About self-exclusion in gambling
By Dan Iliovici, Vicepresident, ROMBET
In most states with a tradition of developing generic programs called “Responsible Gaming”, but also in countries that have more recently legalized gambling, there are schemes for self-exclusion of players. Such programs are the designation offered by most gambling operators, even in the absence of a legal framework, which are designed to limit access to gaming opportunities and to provide assistance to players with problems.
In the following I will present the most important ways to implement self-exclusion programs, but it should be noted that there is no model that can be taken over automatically by each state, especially given that gambling legislation it is not at all unitary, not even at European level.
Simply put, self-exclusion is a tool for those who want to stop or (self) limit their access to gambling for a certain time. This “break” interval can be from a few months to five years, the most common intervals being those of 3 months, 6 months, one year, two, three or five years. There are cases (jurisdictions) where permanent self-exclusion may be required, but it is likely that difficulties in pursuing compliance with and effectiveness of this extreme measure make it difficult, if not impossible, to implement.
I think we should emphasize from the outset that without the initiative and desire of the player to honor this commitment, self-exclusion is largely ineffective.
It is not the case to enter the game of responsibilities, but, perhaps more than in other cases, for the self-exclusion to have the desired effect, the collaboration of the player is essential.
However, this does not mean a diminution of the responsibility of all other parties: operators, authorities, even family or friends. They can all contribute to the success of joint efforts to return players with serious game problems back to normal.
And because I mentioned to put it into practice, any self-exclusion program provides who keeps track of self-excluded people and who verifies compliance with this “commitment”. I found in practice three ways to compile / maintain a register of self-excluded people:
• each operator keeps his own record, the player being thus “forced” to repeat the self-exclusion procedure with all the operators he wants to be stopped from playing;
• there is an independent entity (most often an NGO) that keeps track of the players and operators that the person in question has decided they want to be self-excluded from. This organization receives requests for self-exclusion from players and disseminates the list of these players to the operators enrolled in the system;
• the record of self-excluded players and the communication with the operators is ensured by the authority responsible for the field of gambling.
In either case, it is up to the operators to take the most reasonable measures to stop players from accessing the platforms or locations for which the person has self-excluded.
Each of the three models has advantages and disadvantages, but I believe that in the decision to implement a system, the most important criterion should be the care of the player.
He must be helped in the decision of self-exclusion by the ease of the procedures, by explaining the necessary options and steps, and then by combining this tool with the other ways of help, counseling and therapy. For the same purpose, the operators, but also the authorities, advertise the self-exclusion service, in order to make it known and as easily accessible as possible.
If for online games it is relatively simple to check at the beginning of each login on the game platform whether or not the player is self-excluded (whether it is on the list / database of self-excluded) and, depending on this, to be allowed or not access to the game, in the case of traditional games of chance, where in the vast majority of states the player is not identified at the entrance to the game locations, this fact increases the “responsibility” of the operator. It is up to him to set up a system to stop the self-excluded from playing. In this regard, an important role is played by training staff in locations and developing an effective monitoring system.
In order to re-emphasize the player’s role in fulfilling his own commitment, the authorities encourage players who, despite the request for self-exclusion, have managed to play an operator, to report this “security breach” to that operator’s management, or even the authority, to the system for verifying and implementing the self-exclusion scheme could be improved.
It is also a common practice for operators from which a player has self-excluded to remove him from all marketing programs – sending promotional messages, invitations to events, etc., as well as returning all money in the account, in the case of games online. The player should no longer be “invited” to play after self-exclusion.
As an argument for establishing a successful system of self-exclusion, we will cite the findings of the study “Self-Exclusion Program: A Longitudinal Evaluation Study”, published by Patrick Gosselin in Journal of Gambling Behavior 23 (1): 85-94:
“The self-exclusion program has many positive effects. During the evaluations the desire to bet (gambling) was significantly reduced, while the perception of self-control increased for all participants. The intensity of the negative consequences of gambling was significantly reduced for daily activities, social life, work and mood. The DSM score was significantly reduced over time.
In conclusion, the self-exclusion program needs continuous monitoring and evaluation of the outcome. To do this, operators should cooperate with independent evaluators, who should regularly and randomly check adherence to the program. This final measure would increase understanding of the process and motivate the gambling industry to remain committed.”
A final aspect to be mentioned in relation to self-exclusion is the sensitive subject of personal data protection. But we leave this subject to the analysis of GDPR specialists.