Šimon Vincze: ”Global Self-Exclusion Scheme is possible only if operators step up”
An interview with Simon Vincze*i
By Dan Iliovici, Vice-President ROMBET
Šimon Vincze is Casino Guru’s Sustainable and Safer Gambling Lead. He manages long-term projects primarily related to social responsibility to make the entire online gambling industry safer for everyone. Šimon’s colorful personality fits into any environment, which is perhaps the reason why he enjoys networking so much – and why he’s so good at it!
In this interview, Šimon explains why expert communication is greatly important in his line of work as he reminisces about his demanding beginnings. He goes on and hands us the keys to understanding some of his grand projects, including Casino Guru Academy, Global Self-Exclusion Scheme and the newest addition to the family of responsible gambling endeavors, Gamtegrity.
What challenges does the effort to create a global self-exclusion system bring? What pitfalls do Šimon’s projects face? What aces up his sleeve does he have ready for the future? Let’s read into his own words and find out!
Simon, after you joined the Casino Guru team, you had to learn everything about gambling from scratch – how did you end up with the topic of safer gambling and sustainability?
A fair approach and a safe environment for players has always been the basis of Casino Guru’s work, which was pointed out to me from the very beginning. Even before I joined the company, Casino Guru was already working on multiple projects aimed at making the gambling industry better and safer, such as resolving player complaints or nudging casinos to do better to increase their reputation rating on our website. At some point, a question arose as to whether more could be done to have a positive impact on the industry, and that’s where I came in. I started working on two introductory projects Casino Guru laid out for me, Casino Guru Academy and the Global Self-Exclusion Scheme, both of which are still ongoing today.
How did your job’s position gradually develop?
Although the details of my job have changed over time, I still stick to the two key projects I’ve already mentioned. These two projects expand, complement, and overtake each other depending on what I am focusing on now, but in general, my agenda remains more or less fixed: to look for exciting opportunities for collaboration with the rest of the industry and create positive value for sustainable and safer gambling. I’m meeting and working with so many inspirational people, creating synergies to bring positive results, that even after 2 years in this job, my knowledge is still rapidly expanding. And I couldn’t be more grateful for that.
What was particularly difficult about your beginnings?
The thing is that in a very short period of time, I had to become an equal partner to people who have been in the industry longer – much longer. I needed to have an overview and, in addition, to enrich this overview with my own perspective as well as the structure offered by Casino Guru. In retrospect, this was quite difficult to achieve. All my work depends on networking, and for my projects to move forward, I need other people – and in order to be able to discuss and work with these people, I had to become an equal partner in the discussion. Fortunately, I have many inspiring people around me who push me to great lengths, and although my work still largely includes education, it’s much easier now. I managed to create a solid foundation and education has become a natural interest.
When you talk about your own perspective of how you look at online gambling, what exactly do you mean?
My position allows me to see gambling more holistically, more globally, through a perspective that is not limited by one specific jurisdiction or state. We, at Casino Guru have a unique overview of what is happening in the industry, although some details may get overlooked. I’m not saying that I perceive everything in the only right way possible, but the fact is that Casino Guru is an affiliate website that includes 99% of available online casinos. This gives me a unique opportunity to work with data and see things in a one-of-a-kind context.
You mentioned two main projects around which your work unfolds. Their newest offshoot is Gamtegrity. Can you tell us more about it?
Gamtegrity is a platform created to showcase all our efforts aimed at bringing the vision of a safer and more transparent online gambling industry to reality. It serves as an umbrella term for several RG activities, including the Global Self-Exclusion Initiative, Casino Guru Academy, Casino Guru Awards and our Complaint Resolution Center. Gamtegrity fully reflects our goals, and as a project it’s constantly growing, evolving, and bringing new possibilities of cooperation and partners that want to join us on our journey of making the online gambling industry a safer place.
How specifically are you trying to make a positive impact? Can you give us some examples?
First and foremost, we are helping the players – by creating tools that players can use to make their gambling safer. At the same time, we are trying to educate as many visitors of our website as possible, along with promoting what we believe is the best practice when it comes to gambling online. However, the knowledge we share is not just ‘ours’, but rather a result of continuous cooperation with other companies. Simply put, we provide general awareness on things that are not given enough attention or are not addressed.
