Caesars Entertainment UK recently became the first UK gambling company to earn an endorsement of its responsible gaming credentials from independent body ACE
The UK’s National Casino Forum developed its ACE (accreditation, certification, evaluation) scheme in 2013, working under the banner Playing Safe. It presented an opportunity for gaming companies to enjoy an independent assessment of their responsible gaming credentials. Ultimately, it allows an operator to improve player experience and to recognise and assist vulnerable individuals.
Tracy Damestani, CEO of NCF said: “We have been working hard for more than two years on a whole menu of Playing Safe initiatives all intended to ensure the casino sector remains in the lead in offering UK casino customers the safest gambling environments in the world. We think we are achieving that but last year the industry decided it wanted the kind of reassurance that can only be delivered through independent oversight, so we are delighted we were able to establish the Playing Safe ACE panel with such a distinguished and credible group of assessors.”
Under the hugely experienced and expert chair of Professor Yvonne Guerrier and with Dr Guy Bohane and Tom Kavanagh, a former Deputy CEO of the Gambling Commission, the ACE panellists have broad and deep experience of the gambling industry both from a regulatory and academic perspective.
Of Caesars’ assessment, Professor Guerrier said: “The company was very open. We were given access to all the company’s policies and the training regime. We saw the people who we believed to be pivotal in delivering gambling responsibly, obviously including the compliance team but, also the managing director, the marketing and HR directors and numerous people of various grades and job descriptions delivering front line services in three casinos. We were impressed with what we found at Caesars. The commitment and knowledge base of the staff was of a high standard. We made some recommendations for improvements but overall it was very good and we were confident in awarding the accreditation.”
Roy Ramm, former Governance and Public Affairs Director, Caesars Entertainment, spoke to Casino International about the company’s experience of working with ACE and what it means to Caesars.
Casino International: Some other areas of gambling – notably bookmakers – are being blamed for tarnishing gambling’s name in the UK; do you think it’s the casino sector’s responsibility to show the rest of the gambling sector how to behave?
Roy Ramm: I wouldn’t say it’s our responsibility to show other sectors, but I would say it’s absolutely in our interest to do so. I don’t think we owe anything to the other sectors, but it is in our absolute direct commercial interest to do something about it. There is no doubt that if you look at the position of the political parties, both from the left and right, there is growing concern about the negative effects of gambling and we have to make sure that we can demonstrate that we are doing all we can to minimise and mitigate those risks and be seen as good corporate citizens who care about our customers.
If others don’t see that, if they don’t recognise the value in protecting your brand and sector, they are missing a commercial opportunity. Ultimately the regulators, I think from all that we have heard over the last year or so and all we have heard from government, are going to get tougher, things are not going to get easier.
CI: I know Caesars are very forward thinking in some respects; Caesars UK has become the first UK gambling company to be accredited by an independent assessor. How did that come about?
RR: Yes, that’s right. Through the National Casino Forum [NCF] we have tried to think of ways we can improve the credibility of the sector and demonstrate that what we think we are doing well enough, is good enough. Through NCF we decided we would create something called the ACE panel: accreditation, certification and evaluation.
That panel comprises Mr Tom Kavanagh, former secretary to what was the Gaming Board, and then assistant CEO of the Gambling Commission; additionally, we have Professor Yvonne Guerrier and Dr Guy Boharne, both of whom are well-respected academics who have done a lot of work on responsible gambling and the problems caused by gambling. We invited them to form the panel – and we are very lucky that they did – and we said, as far as Caesars is concerned, come along and have a look at what we do, and you tell us if it’s good enough, are we doing the right things, are we doing enough of the right things? What are we doing wrong, and what more can we do?
They spent three or four days with us, a day at head office looking at the procedures, speaking with he compliance team and myself, people in marketing, to see if we had genuinely got a culture of thinking about responsible gambling. Then we let them loose, and they visited three of our clubs on their own, completely without any chaperone from us, and spent time with our staff.
