Dan Iliovici: “Romania can become an example of good practices in the field of responsible gambling, we must work together and overcome prejudice”
This issue’s article about Responsible Gambling is the opportunity for an extremely interesting interview, exclusively for our magazine, Casino Life & Business Magazine with Dan Iliovici, executive director of the ROMBET Association and expert in Responsible Gambling. He tells us about the gambling industry reaching the moment of the responsibility test.
Mr. Iliovici, Romania is taking its first steps in the field of Responsible Gambling, a vital area in the gambling industry. You are the expert of the ROMBET Association in this matter, you have taken part in international events on this subject, you have discussed it with foreign experts – how do you see this beginning in the Romanian industry? “Shy”, “slow, but sure”, “promising”?
When I entered the field of gambling, one of the first and most important projects I developed within the association I was working with at that time was precisely the Responsible Gambling project. I consider, as I did back then, that this is extremely important, both for the gambling industry and for the image, most of the time a deformed image, that this industry has in mass media and in the mind of the public. So I wouldn’t quite say that we are now making the first steps in the way of responsible gambling in our country. What is indeed new is the institutionalization of the program on a national level, by enforcing the new regulations which provide for the creation of a public interest foundation dedicated to social responsibility and protecting the gambling risk categories. The ROMBET Association expressed right from the very beginning its intention to be, through its representatives, a part of the Consultative Council of the National Gambling Office. The process of establishing this body is however only at its early stages and, by the way we see things, it is moving too slowly… We don’t mean to accuse anyone of this, we just want to “get to work”!
What are, in your opinion, the first three things which should be dealt with in the field of Responsible Gambling?
I think that as far as social responsibility of the gambling industry is concerned, we are dealing with a process. We cannot have an approach of the type: we solved this, ok, now we move on to the next point, solve that one too, and, after we solve all the things on a list we got the responsible gambling issue solved. I know experts with over 20 years’ experience in this field who continue to study, to look for new ways, new approaches of responsible gambling.
The gambling industry, as all fields, is under continuous change in this informational age. Just look at the online gambling, at the social platforms games, the so called social gaming, things which appear and develop quickly under our eyes and which require new approaches of the “classic” responsible gambling programs.
To return to your question, I think that the first steps should be in the way of informing the public, especially young people, about the risks in the gambling area, so that those who want to take part in such games do it well aware of it.
It is then necessary to have a better informing of the gambling organizers about the importance of creating effective programs of the responsible gaming type. There are many games operators who understood this, who really get involved in such programs, long before it becomes mandatory by law. But there is still a long way to go until we reach the level of the most developed countries in this regard…
Finally, perhaps the most important thing is that we must find the best and most effective ways to reach those in need of help and to give them this help. I mean here players with gambling problems and their families.
We talked about priorities, we would like to know what are the things which will be the most difficult to solve, which will take time and should turn into ordinariness. What do you think are the most difficult objectives to meet in the field of Responsible Gambling?
The hardest thing to change is perhaps the people’s preconceptions. And I’ll give you only two examples:
An idea that could lead to developing gambling problems is the mistaken belief of certain players that gambling is a way to win a lot of money quickly and easily. The mirage of these financial hits can quickly lead to crossing the line between practicing gambling for entertainment and vice, with the worst effects on the persons involved and on their near ones, family, friends and for society as a whole.
The second example comes from the game operators. There is the belief, even if not directly expressed, that the responsible gambling programs would have a negative effect on revenues from gambling, by the expected decrease of clients/players and/or the sums they play. We have to explain to these organizers and support it with data and information from other countries with tradition in responsible gambling that, in order to create a solid industry on the long term, we have to be socially responsible. We should desire a bigger share of players who come in the gaming locations for entertainment and socializing, the so called “fun-players”, at the expense of the “professional players”, who can slide the easiest towards the risk zone of dependency.
You have studied a lot of foreign laws and recommendations. What country impressed you? What country disappointed you? Give us an example of “yes” and an example of “no”.
As far as the financing procedure for the responsible gambling programs is concerned, there are two main approaches at European level: one model is Great Britain, where the regulating authorities in the field give the game organizers the freedom to finance NGOs which run such programs, without imposing a certain level of contributions. This is what we had in Romania as well until the adoption of the Government Emergency Ordinance 92/2014, when the operators, gathered in different associations supported, by their own will, different programs for the prevention and treatment of persons with gambling problems.
There are also countries where each games operator is forced by law to financially contribute to the players’ protection programs.
The two systems do not exclude one another, and I believe that Romania can become a good example in this regard. It is not a “competition” between a program run by a NGO, an association and the one “imposed” by the legal frame existing in our country now. Each can benefit from the experience and activities of the other, furthermore, they could effectively collaborate within bigger projects.
I recently participated to conference dedicated to online gambling, in Prague, where the legislation concerning responsible gambling in several Central and Eastern European countries was also discussed. The Czech colleagues showed how, probably having the best intentions to start with, a new law project on the subject of gambling stipulates an extremely big and complicated series of obligations concerning the players’ protection, which makes enforcing the law in its current form practically impossible from this point of view.
We want simple, clear, and most of all effective rules in this field.
How do you feel that the gambling operators, the industry in general looks at the news of these rules about the Responsible Gambling?
As I mentioned before, many operators already take part voluntarily in programs dedicated to responsible gambling. So it is not something new to them that such programs exist… What is new is the way to contribute financially to supporting the activity of the foundation dedicated to a socially responsible gaming, according to the recently adopted legal regulations and, probably, its scale and the new types of projects done by this foundation.
I haven’t heard any critical comments from the industry about these new legal provisions about responsible gambling, or about the mandatory contributions to the fund which will finance the actual activity of the foundation.
But I think it is very important what the new foundation is going to do and, even more, how it’s going to do it. A total transparency of their activity is extremely important, so that people understand where their money went and see the beneficial results of different projects, not just on paper.
How is the ROMBET Association, which you represent, getting prepared to get involved in this new and challenging field?
I consider that we have the expertise and the experience necessary to propose and make very good responsible gambling projects. Furthermore, once these programs are drafted, we can discuss them with our Rombet partners from abroad, experts and game organizers who have been carrying out for a long time such projects. As we saw in many conferences and debates we took part in in our country and, more importantly, abroad, all those involved in the field of responsible gambling are open, they share their experience, achievements, failures, and are ready to find out from all the others what problems they are facing and what their approaches are. As I said before, there is no competition in this field. We are all learning!
We could also mention the series of articles dedicated to responsible gambling that Rombet has been publishing regularly for almost a year in the Casino Life magazine. We have thus presented different approaches of the responsible gambling from experienced countries, good practices, but also what needs to be actually be done within the new foundation in order to put things on a solid base right from the beginning.
The rest of the interview can be read in our September edition.