data are available. Revisions need to be planned and executed, which brings me back to the thought of setting up a well reflected concept and strategy that anticipates changes.
Sectors driven by tech can only be tackled when a constant adjustment of legislation is possible and done. Only by anticipating developments and reacting to them in a timely manner, player protection will become really comprehensive and effective when leaving less and less room for evasions.
Alignments among jurisdictions will have to become common standard. Joint projects, meetings and exchange of research data would be extremely helpful when new frameworks have to be set up. To this effect, a collaborative attitude between industries, governments and enforcement seems inevitable if one wants to achieve the same goal indeed: the best protection for customers.