EPIC Blog: US Operations Update

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It has been a significant period in the journey of EPIC Risk Management in the U.S. over the past twelve months. The global leading gambling-harm minimization organization has made great strides into the North American market, continuing to develop EPIC’s footprint in one of the fastest-growing gambling and gaming markets in the world.

EPIC’s Senior VP of US Operations, John Millington reflects on what has been a remarkable year stateside and looks ahead to EPIC’s key intentions in America in the first of his monthly U.S. Blogs.

John Millington:

“You would be forgiven for assuming that a global pandemic may have put the breaks’ on EPIC Risk Management’s venture into new a global market. With no travel for over six-months since EPIC officially announced our collaboration with the GVC Foundation US to bring our ground-breaking education programs to U.S. shores, many might have expected our progress to slow. Yet, as I reflect on the progress, we have made despite the many hurdles Covid-19 has presented, I am proud of the way our team has navigated one of the most challenging periods of EPIC’s growth.

“EPIC has built a reputation as the global leaders in gambling-harm minimization across 18 countries worldwide, so an eventual progression into the U.S. market was a real milestone moment for us as a company.

"Our collaboration with the GVC Foundation US, a first of its kind non-profit focussed on responsible gambling and sports integrity, has seen EPIC replicate our ground-breaking education programs for professional sports and NCAA Division I universities across 16 States, in what was the first step on this journey.

“Despite having to navigate a global pandemic which brought with it the cancellation of professional sports and severe disruption to college life, EPIC continued to make significant progress with this important program. Having narrowly missed the worldwide travel ban, we were able to officially announce our partnership in the surrounds of the prestigious Seton Hall University Law School, supported by the outstanding team of GVC Foundation US trustees, GVC Holdings Director of Regulatory Affairs, Martin Lycka, Princeton Public Affairs Group’s Bill Pascrell, and Super Bowl Winner and Giants record-breaking wide receiver, Amani Toomer. News of this important initiative made a real impact and since the announcement, we have agreed on a research partnership with the esteemed Harvard University Division on Addiction to provide a robust, independent review of the important data that we will be able to collect from these hard to reach, high-risk populations.

“This was quickly followed by a partnership with the NFLPA Professional Athletes Foundation to provide access to the program to former and current NFL players. As news of the program has spread, so too has the reach of our sessions allowing us to engage with colleges who are leading the way in their student-athlete welfare provisions such as Fordham University, Eastern Illinois University, and Appalachian State. Even with the significant disruption or rescheduled, and even canceled professional sports seasons, we are preparing to deliver our first sessions to clubs across Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball.

“This period has also provided time to better understand the challenge ahead of us. EPIC has always believed that there is no magic one-size-fits-all solution to problem gambling, and we have always adapted to the market and the partner that we are working with. The U.S. is no different! We were aware from the outset that America presented a unique challenge; from planning for work across 50 new states, with their cultural idiosyncrasies, legislative nuances, and approaches to responsible gaming, meant that a unique approach would be required.

“Having refined our expertise in several countries across the world much of what EPIC has done before will carry over, but we must adapt to the complexities of different compliance, regulation, and legislation requirements from state-to-state, not just country-to-country. Our recent recruitment of highly influential problem gambling advocate Brianne Doura--Schawohl from the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) reflects this.

In terms of our approach in the U.S, we believe a blended, four-pillar approach will bring the greatest success as we tackle problem gambling in the US head-on.

These pillars are;

Lived Experience – This always has, and will always be the underpinning foundation of all the work that we do. The business itself was, after all, founded in lived experience, 50% of our staff have lived it, and this is a key element to understanding how to minimize gambling-related harm.

Research and Evidence – Driven by innovative design from industry experts, and recently accredited by the Institute of Leadership and Management, our training, education, and advisory is built on evidence-based approaches and guided by the latest research.

Prevention – Our mission is to take the problem out of gambling, and our role is to prevent as many people as possible from getting to the point at which they “fall off the edge of the cliff”. We are trying to save lives! Through harm minimization and prevention programs, education and training, and advocacy, we aim to ensure that as many people as possible have the appropriate information to make better-informed decisions.

Policy – We recognize that to have the greatest social impact in the U.S. market we must have a voice when it comes to legislation, regulation, and policy. We intend to work collaboratively to ensure comprehensive legislation, regulation, and policy that will be effective in minimizing gambling-related harm while ensuring a safe and sustainable industry.

“As it does in so many countries across the globe, our work in the US must go beyond the gambling industry itself. We will continue to work with the highest risk sectors for gambling harm including professional sports, education, financial services, and military personnel. Each sector is unique and will require appropriately unique approaches and we are excited to see how the next twelve months will unfold."