Bogdan Coman

The first step in solving a problem is to identify it or to admit that you have it. In the many efforts made by ROMBET on Responsible Gambling policies, we talked with many psychologists who told us that in some players the first problem is to admit they have … a problem.
Guided through psychological counseling or not, players now have a natural choice, free of any constraint, when it comes to controlling certain addictive behaviors: self-exclusion from gambling systems.
One of the first countries to study this process is the UK.
The Gambling Commission in UK – the homologue of the National Gambling Office in Romania – explains extensively the procedures and the „target audience”: people who want to „give up gambling for at least 6 months and want to be supported in their decision to stop „.
Interestingly, all companies that offer gambling in authorized and licensed locations (arcade games, bets, bingo and casinos) are required to be part of what is called the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme, so that the entrant, once enrolled in – such a database, can no longer be accepted in any location of any company. The benefit is that self-exclusion works on types of gambling activities instead of being self-excluded from each operator. Once the self-exclusion agreement is agreed by the operator – and all terms and conditions are clearly presented to the applicant – the company has the obligation to close the account, return the client’s remaining money in the account and, moreover, delete the personal data from any database associated with that activity. In our country, things are a little different, the player has multiple self-exclusion options which start from 7 days, 1 month to a permanent self-exclusion, but still give the player the chance to reconsider his position after 6 months. Also, although there are discussions in this direction, we are very far from a multi-operator scheme like the one in the UK. And the sensitive subject – that of keeping personal data – will be treated more seriously beginning with the middle of this year, when European Directive 679/2016, – which regulates more strictly the access and use of personal data by companies-, comes into force.
The UK Gambling Commission aims to extend this process to the online area, announcing that a platform similar to land based games will be launched this spring.
This “self-exclusion agreement” is treated with great seriousness by both parties. Or, if you want, seriousness is self-imposed.
In the context of the possibility of playing in anonymity, the Commission and the British operators have been thinking about ways to prevent this, which is a “contractual” matter. On the other hand, everything is based on the player’s good intentions, first of all, credited with a trusted capital of commercial participants to the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme.
The American Gaming Association states differently the procedures for self-exclusion according to each state. For example, the procedure is complicated and tough in the US state of Illinois (once admitted in the “self-excluded” database, the applicant is no longer entitled to play for 5 years, and once this period has expired, he must present medical certificates and the results of the psychological examination associated with gambling addiction testing, to be reinstated in … player rights) and a bit more … relaxed in Indiana, where the player makes a request that he wouldn’t be accepted into a specific location and that’s all.
A survey conducted by the Centre for the Advancement of Best Practices – “Best Practices For Self Exclusion Reinstatement And Renewal”) in March 2016 on people interviewed in casinos in Austria, Germany and Switzerland – where, self-exclusion procedures exist, showed that 76% of those who requested to be excluded from operators’ databases did so because they „lost too much money”, 60% as a „preventive measure” and 54% „Lost control”. The study is even more interesting because it shows how self-exclusion programs have gradually shifted from the pattern of constraint to that of individual assistance: help directly the player by linking him to support centers and responsible gambling counselors.
„Apparently, it’s simple, but behind this process there is a real army of specialists who filters and analyzes information, committees and validation, approval and evaluation bodies, physicians, psychologists and behavioral analysts, and so on. It’s an incredible inter-agency and inter-departmental collaboration because it’s a mechanism that needs to work, otherwise the player does not feel the results of this process, and it can even get the reverse. Perhaps it would not hurt to start a discussion on this topic at national level, especially since we are still saying that the gambling industry is still … young in Romania.
We have the opportunity to do something good, from scratch, to help those brave ones who admit they have a problem which they want solve”, said Mr. Bogdan Coman, ROMBET Executive Director.

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