Åland Islands-based operator Paf always seeks to set a good precedent for the rest of the gambling industry. Mandatory loss limits form a big part of its policies, and it has now lowered the limit for its younger gamblers.
It’s not a small change, either: It has slashed the €20,000 (around $20,000, since the Euro and dollar currently trade at close to par) annual loss limit in half, to €10,000 for customers 24 and under. The minimum age for gambling in Finland – of which the Åland Islands are an autonomous region – is 18.
As stated by Paf’s Responsible Gaming Manager Jenna Ekström in a press release:
We need to take a stronger grip and minimize the risks for our young customers.
Already at the forefront of responsible gaming, Paf has a bit of an advantage in this regard over most of the industry. As a government-controlled charitable organization, it’s not beholden to investor pressures. Social responsibility is core to its identity.
A Duty to Individuals — and to Society
Daniela Johansson, Paf Deputy CEO and Chief Responsibility Officer told Bonus:
As we are a government-owned company . . . our mission is to generate profits that can be used for the benefit of society. We can be more proactive in terms of responsible gaming measures and we are more responsible than a privately owned gaming company. Our goal is to be in the forefront with new initiatives in responsible gaming. In other words, we don’t want to make our profits from unsustainable revenue that all too often comes from people with gambling problems, and our owners are very okay with that approach.
Paf also wants to keep the younger generation gambling – safely – at its online casino for years to come. Paf’s research shows that gamblers 24 and younger are a particularly vulnerable group. Ekström says:
[Their age] makes them more likely to take risks and act impulsively. The loss limit stops them before they have lost even larger amounts of money.
The Debate About Limits
So far, such restrictions haven’t met with any formal resistance. For instance, no one has yet challenged whether the age-based component of the policy could be considered discriminatory. The harshest critics seem to be other gambling companies.
Paf’s corporate communications manager Ludvig Winberg said:
Some other gaming companies think we have gone too far, saying that there are customers with a lot of money to gamble—so we should let them gamble. But that is a false statement. We need to be more responsible and stop customers before they have gambled away their life savings and their family relationships.
He went on to draw a comparison with alcohol:
It would be like a bar that kept on serving strong alcohol to a customer who is clearly over-intoxicated, just because they could afford it. That logic is wrong and harmful, and we need to be responsible and say no to those customers.
Although they have no presence in the US, Johansson says that Paf’s stance is that every country should impose national loss or deposit limits. He says this should include all licensed operators on the market, so that a customer can set one voluntary limit and have it shared between all the operators in the market.
Asked what Paf would do if it did operate in the US, Winberg said:
We would try to influence the public offices to implement gambling laws that protect the people with national or statewide loss limits.
Disentangling Profit From Harm
Meanwhile, in other European jurisdictions, the debate about affordability checks rages on. However, Paf sees their loss limits as the easiest way toward more responsible gambling. At least for now.
Johansson also favors national self-exclusion registries, like Sweden’s Spelpaus. Under that program, he says:
People can exclude themselves from all licensed gaming sites at once. That empowers the customers to take charge of their gaming behavior.
As Paf sees it, collecting €20,000 in a year from a single gambler is plenty. Johansson adds:
Monetary gaming should be restricted to a level of an expensive yearly leisure activity, since we view online gaming like an entertainment activity for adults. Fun and exciting, but let’s not ever forget or try to deny that gambling can become very harmful for some people.
The trouble, of course, is that bigger losses for players are more profitable for operators, at least in the short term. That’s a point Winberg willingly concedes:
The gaming industry as such will probably never implement these limits themselves, since the money they earn from problem gamblers is huge.