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WrB – setting the social responsibility agenda

UK Gambling Commission, Executive Director, Tim Miller previews his appearance at WrB Responsible Gambling Innovation, (12 September, OXO2, London) and argues why having a strong set of social values is the way for business to connect with Generation Z
When it comes to social responsibility can enough ever be enough?
Gambling is a rapidly changing industry and it would be complacent to think that any actions taken today will ensure gambling remains fair and safe in the future. Indeed, society’s expectations of businesses are also changing and what may be considered acceptable today may not be in five or ten years’ time.
This is one of the reasons that we have been focussed so much on ‘raising standards’, demonstrated last year in our inaugural Raising Standards Conference, which we will be hosting again this November. In essence it’s about constantly raising our sights and those of the industry; to celebrate the successes that happen and then to think how they can be built upon to continuously take steps to make gambling fairer and safer.
How do you achieve the balance between social responsibility and enabling business to operate in a competitive environment?
Arguing that there is a balance to be struck between being focussed on social responsibility and being focussed on staying competitive is a false choice. It’s not a binary decision where you can only have one at the expense of the other. Smart businesses recognise the reputational and commercial advantages of demonstrating a clear commitment to their customers and their communities. 
Consumers have much higher expectations of businesses and research shows that consumer choices are increasingly influenced by values. This is particularly true amongst younger consumers with nearly half of 18-24 year olds picking a brand because of their values. In that environment, a business that wants to stay competitive and have a long term future will need to show an unwavering commitment to social responsibility or risk turning off future consumers.
Can regulation ever keep pace with an industry that’s powered by technology.?
This is one of our challenges: to remain relevant and effective in an increasingly digital world. It impacts on every aspect of the way we work- from who we recruit, how we regulate and the ways we communicate. This is something that our Board is focussed upon and that has informed our thinking as we developed our forthcoming strategy.
However, technological developments also provide exciting opportunities. More sophisticated use of data could allow operators to better identify those at risk from gambling related harm and to tailor their interventions to best suit the individual. Using these tools to not only develop the offer to consumers but to also make gambling fairer and safer may mean less of a need for us to intervene. Indeed perhaps we will see a world where better use of technology for socially responsible reasons actually leads to less regulation! 
With reference to social responsibility, in what areas do you think the industry is succeeding and where is it failing?
Trade bodies and operators have done well over the last couple of years in raising awareness of the tools that are out there to support consumers in managing their gambling. For example, we have seen a significant increase in the number of people who have heard of self-exclusion. Almost half of gamblers either know about self-exclusion schemes or have used one of them.
Nevertheless, I think there has been too great a focus on simply developing tools to help the gambler be more responsible and not enough effort put into identifying ways of making gambling products safer to begin with. We think a lot about responsible consumption of gambling and not enough about responsible supply. It sometimes feels that responsible gambling initiatives look too heavily to mitigate the harms that can be caused rather than trying to prevent harm from occurring in the first place. I would like to see the many creative brains that exist in the industry being turned to develop products that are still engaging and, indeed, profitable but that are safer and more responsible.
How important are events such as WrB Responsible Gambling Innovation in helping all sides of the gaming debate gain a rounded view of the issues/dynamics?
We have a very clear mission to ensure that gambling is fair and safe but we recognise that we cannot deliver that alone. We need to work closely with the industry, consumers, politicians, advice and advocacy groups and other regulators so that we are all pulling in the same direction. Events such as this provide a useful opportunity to share our experiences and ideas and to identify opportunities to work together. The challenge will always be to take the energy of a lively discussion in a conference hall and turn it into real action in the real world.
Clarion Gaming's Responsible Gaming Innovation, takes place on September 12th, 2017, at OXO2, London. Part of the WrB programme of C-Level briefings, Responsible Gaming Innovation will feature a European audience of thought leaders and opinion formers to discuss responsible gambling politics, technology and commercial strategy. For more information and to register, visit: wrbriefing.com/Europe