It’s not every day you’ll find an online casino operator hoping to bring a revenue figure to zero on its quarterly earnings reports. However, that’s exactly what Malta-based Kindred Group’s personnel are hoping will happen by 2023. The metric they’re aiming to zero out is revenue generated from “harmful gambling” behavior by players.
That may be starting to feel like an unattainable goal. Kindred generated 3.9% of its revenue from “high-risk” bettors as its efforts got underway during Q1 2020. That figure has only declined to 3.3% as of Q1 2022.
Nevertheless, Liv Biesemans, Kindred’s group deputy general counsel, says the company remains optimistic and committed to the goal.
The Journey Towards Zero
Kindred began its program titled Journey Towards Zero by incorporating its PS-EDS (Player Safety Early Detection System) into its apps in November 2019. Last year, Kindred brought the same system to the US, for customers of its flagship Unibet brand. During Q4 2021, high-risk player revenue actually rose, hitting 4%.
Biesemans told Bonus recently:
Kindred is devoted to creating long-term sustainable growth and profitability by providing customers with a safe and entertaining gambling experience. To achieve this, we put great focus on understanding and promoting safer gambling, with the aim to prevent any harmful gambling on our platform.
To aid its existing Journey Towards Zero efforts, Kindred partnered with the Sheffield, England-based RecoverMe app providers, the company announced on April 26. Through the collaboration, Kindred is providing the app free of charge to its US and UK online casino and online sports betting users. It hopes it will help them to “regain control of their gambling habits.”
Biesemans told Bonus:
We ultimately hope that other operators will venture into harm-minimisation and focus on safer gambling, rather than just profits. We equally hope that US operators will take a proactive approach and incorporate many of the learnings from Europe.
North American Online Casino Operators Include RG
Legal US and Canadian online casino operators are required to include responsible gambling (RG) measures in their apps.
However, it’s difficult to find how much of their revenue comes from high-risk gamblers. It seems as though only Kindred reports those numbers.
In September 2021, online casino and sports betting regulators from Colorado and New Jersey said operators need to start sharing their exclusion lists with third parties they employ. Marketing agencies and affiliate sites need to know not to reach out to self-excluded problem gamblers.
So far, those words are just suggestions from David L. Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), and Daniel Hartman, director of the Colorado Division of Gaming (CDG).
However, because New Jersey is known as the entry point for US online casino gambling operators and Colorado for online sportsbooks, the online gambling industry is likely listening.
What Can Happen When Regulators Step In
Once regulators step in with RG requirements of their own, observers may see a different picture. However, those regulations may be impacting more than problem gambling revenue.
That seems to be the case in the UK and Ireland, where new regulations are coming into effect.
In February, Dublin-based Flutter Entertainment made the following changes to its brands in Ireland:
The measures include the commitment of 1% of Net Gaming Revenue (NGR) to support the research, education and treatment of problem gambling, the banning of credit card use on customers’ online and retail accounts, and a pre-watershed whistle-to-whistle advertising ban that will restrict advertising during live sport.
Still, during its Q1 2022 trading update on May 4, Flutter reported a 20% drop in UK and Ireland-generated online gambling revenue vs. Q1 2021 and a 2% uptick in global player exclusion due to “safer gambling and regulatory headwinds.”
(Flutter is the primary owner of FanDuel, which has the highest percentage of US online sports betting market share. FanDuel was largely responsible for Flutter’s 45% year-over-year growth in US revenue.)
For Kindred, UK revenue decreased by 21% from Q1 2021 to Q1 2022.
So How Many Problem Gamblers Exist?
No one knows.
Despite no one truly knowing how many problem gamblers exist, countless studies offer answers to similar questions.
In March 2021, the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) released research showing that out of the 73% of Americans who bet in any vertical during the previous year, 7% of US gamblers reported experiencing problem behavior.
Drilling down into US online gambling, 9% said they’d “felt restless or irritable when trying to quit or cut down” on betting. Conversely, 2% of offline gamblers said the same.
NCPG defines online gambling as: Sports betting, daily fantasy sports, poker, table games, slots and more.
Researchers examining a Swiss Health Survey published their findings in September 2021 in the Journal of Gambling Issues.
Gambling-related harm was reported by 3.10% of our sample … The findings showed that although 52% of people experiencing harm spend less than 100 francs per month on gambling, 31.3% of total spending is attributable to gambling-related harm.
Kindred Is Trying To Do Something About Those Statistics
Biesemans agrees with the sentiments of the Colorado and New Jersey regulators.
To eliminate harmful gambling, the industry also needs to share knowledge and learnings and collaborate with all relevant stakeholders in society. In our experience, policy decisions are often lacking hard data or scientific research and, therefore, unable to resolve the problem at hand; sometimes even deteriorating it.
We also felt that there was a general lack of data sharing and transparency in the industry across operators, which wasn’t helping the negative perception towards our sector.
To facilitate a fair, transparent, and honest discussion, we became the first operator to openly report the share of revenue derived from high-risk customers, as well as the most important milestones on our journey towards zero in 2023, so that we can contribute to a fact-based debate about a sustainable gambling industry and what is needed to protect those who suffer.
While self-exclusion lists help, Biesemans says Kindred leaders look for problem behavior in new online gamblers, too. If PS-EDS detects that behavior, Kindred messages the player and offers tools from education to exclusion periods.
If no intervention methods work, Kindred bans problem gamblers and urges them to seek professional advice.