The USA is to become a key strategic target for Epic Risk Management through 2020, as the gambling harm-minimisation consultancy lauds the ongoing Responsible Gambling Week “a great chance” for the industry to showcase “the great work that is now being done”.

As the public face for the year-round commitment enters its final two days, CasinoBeats has caught up with Paul Buck, CEO of Epic, who speaks on a variety of topics from ensuring RG Week impacts continue year round to working with organisations outside of the industry.

“Epic has grown to over 20 staff working in 14 different countries by providing impactful and assured programmes, education, training and strategic consultancy. We still have around 40 per cent of our team with lived experience but we also have training design, learning and development, brand and financial services employees and specialisms. We will continue to concentrate on the highest risk, hard to reach sectors,” Buck says of Epic’s strategy moving forward. 

“The biggest move for us in 2020 though will be the USA. A fledgling but huge market and we are building some incredible strategic partnerships with leagues, councils and decision makers in the states to make sure that safer gambling is at the forefront from day one, and that they don’t make the same mistakes that the UK has made over the last decade.”

Facilitating ongoing conversation during the period, RG Week strives to highlight the tools and advice and help available to customers, as well as the initiatives being taken by operators to promote social responsibility.

Last week Wes Himes, interim CEO of The Betting and Gaming Council and member of The Industry Group For Responsible Gambling, lauded efforts made from organisations outside the industry in broadening the conversation around safer gambling.

For too long safer gambling was becoming a competition between the operators”

Buck said of this support: “This is often a bone of contention and something for which organisations with a lived experience element get criticised. Ultimately, when I speak for Epic but I am sure others too, we all want a sustainable industry with less harmful products, correct tones of advertising and safer customer journeys. We only work with operators who genuinely show us that they want to be better and put safer gambling at the heart of what they do. 

“With those we are working with we aren’t asked to keep quiet or sign a confidentiality agreement, we are asked to challenge them, offer expertise from both an authentic angle but also an expert viewpoint and provide both internal ground breaking training, and also external harm minimisation projects that have real impact in prevention away from the treatment and research focus of the regulator and commissioners. Collaborations are key and it is heartening to see more and more partnerships happening bringing lived experience to the fore.”

Adding on the need to ensure an increasing level of cross-industry collaboration to ensure responsible gambling protocols become even more strengthened: “Together stronger. I have been involved in some discussion around the safer gambling pledges and we work with two of the big five in Sky Betting and Gaming and GVC.

“For too long safer gambling was becoming a competition between the operators but now they are sitting around a table and working together. 

“The pace is too slow in my opinion and the infrastructure is not there quite yet for the increased contributions but I am hopeful that the new arrangements around research, prevention and treatment will allow more organisations to get involved and work collaboratively with operators.

“It needs a change. Similarly there needs to be an increase in collaboration with other industries such as financial services, criminal justice, the armed forces to name a few.”

“If the gambling industry is to truly become or remain sustainable then it needs to learn from it’s mistakes”

First launched by bookmakers in 2015, RG Week 2019 sees participation from 120,000 staff at more than 10,000 venues in the UK and Ireland, as well as via online sites.

Accompanied by the message ‘Let’s talk about safer gambling,’ the campaign aims to unite the industry and beyond to focus on what part they can play to make gambling safer and reduce gambling harms.

“I think Responsible Gambling Week is a great chance for the entire network of regulators, government, charities, operators and private companies such as Epic to showcase some of the great work that is now being done around safer gambling and in particular collaboration,” he states. 

“If you monitor social media during the week everybody is talking about safer gambling, what their individual organisation is doing, who they are supporting, who they are working with. 

“The danger however is that safer gambling should be a normal part of business 365 days a year not just for one week so whilst Epic will have a concentrated diary 7-13 November it is really just business as usual for us.”

Concluding by maintaining just how crucial it is to build on all the efforts made during the week to ensure the issue and conversations are maintained year-round: “It is vital. There is really very little value in having RG Week if the initiatives and actions highlighted are not followed through for the following 12 months. The industry is at a tipping point in regulation, self-regulation, sponsorship, customer interactions and affordability. 

“If the gambling industry is to truly become or remain sustainable then it needs to learn from it’s mistakes of the last 10 years, not just the industry operators but also regulators and commissioners.”