Symposium challenges US to be world’s safest gambling industry

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The inaugural EPIC Risk Management Player Protection Symposium sent down a real marker for the future of gambling harm prevention in the fast-growing US market, with the 100 C-level attendees challenged to help create ‘the safest gambling industry in the world’.

Organized in conjunction with SBC Events as a prelude to their SBC North America Summit (December 1-2), an expert selection of over 20 panellists and speakers enthused an engaged audience of decision makers from the gambling harm ecosystem in the US, with policy makers, major league executives, the gambling industry and experts with lived experience all sharing their thoughts and committing to make positive harm minimization steps at the exclusive 40/40 Club in Manhattan.

The scene was set from the opening thoughts of EPIC Risk Management CEO Paul Buck, who reflected on the fast-growing landscape for gambling operators as an ever-increasing number of States pass legislation to legalize gambling in various forms, by explaining:

“The US has got a big opportunity to have the biggest and most successful gambling industry anywhere in the world, but there will be harm. It will be a small percentage, but it will be a significant number, even if it gets to the European figure of 3% of those who suffer serious harm, which equates to 10 million Americans.

“We've got 100 people in this room - along with many others - who can make it the safest gambling industry in the world.”

Those thoughts were echoed by many of the subsequent speakers, with a wide range of stellar suggestions from each of the speakers on how they believed that could be achieved.

Key to many responses – and fitting for an event seeking to bring together the key people who can make a difference – was a call for unity among the many institutions involved in the US gambling industry in order to minimize harm. Keynote speaker and renowned radio presenter Craig Carton – who himself has previously experienced gambling-related harm – expressed that wish by explaining:

“In the next 12 months, I'd love to see a unified front among all the operators. If one operator cuts somebody off, they all do. It's like what happened to me; when I was excluded from online wagering, that affected me everywhere, I can't gamble with anybody. If you say no to somebody, then everybody should say no to somebody.

“Twelve months from now, if you guys [gambling operators] have unified, that would be the best step you could take and would create so much goodwill.”

Those thoughts were echoed by those in a position to help influence it, with Anna Sainsbury, founder and chairman of GeoComply (above), stating ‘the industry can’t do it alone’ and asking the audience:

“If the gaming regulators want to implement requirements for the industry, we also need the advertising and marketing industries and the sports leagues to put in standards for themselves; how do they want to be perceived? What does responsibility and supporting their consumers look like?

“I think it's actually up to us to reach out to these other industries and think about how we're perceived if we're to be successful in the years to come.”

Other noteworthy contributions came from a range of influential personalities who shared their relevant experiences and views, including Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association; former NBA point guard Randy Livingston; Sabrina Perel, VP and chief compliance officer for the NFL; head of government affairs for US Sportradar and former Michigan State Representative Brandt Iden; and Christopher B. Hebert, director, Louisiana Attorney General Office’s Gaming Division (below).

The event was instigated in recognition that the need for gambling harm prevention is growing more so than ever. Total gambling revenues are set to break the $44 billion mark this year in the US, with 270% growth for sports betting in the first quarter of 2021, which correlates with the potential for gambling-related harm.

As such, the discussions over the course of nearly five hours focused on four key topics for all organizations present: worries about gambling’s adverse effect on performance; how to protect your brand and reputation; the importance of regulatory compliance; and a duty of care, welfare and conscience.

EPIC's hope is that their ability to bring all the key players into an informed discussion will help all of the aspirations of a safer US gambling environment to manifest in the short term, with the company's VP of US policy and strategic development, Brianne Doura-Schawohl (below) telling the audience how she is already trying to bring together digital, physical and legislative support.

“We need to be talking about the innovation and technology,” she explained. “We should make sure people are getting help in the same way they’re playing, and this is why I’m talking to legislators like Brandt Iden and regulators like Christopher Hebert to try and make that happen.

“Let’s make sure that the policy is not only reflected on what the market and customers are demanding, but of those that are vulnerable.”