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Self-exclusion is the first step

Problem gambling is a serious concern for consumers everywhere. While the financial impact is the most immediate and visible effect, problem gambling hurts players and their families in numerous ways. Problem gamblers often experience adverse mental health effects, including stress and depression. It can be so bad that in some cases, it may even lead to suicide. Players aren’t the only ones who need to take note of the rising tide of gambling addiction, though. It’s a growing issue for operators, and if left unaddressed, it may threaten the sustainability of the gambling industry itself. More and more operators are taking the issue seriously and looking for new ways to effectively provide self-exclusion and protect customers that identify as problem gamblers.

Self-exclusion is, as the name suggests, the individual’s decision to ban themselves from engaging with a gambling product. Regulators in several countries determine that operators must provide the means for players to be able to self-exclude. However, with so many sites and apps to choose from, even when they bar themselves from accessing one operator, the temptation to create an account with another site or app if often irresistible. Multiple layers of self-exclusion and the right technologies to assist with that are at the forefront of harm reduction in the industry. When deployed together, they become one of the most effective methods available. As Jack Symons, CEO of blocking software provider Gamban, explained in a recent interview:

“Gamban is self-exclusion software. It was designed knowing that individual operator self-exclusion is meaningless when there are thousands of other sites you can sign up and play on. However, the general consensus is that layering multiple self-exclusion tools (specifically financial spend blocking, the self-exclusion register, and gambling-blocking software) protection is more effective.”

In one study commissioned by UK-based charity GambleAware, researchers found blocking software to be up to 99% effective. Gamban, for instance, effectively blocks users from accessing gambling sites across multiple devices and operating systems without interfering with day-to-day activity.

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Why should operators offer blocking software

Working to prevent problem gambling establishes trust between businesses and the public, and builds the reputation of the industry over time. Of course, blocking should be just the first step in a much broader harm reduction campaign. As Symons put it:

“What I would like to see is more engagement with the current self-exclusion ‘eco-system’ – more sharing, more collaboration, and more integration of existing solutions… Once the bare minimum is being achieved, there’s potentially light at the end of the tunnel for the industry. (…) The market will provide RG solutions to problem gamblers – operators just need to support and get behind these tools.”

Operators can take the first steps toward ensuring the sustainability of the gambling industry by partnering with blocking software providers. But as Jack Symons points out, a layered self-exclusion strategy makes it much more effective:

“As far as self-exclusion goes, our challenge is to create enough friction to stop people acting on impulse. But this is where financial spend blocking comes in useful too. If I ever want to gamble with three self-exclusion tools applied, I would have to apply a lot of creativity to act on impulse. Device, bank and ID – these are three difficult things to bypass.”

Problem gamblers won’t always know where to turn to, or how to start addressing the problem. Some may even think that they are beyond help. Giving them blocking software, which has an immediate positive impact, may be the critical turning point where these individuals regain trust in themselves.