Ovidiu Iosif

“The value and role of «Asociației Joc Responsabil» programs are better understood by assessing the cost of not doing them”

Ovidiu Iosif, the executive director of “Asociația Joc Responsabil” speaks about the relevance of gambling industry involvement in social responsibility.

Asociația Joc Responsabil has, starting with last November, a new manager. Ovidiu Iosif took the position of executive director of Asociația Joc Responsabil in a period when gambling industry was affected by Sars-Cov-2 pandemic, but this didn’t stop him to think about and implement a new development strategy for the association. Ovidiu Iosif tells how important is Romanian gambling industry involvement, about how big is the risk “of not doing it” and about the newest project that has started “we understood the complexity of situation through which medical staff from Institute Marius Nasta is going and we offered our counselling capabilities to medical staff, hospitalized patients and their families”.

➤ Mr. Iosif you have by now 6 months of experience as executive director of Asociația Joc Responsabil. What are your first impressions and what objectives have you assumed?
I can tell you that for me it was a double „first-time”: the contact with Asociatia Joc Responsabil – or shortly AJR, and gambling industry. I am learning about the industry mainly from the angle of AJR specific activities and I arrived in this position during Covid related restrictions which profoundly affected the industry, but this situation won’t hinder me to accomplish the association mission. Regarding the objectives, even though our activity has continued without interruptions during pandemic, we’ve adjusted our operational level. As such, the major objective during restrictions is to continue the existing programs, i.e., prevention and care taking of excess gambling practice related problems. Once pandemic is confined, our objectives will address growth, both on introduction of new programs and further development of existing ones.

➤ What convinced you to join gambling industry?
In the first place it was the job posting, which required leadership values (manager ones being implied). Next it was a special selection process through which I had met some of the people with whom it was expected to work. And these were more than enough.
I have learnt about very special aspects that I was not aware about, such as 45.000 employees in the industry, high degree of tax collection and its level, contribution to culture development. I discovered a high level of responsibility with various components, including the use of advanced technologies. One example which impressed me: there is already one operator, and I am sure it is not the only one, which has as objective to collect 0 (zero) revenues from gamblers that might develop addiction. Consequently, it developed and implemented an AI based application which monitors the 10 criteria psychological defined as being identifiers for addictions. When a certain threshold is reached, the operator is contacting the gambler to make him aware of and find solution to its behavior.

➤ Please give us more details about AJR’ modus operandi and mission?
AJR represents assumed responsibility of a vast majority of industry because the „ AJR ecosystem” consists of its three founding members: Romslot, Romanian Bookmakers and Rombet and all members of these organizations. Saying that, it doesn’t mean that the operators from outside our ecosystem are not sharing the same values; yes, they adhere to the same principles as it results from their webpages. Our mission is to develop and implement programs about the gambling effects and corresponding social implications. Sometimes, for cases where we have the expertise and can make a difference, we develop projects outside gambling industry. The association is financed by gambling industry, both via its founding members and, supplementary, by operators in order to sustain the magnitude of our programs.

➤ What can you tell us about your programs?
Before the programs, I wish to tell you about the team. Since all our activities are connected with human behavior the team is primarily composed of psychologists. We have today 16 psychologists whom together are having more than 140 years of therapeutic experience; I am proud that in the team we have consecrated names in gambling addiction as well as psychology in general, such as: Prof. Dr. Steliana Rizeanu, Dr. Leliana Parvulescu (Dr. Leli) and Dr. Cristian Andrei – who is also AJR’s ambassador.
And now, about the programs! Recently we published the „Activity Report for 2020”; it can be found on our webpage www.jocresponsabil.ro for more details.
One by one: Joc Responsabil is the first program launched by AJR. Via a FoC phone line those who have or consider that might have addiction can schedule a therapy or evaluation session with one of our specialists from Bucharest (2 office), Constanta, Iasi, Craiova or Cluj-Napoca. We are offering up to 5 FoC sessions. Last year, 706 people benefited from this programme.
Consiliere 24/7: this is the first „real-time” intervention programme in Romania. Appellants can access, via a chat platform, one of our psychologists, on a 24/7 base, for being counselled. We have a classification system, based on four color codes. In 2020, this service was accessed by 2.891 people, of which 336 cases were marked as red (meaning that they could acted in extreme manner).
Antrenat de Majorat: is the only campaign in Romania meant to educate youth around the age of 18 years towards a responsible attitude for gambling and represents a concrete involvement of gambling industry in the process of education and prevention of young people. Dr. Cristian Andrei is discussing about the concept of luck, about what is really important in social interactions and how young people should behave regarding temptation to engage in entertainment designed for adults.
All above programs were implemented with the constant support offered by Superbet, Fortuna and Game World Group, hence our appreciation for their involvement!

➤ What is next for Asociația Joc Responsabil ? Do you have some new programs?
Let’s not forget that addiction is an objective phenomenon: it exists regardless of our decision to either ignore or deny it. Instead it should be recognized and addressed in a professional manner. Therefore we will never gave up existing programs. Being in this point, I wish to tell you that initially I was trying to evaluate a certain “return of investment”. I believe that there is an easier way to understand the values of our programs; by assessing the impact of their suppression. In other words, what is the cost of not doing them? Let’s suppose that only 5% from psychological therapy beneficiaries and only 5% from appellants of Consiliere 24/7 within red code, without our programs, will became delicate cases. This means exactly one case per week! Please estimate yourself the associated cost!
And now about a new program. Recently we signed a collaboration protocol with National Institute for Pneumology “Marius Nasta” via which our psychologists are available nonstop to hospitalized patients, their families and medical staff with an advice, an encouragement, a good word. In the same time, Dr. Cristian Andrei runs weekly webinars with medical staff (doctors, nurses, caretakers and medicine students who are acting as hospital callcenter volunteers) on relevant psychological subjects such as how to tackle anxiety, how to welcome the beneficiary, how to accompany the patient and how to handle suicidal tendencies. For example, at the last session there were 35 participants. And what could be a better measure of the quality and necessity of our project, other than this participation level which takes place after the nightshift when people could go home instead.
In this project we started from the fact that hospitals are fighting against Covid-19 by more than a year and the medical staff is both physical and psychological exhausted. At the same time, hospitalized patients are going through difficult moments: they have sufferance peers whom next day will either go home, or to the ICU or.. where will be she/he tomorrow? This anguish represents terrible time for patients. Also, their family members could have psychological breakdowns in case of patient death and/or guiltiness feeling generated from impression of not having acted in due time. And at the same time, we have a team of psychologists available 24/7. From discussions with Mrs. Dr. Beatrice Mahler and her management team we understood the complexity of their situation and we offered our capabilities to medical staff, patients and their families. Hence the project, which is not strictly connected with AJR mission, it goes beyond gambling industry being part of a larger responsibility at society level. Also, this project represents an addition to the pro-vax campaign, showing that gambling industry can return back to society more than only taxes. This project was implemented with generosity of our colleagues from Fortuna, Fundația Superbet and Stanleybet.

➤ In the end what are your thoughts for our readers?
First of all I would like to met with as many as possible operators and with our colleagues from industry regulators in order to identify new projects and develop the existing ones. We have made available space on our webpage for those who wish to join us in our social responsibility programs. Thank you!