The Responsible Gambling Theories, Practices and Programs are more current than ever for the gaming industry. Nowadays, when the industry is in the process of consolidating and changing its image on the Romanian market, the debate created by the issue of responsible gambling must gain the right space and attention. This is the reason why I invited Mr. Dan Iliovici, president of ONJN and Mr. Bogdan Coman, Rombet CEO to a dialogue on the issue mentioned above.
Responsible Gambling has been one of my permanent concerns over the last few years, because I thought it must be a process closely related to the evolution of the industry. We have worked hard, together with our Rombet colleagues and other profile associations, to first determine the nature of the causes, before talking about effects and then about solutions.
We have often found that our effort is hitting prejudices, exaggerations, stories looking for sensational – often incompletely documented – or so-called “studies” that have no scientific foundation. There have been years in which the image of the industry was extremely fragile: we were struggling somewhere between accusations of lack of transparency, and finger pointing, as a social scourge. The road we have been through so far has not been easy, but I have had the support of my colleagues in the industry, of “a part of the media” and, last but not least, of the gambling operators. But there is plenty left to be done in this direction …
We’re delighted that Mr. Iliovici looks at the problem of Responsible Gambling with the same determination. Rombet thinks in the same terms and proposes even the development of a National Responsible Gambling Strategy, an idea by which those involved could coordinate, manage and streamline responsible gambling programs so that we have a very precise scalability of both the „problem” and results. There must be a very precise ratio of proportionality between the causes of the phenomenon and the resources invested in combating it. Otherwise, we will rotate around approximate signals with approximate solutions that will generate an approximate … resolution. And we all know where it’s going. Rombet will continue to firmly push the development of a broader strategy, while we will focus on our own efforts in this direction, coordinating with other associations, so that we have a common, effective and visible voice.
Since I took over the chairmanship of the ONJN, I had the objective to translate the knowledge and experience accumulated in the field of responsible gambling into institutional policies, designed to create added professionalism and national amplitude in the way we address this issue.
First of all, it is about establishing a public interest foundation for a responsible social game, as well as the Fund through which the activities of this foundation. Are funded Once this strong organizational platform – Foundation / Fund – has been created, we can transform the Responsible Gambling approach in a decisive manner, we will be able to involve the entire industry, the media, various institutions and organizations in developing and running programs to prevent and help people with gambling problems. I am in close touch with dedicated associations for responsible gambling projects in the country and abroad, as well as with recognized experts in this field. Everybody admits it is a long-lasting process and it’s not easy for anyone. But we have no other way.
The idea mentioned by Mr. Coman, of a national strategy in this regard, is welcome and would represent the answer that I think society and the public are expecting. I tbelieve the time has come for us to have a common position, to decide and act together, in order to prove once again, if necessary, how much we can do or change together when we serve the same purpose unconditionally.
Rombet aims to popularize as much as possible the importance of the Responsible Gambling program at all the seminars organized in the country. We will continue our active dialogue with the major associations of the gambling industry around the globe – some with impressive experience and results. Both the leadership and the Rombet members have repeatedly mentioned that gambling operators have to come out of their passive attitude and get involved in this matter.
The more we help players, the more we contribute to the consolidation of this business which has its image still affected by this phenomenon. If we want to get out of this vicious circle, we all have to put our shoulder and get involved. We have been discussing for some time now the establishment of the Foundation, which, through the National Gambling Office support, is to coordinate measures to implement the Responsible Gambling policy at national level.
We all know what it means to set up an „institution”: who gets involved, who contributes, who and how they lead and who reports to whom. But beyond that, I am firmly convinced that the Office, by the determination expressed by Mr. Iliovici, will make a decisive contribution to the establishment of these two institutions as soon as possible.
Until then, Responsible Gambling programs will continue in each independent association, which is a significant support for players, but also a manifest of associations, operators, who are sending the clear message that they care about the balance of this industry – practically, emotionally and socially – but also a clear signal that they are involved in a longterm commitment.
Speaking about involvement, I propose to discuss about a concrete example. The GambleAware Association in the UK – registered as charitable trust, nota bene – disposes exclusively of funds donated by private operators, thus without public funding. From 2009 until today, it raised donations of over 49 million pounds, money it spent on research, education and counseling. GambleAware’s annual budget is about 7 million pounds, on a significantly higher gambling market than Romania, of course. And it’s not the only organization of its kind in the UK.
Activities – whether institutional or not – that we build on Responsible Gambling are not directly proportional to the scale of the phenomenon, but to the industry’s involvement in keeping it under control. Therefore, the more you get involved – also financially – the issue becomes more manageable, perhaps even in predictable parameters. Great Britain is one of the states whose practices we can inspire from when it comes to Responsible Gambling policies.
In 2008, the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board was set up to advise the Gambling Commission along with the British Ministry of Culture, Media and Sport on responsible gambling issues. Understand how a complete circle closes: cause, effects, research, policies, action and engagement platform, counseling, outcomes.
What the English have managed to build is, indeed, impressive. There is another reason to follow their lead, taking into account, of course, the specificity of each state. I think the Romanian industry needs a motivational push to speed up this process. I want this impulse to be a logical, rational one, and not one triggered by the pressure of public opinion or by lack of image. It would be much harder to build then and we will again realize that each has other „priorities”. I do not think there was a better time than this for the coagulation of these energies and positive ideas related to Responsible Gambling, consolidated on the basis of everything that has been done so far: effective legislation (control and transparency at legislative and operational level), balance on the market, presence and significant foreign investment, positivism on the part of the operators regarding the direction and development of the business. We have to take advantage of this. We need to engage in a national approach that involves awareness, involvement and participation, resource allocation, strategy and effectiveness. Every Responsible Gambling program is effective in its own way. The efforts of the associations are commendable and extremely welcome, being the only support for players in delicate situations where they need counseling. But a plan or strategy with national applicability will be completely different. We will be able to talk about long-term plans, we can discuss predictability, transparency and security for everyone, from player to operators, to investors and tens of thousands of employees in this industry in Romania.
ONJN will surely be the engine of this new stage in the Responsible Gambling Policy for the Romanian gaming industry. We are working on a strategy in this respect, and I am convinced that we will take very important steps from this year on. As a state institution, ONJN primarily serves the citizen and his interest. We will focus on responsible gambling and social responsibility policies around it. And business people think they know very well that the future of the industry can only be ensured only by their real and strong involvement in these programs, generically called responsible gambling.