A key part of our strategy, and a critical enabler in Rank’s ambition to become a ￡1bn revenue international gaming company by 2023, is building sustainable relationships with our customers by providing them with a safe environment in which to play, whether at our venues or online. We also continue to build our response to the risk of gambling related harm, working on an ongoing basis to improve the way in which we identify and interact with those customers who show signs of problems with gambling, or who may be at risk of playing beyond an affordable level. We seek not only to comply with our regulatory requirements, but to embed safer gambling as a key driver of behaviour amongst our colleagues and for our customers.
The past year has seen a great deal of progress, particularly in relation to embedding a safer gambling ethos throughout the business. Colleagues have been encouraged to propose transformation initiatives with a particular focus on safer gambling, they have been provided with refreshed additional training and we have actively sought to ensure that safer gambling is considered as part of every conversation whether about product development, venue layout, marketing or the roll-out of new technology. Such progress is managed through a dedicated workstream within Rank’s overall transformation programme, for which the venues managing director and digital managing director are joint sponsors, ensuring that the operations are themselves accountable for ongoing development and delivery of safer gambling initiatives. This work is in turn monitored by the safer gambling committee.
In terms of delivery, during the year we became the first bingo operator to introduce safer gambling controls, set time and spend limits on our slot machines, enabling our customers to better manage their play. We also completed the cross-operator, collaborative trial of algorithms developed in partnership with Focal Research to detect potentially at-risk customers (or “gambler of interest”) in our casinos. The algorithms assess granular data on customer play and behaviour, allowing for a nuanced and data-driven approach to identification of risk of potential gambling-related harm. Following the trial we have worked in combination with other casino operators and Focal Research to develop further sophisticated algorithms that will allow assessment and detection of at-risk customers on our electronic roulette products. Data from the algorithms is delivered via an insightful dashboard, which has been rolled-out to all our Grosvenor venues.
|FOCAL RESEARCH TRIAL IN NUMBERS|
|- 5 year collaborative international research project|
|- 9 million+ data points used in Focal Research algorithms|
|- 856 Grosvenor customers contributed to the research|
|- 5 Grosvenor trial clubs|
|- 290 “gamblers of interest” identified|
In Rank Interactive, we implemented an innovative affordability model that uses demographic and open source data to enable a risk-based approach to identify customers who may be playing to an unaffordable level. Interventions are delivered to customers identified by the model via dynamic safer gambling journeys based on the level of identified risk. We have also brought together the management of all safer gambling interactions for Rank Interactive within our specialist safer gambling team in Sheffield. This team has received expert-level, CPD-accredited training from GamCare and is able to provide a transfer service for customers directly to the National Gambling Helpline. During the year, following the completion of the acquisition of Stride Gaming plc in October 2019, we also implemented steps as part of ongoing integration work to harmonise safer gambling controls across the Rank Interactive business.
Following the closure of our venues as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, we accelerated development work in a number of areas of safer gambling within our Grosvenor business, most notably in respect of implementing customer affordability checks at an earlier stage in the customer relationship. In addition to this we have devised novel, data-led automated “triggers” designed to identify at-risk customers with whom to interact. The initial “triggers” were launched in February 2020, however whilst our venues were closed, due to the COVID-19 lockdown, we evaluated their effectiveness and enhanced their performance. We also refined venues team procedures to strengthen the protections offered throughout the Grosvenor customer journey, accelerating the development of safer gambling environments in-venue.
During lockdown, we made a number of important pledges, developed in conjunction with the Betting and Gaming Council (“BGC”), to increase our safer gambling controls in digital to further protect those customers who may be at risk. We also implemented our own additional checks and balances, including lowering the thresholds that trigger interactions, switching off social media advertising outside of our own brand pages and leading with safer gambling messaging on the primary website banner for all sites. On 12 May 2020 the UK Gambling Commission (“UKGC”) issued its own new guidance for online operators to ensure that customers were further protected during lockdown, the requirements of which were swiftly implemented to the extent they were not already in place.
Safer gambling revolves around the manner in which our customers play and the way in which we, as colleagues, interact with our customers. As part of our venues reopening plans after the imposed COVID-19 lockdown, we considered in detail the layout and product offerings of each site and implemented steps that comply with government guidance and also provide assurance to customers that we are still able to interact with them in a meaningful way.
We continued to work closely during the year with other operators towards our shared objectives of improving safer gambling and player protection through the Bingo Association and the new trade association representing online and venues businesses, the BGC. Through the BGC, five core Safer Gambling Commitments were launched as detailed in the table below, each supported by a detailed action plan. These efforts were further advanced in January 2020, when the UK Gambling Commission announced the establishment of three industry working groups to tackle key challenges as part of a drive to further improve the regulatory framework. Rank contributed to the working group responsible for developing a code of conduct for high-value customers. We have also contributed to working groups focused on developing a single industry view of customers, to allow for a joined-up and collaborative approach to the reduction of harm. We are determined to continue to work closely with industry peers, the UKGC and key stakeholders to ensure that revised measures safeguard vulnerable customers whilst also ensuring that the overwhelming majority of our customers, who experience no gambling-related harm, are able to carry on enjoying their gaming experience with us.
|BGC SAFER GAMBLING COMMITMENTS|
|- Prevent underage gambling and protect young people: prevent underage gambling on their platforms and introduce the most effective protections for early-stage customers of any age-restricted product category|
|- Increase support for treatment of gambling harm: support the scaling up of treatment services across the UK by recognised treatment providers as part of a long-term strategic plan|
|- Strengthen and expand codes of practice for advertising and marketing: develop and adopt the highest standards in marketing and advertising codes of conduct|
|- Protect and empower our customers: introduce new player protections in product design and customer engagement, making it easier for people to gamble safely|
|- Promote a culture of safer gambling: create a positive culture within both their businesses and the industry, where safer and well-controlled gambling is the norm|
Rank is focused on delivering a further step change in its approach to safer gambling in the year ahead. We have the ambitious goals of creating a more sustainable safer gambling business model, continuing to embed a safer gambling culture throughout the Group and ensuring the business is future-proofed to handle regulatory change. Some of the key initiatives we intend to deliver this coming year are:
30 June 2020
30 June 2019
|Customer interactions data regarding problem gambling (000s)||17,321||20,642||(16)%|