SG Gaming delivers positive message to gambling industry amid government intervention measures
Being an industry leader in providing gaming solutions for the licensed betting office, arcade, bingo and casino sectors, SG Gaming has always been at the forefront of proactively tackling problem gambling.
The business, founded in 2012 after a merger between Barcrest and The Global Draw, operates as a division of Scientific Games Corporation and has always considered responsible gambling to be of great importance in its ethos.
This is an issue which SG Gaming UK’s CEO, Phil Horne, discussed in The Parliamentary Review.
Horne said: “As an industry leader, we have always considered responsible gambling initiatives to be of the utmost importance. In particular, the last three years have seen the business implement technology onto gaming machines in the LBO sector, which allows players to set limits for the amount of time they want to play and the amount of money they want to spend.
This use of technology has since developed, which Horne disclosed in further detail.
Horne explained: “This technology continues to evolve, with most recent introductions including 'cool off' periods between gameplay. The business has systems and analytical tools available which enables us to support and contribute to player research and protection measures."
“We work closely with customers to continue to develop the technology to help combat problem gambling. We also make considerable financial contributions to research, education and treatment services to reduce gambling-related harm through GambleAware.
“We actively support research into the treatment of problem gamblers to ensure that the industry can continue to provide a responsible gaming solutions offer. We also work closely with the Association of British Bookmakers and other industry bodies.
”Since then, government intervention on problem gambling that the industry was made aware of in 2018 has been implemented and has prompted mixed reaction.
In April 2019, the government enforced a cap on the maximum stake for Fixed-Odds Betting Terminals [FOBTs], reducing it from £100 to £2.
It came after figures from the Gambling Commission collated in 2016 showed that nearly 14 per cent of FOBT users have a gambling problem, a higher proportion than in any other popular form of gambling.
The move was largely greeted with opposition from bookmakers, who generate over half their revenue from these terminals.
However, one bookmaker, Paddy Power Betfair, welcomed the legislation, saying that the bookmaking industry had ‘suffered repetitional damage’ as a result of FOBTs.
The Association of British Bookmakers, who SG Gaming work closely in collaboration with, campaigned against the reduction.
This came amid concerns that not only would the curb on FOBTs adversely effect bookmakers, but that it would also push those with gambling issues toward alternative forms of betting.
Its statement on the issue said: “This is a decision that will have far-reaching implications for betting shops on the high street. We expect over 4,000 shops to close and 21,000 colleagues to lose their jobs.
“The independent expert advice warned that this would simply shift people, the majority of whom gamble responsibly, to alternative forms of gambling where there is less chance of human interaction and its impact on problem gambling levels is far from certain.”
Indeed, prominent bookmaker William Hill has taken a particularly large hit in the wake of the legislation. It posted a loss of £64 million for the first half of 2019 amid a fall in profits for its online division. It has since made a change of CEO and adjusted its strategy to become a ‘digitally led and internationally diverse gambling company’ and sought to push into the US market following the reversal of a ban on sports betting across the Atlantic.
However, all of this was something that SG Gaming foresaw in 2018, when the ruling was first announced.
Horne told the Review back in 2018: “We believe [the ruling] will have a material impact on the bookmaking sector, resulting in shop closures and subsequent job losses”.
Yet, Horne went on to call on the industry to accept the government’s decision on the issue and join together to protect its customers.
Horne said: “Following the ruling, we continue to believe that the industry should put aside their own commercial agendas and look at away of joining together to implement enhanced player protection and responsible gambling measures.
“Despite this recent announcement, and what is now a challenging landscape, we very much understand that the gaming sector requires constant investment and innovation if it is to continue to thrive.”
Horne also discussed SG Gaming’s own model, its focus on the online market and how it has been able to adapt to the recent changes in the marketplace.
“To enable us to support all sectors accordingly, and to stay competitive in our marketplace, it is now more important than ever to forge successful supply chain and manufacturing links which enable us to stay ahead of the competition. In our case, we have successfully forged links in Asia, and look forward to further prosperous relationships.
“We also remain dedicated to supporting the UK gaming industry, and will continue to invest in driving forward responsible gambling initiatives, creating state-of-the-art hardware and providing customers with cutting-edge game content to help them grow their businesses in an ever-changing environment.”
In the short-term, much of the gambling industry has been forced to endure some ill-effects from the government's hands-on tactic of combating problem gambling. Should the industry heed Horne's message and continue to innovate and keep the protection of its customers at the forefront of its ethos, then there is seemingly no reason why it cannot weather the storm and go on continuing to prosper.
Further to this, should The Association of British Bookmakers' warning prove to be true in that the government's measures force more problem gamblers toward other forms of betting, there will always be work to do in terms of problem gambling prevention, where bookmakers and firms like SG Gaming will have to be at the forefront once more.