What kind of things are we talking about in this case?
Some examples might include cross-jurisdiction gambling, unrealistic image of gambling, and a global self-exclusion scheme. We try to talk about topics that don’t often get talked about, and our aim is to draw attention to them, spark a conversation, bring progress, and create effective solutions.
You directly deal with the self-exclusion process. What is it about?
The main purpose of self-exclusion is to limit yourself in case you start to display symptoms of problem gambling. However, practice shows that players also often use self-exclusion for other reasons, like when they dislike a specific casino or use self-exclusion as an excuse to receive a bonus from a certain casino. For this reason, operators perceive the concept of self-exclusion very differently and often choose to focus on their own commercial interests.
So far, the current state of self-exclusion is ambiguous and inconsistent, and the situation gets even more complicated due to the fact that online gambling is regulated individually in each state. A platform for an international discussion that takes place at a higher level is missing so, in order to find solutions for all the mentioned shortcomings of the self-exclusion scheme, we created the Global Self-Exclusion Initiative that is now covered by the Gamtegrity project.
How will the idea of creating a global program for people who try to exclude themselves from gambling become a real practice, and therefore something that will be legally or legislatively valid and used?
The launch of the Global Self-Exclusion Initiative was also the beginning of a long and ambitious journey to find out how something like this could even be possible to be brought to reality. This project is called an initiative because we are not able to create such a global scheme alone. The fact is that while individual regulators do cooperate with each other to some extent, a person who is excluded in one state cannot also be transferred to the self-exclusion schemes of other states in a legally enshrined manner.
At this moment, we also know that the only way a global self-exclusion scheme will be possible in the near future is if operators decide to voluntarily participate in it. At the same time, for the scheme to really take off, we need partners who are on board with our initiative. These ultimately need to see that a global self-exclusion scheme is beneficial for them, which is why we are dedicating this year to creating self-exclusion standards that reflect the best practice on self-exclusion and therefore maximize player protection.
What speed bumps do you anticipate when creating these standards?
The main problem at this moment is that we do not fully know what details for the self-exclusion process we should include in the global scheme. We don’t know what the best practice for this is, and for a simple reason – such global best practice does not yet exist. We are trying to create something groundbreaking: a set of specific standards and rules for the online gambling industry so that all parties – regulators, operators and players – can freely draw from them. We are already working on self-exclusion standards at this moment and will soon be ready to issue a press release with more detailed information.
The Global Self-Exclusion Initiative is not the only project under the Gamtegrity umbrella. Casino Guru Academy and the Complaints Resolution Center are also among them. What do these projects stand for?
The Academy serves as a tool for education and spreading best practice in many areas of online gambling, such as customer support, player verification and AML, online casino bonuses, and more. Simply put, it is a place where Casino Guru reflects on its experience and shares it with the rest of the world. A lot of the know-how that the Academy offers stems from our vast experience with player complaints, which allows us to see which areas cause the most problems for players. We recently published a course on safer gambling with Gordon Moody, where we try to emphasize the importance of this area to operators, since there are many examples that prove implementing these practices is beneficial to their business as well.
What other courses does Casino Guru plan to make?
Soon, we would like to publish a course focused on affiliate management. By the time this interview is out, we should also be finished with our ESG course, where we focus on environmental sustainability, social impact and corporate governance. This is a topic that is starting to become a challenge in the online gambling world, and we want to share our knowledge with other industry professionals. We are planning to connect with various partners who know how to supply part of their knowledge, and thus with this synergy we can create something unique.
All these activities that we have mentioned have the task of uniting the entire iGaming industry with the aim of offering the end user the best possible experience. How long do you think this process will take?
Personally, coming from an environment of international relations and politics, I see a bit of a parallel with how the integration within the EU took place. What the EU looks like today did not come because representatives of several countries met one day and said that it would be nice if they worked together. It was a gradual process that took a long time and brought positives on both sides. I see the same in our activities, which bring value to all participants and to online gambling as a whole. However, like the EU institutions, it will be a continuous and long-lasting process.
*i Adapted from an interview published on the Casino Guru website