We passed, and we passed well, though there were recommendations. We are now looking at those and seeing perhaps the way we deliver our messages on responsible gambling could be improved; we could use different training techniques with our staff as well, for example. For us, it lays out a road map for training and development over the next two or three years.
We were delighted to pass, we now have that seal of approval so we can say ‘Playing Safe at Caesars’ on the front door of all of our premises. It should give some comfort to both players and the regulator – as well as to politicians, of course – that we are doing everything that we reasonably can to make sure the number of people who are impacted negatively by gambling reduces year on year, as far as casinos are concerned. We see no upside at all in running businesses where there is increasing concern about people spending more than they can afford and being irresponsible in their gambling.
CI: There have been quite a few initiatives to avoid government intervention in gaming; what makes Playing Safe different?
RR: It’s now over two years old so it’s not something that will fade away. We were led towards it by what the government was saying prior to the triennial review; we want to see a step change. We opened our minds to it and did some ballsy stuff. We started having a forum where there wasn’t just our company sitting at the table, the Gambling Commission were there, the DCMS [Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the UK government body that gambling currently falls into] were there, people from the Care community… We had an open and frank discussion about what we wanted to achieve and it has given Playing Safe a degree of credibility that some other initiatives have failed to gain. It has been developed openly in front of the Gambling Commission, DCMS and the care community. Everybody has had the opportunity to comment and I think that is what gives it credibility.
There is a lot of commitment from the compliance and corporate social responsibility teams in the companies within NCF as well.
CI: Where did you have to improve?
RR: It was more on how you deliver. We had been a bit staid in our methods, and not been as innovative as we might have been in delivering the message to our staff and trying to embed it that way. The only way that you can get the responsible gambling message across is to really try and work toward a culture of responsibility that grows up from the casino floor. It’s not good having one guy, a couple of guys or a team responsible for it; you have to make sure that when you are doing basic training, once the dealer has been taught how to deal whatever game, they are talking about the responsible gambling message and learning what to look out for. It’s like in a restaurant: it’s no good teaching someone how to be a chef if you don’t teach them basic kitchen hygiene at the same time.
What is Playing Safe?
The British casino industry is committed to caring for its customers. It wants the public, the government and its regulator -The Gambling Commission – to have confidence in the way it conducts its business
To achieve this aim and to demonstrate unequivocally that it embraces the spirit, as well as the letter of the 2005 Gambling Act, The British casino industry launched Playing Safe in 2013
Playing Safe was launched as a Statement of Principles. The Core Social Responsibility programme with its core elements has been developed in line with these principles
Playing Safe expresses the casino industry’s commitment to doing more than the minimum required by law to promote responsible gambling
The objective of the Playing Safe principles is to help operators deliver their gambling products responsibly while continuing to grow and bring innovation to their businesses
Built on seven core elements, the code is primarily intended to help casino operators who are members of the National Casino Forum to develop their individual responsible gambling policies. The seven core elements are:
RESPONSIBLE GAMBLING CULTURE AND GOVERNANCE: Directors and managers will be advocates for responsible gambling and will work to embed a culture of responsible gambling in their organisations
- PROTECTING CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE: We will protect children and young people by ensuring that both gaming and non-gaming staff accept their responsibility to prevent their entry to the casino
- PROTECTING THE VULNERABLE: We will help those who have problems with their gambling to exclude themselves from casinos by offering enrolment in a national voluntary self-exclusion scheme SENSE (Self-Enrolment National Self-Exclusion)
- ADVICE AND INFORMATION FOR CUSTOMERS: The advice and information we provide to customers will be clear, truthful, fair and socially responsible and will not misrepresent the risks associated with gambling
- CUSTOMER INTERACTIONS: We will interact with customers whose behaviour may indicate they have a problem with their gambling
- MARKETING AND ADVERTISING: We will be compliant with the law and regulations in the way we market, advertise and promote our businesses and will never target vulnerable groups or offer inappropriate incentives
- TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT