Star Wars references and a nod to Toronto’s second season of the year, that being construction, were unforeseen additions into the maiden session of 2023’s Canadian Gaming Summit.
With a packed house in attendance, an esteemed panel took to the stage to dissect the role of leadership, community impact of harms, performance of Ontario through its first year, why tribes and first nations need to be offered more respect, a Californian failure and much more.
The 40 minute SBC Leaders discussion, titled walking the tightrope of player protection and growth, kicked off with moderator Martin Lycka, SVP for American Regulatory Affairs and Responsible Gambling at Entain, quizzing the four person panel on the role of leadership.
First to step up to the plate was Bill Pascrell III, Partner of Princeton Public Affairs Group, who stressed the critical role that leadership must play in creating a clear presence and understanding of why RG is so important.
“It’s important because it’s the only way we’re going to create a sustainable industry,” he said. “And by the way, pardon me for not mentioning, hats off to Ontario for becoming the first jurisdiction in Canada to regulate sports betting.
“It’s fantastic. It’s going strong, and it’s going to get even better because they’ve also embraced the leadership of responsible gaming.”
“…our business succeeds only if we do one thing and we do one thing collectively: we treat our customers right”Jacob Coin, Executive Advisor to the Chair of San Manuel Band of Mission Indians
Picking up the mantle, Jacob Coin, Executive Advisor to the Chair of San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, stressed the “not so difficult to understand” commercial side of operations, citing both profit and wealth generation.
However, he continued: “For tribal gaming, without those government gaming revenues generated by Indian tribes, roads don’t get built, hospitals don’t get built, schools don’t get built, scholarships are not awarded, health services aren’t improved, our tribal elders are not served and homes don’t get improved or repaired.
“So that’s what it means for tribes to engage in this business seriously. Now the one element that I think San Manuel is grasping onto is that our business succeeds only if we do one thing and we do one thing collectively: we treat our customers right. RG is a big part of that endeavour to treat your customers right.”
After sharing a personal story regarding broken promises and commitments, Coin passionately expressed an individual desire in getting involved with responsible gaming “to make sure that we do the right thing”.
He added: “Responsible gaming is good for the industry, let’s not make any mistakes about that.”
The critical nature of education and learning was touched upon by Chrissy Thurmond, Director of Responsible Gaming at DraftKings. With the industry “always learning”, it was expressed that the aforementioned education and informed process should not just concern players, but internal stakeholders too.
“…what I think is sort of a north star for us is thinking beyond the customer”Jay Robinson, Director of Safer Gambling and Stakeholder Engagement at Focal Research
“I truly believe the best educated workforce will translate to the most informed player base,” she explained.
“I think it’s imperative that we provide a forum for not only our players to understand what they’re doing, and to engage with our products safely and mindfully.
“But we also need to provide players with the knowledge of the tools that are available for them to set a play experience that makes the most sense for them.
“People in the industry also need to understand where we’re coming from, and how we got to where we are, and realise there is still a tremendous amount that still needs to be done.”
Expressing a further viewpoint on the matter, Jay Robinson, Director of Safer Gambling and Stakeholder Engagement at Focal Research, noted: “The thing for me, though, about can we do more … what I think is sort of a north star for us is thinking beyond the customer.
“And, you touched on this and First Nations and tribal casinos, that people who gamble, come in families and come communities, and the gambling harms impact families and impact communities, they don’t only impact the person.”
As Lycka praised Ontario for doing “a great job in terms of regulating the market,” talk turned to collaboration, with Thurmond keen to potentially dispel certain positions held.
“There’s a tremendous amount of collaboration going on within the RG space. And I think contrary to what people think, a lot of people, myself and my peers, we talk to each other regularly, we are engaged with that and dialogue, we meet regularly.”
“There’s a tremendous amount of collaboration going on within the RG space”Chrissy Thurmond, Director of Responsible Gaming at DraftKings
She added: “I think one of the things that allows us to drive these programmes that are fairly nascent within the online space, is the camaraderie and the level of kind of commitment we all have toward protecting the players’ engagement.”
Looking at the issue of cross collaboration, Coin took a slightly different angle to instead highlight what he believes is a major issue affecting tribes.
“The lack of data is something that Indian gaming and tribes have struggled with tremendously and still struggle with that today. I’m suggesting to our first nations friends here today, that if there’s a survey going on about the impacts that you make, you’ve got to be willing to participate in those studies.
“Too many of our tribes are withholding that information that can tell a wonderful, wonderful story.”
As the session drew to a close, talk turned to that of California, where, despite the outlay of hundreds of millions of dollars, a crushing defeat to legalisation efforts was handed down by voters.
“The biggest mistake this industry made recently in North America was the sophomore pedestrian campaign to legalise sports betting in California,” Pascrell III passionately expressed.
“…it’s time to press the reset and give tribal gaming the respect it is owed and deserved”Bill Pascrell III, Partner of Princeton Public Affairs Group
“It was a debacle. It was an embarrassment. And it’s time to press the reset and give tribal gaming the respect it is owed and deserved. Tribal gaming out played the industry. Why? Because they have concerns.
“We should sit across the table from each other and discuss those concerns. What does that have to do with RG Bill? Well, the best answer and solution for responsible gaming is to regulate.”
Stating that this solution represents the “best thing”, the issues of illegal gambling or travelling across borders to wager was raised, which he pointed out, delivers zero tax revenue, jobs or benefits to government.
Adding his own perspective, Coin concluded: “The reason that the tribes were successful in that campaign was because they understood what was at stake – their exclusive right to offer gambling in California.
“Their sovereignty was at stake. And here was a group of out state companies, commercial companies wanting to come in and take over the gaming environment in California.
“40 million people live in California. That’s what makes the market so attractive. Right. But 20 years of building the environment between the tribes in the state of California, I think demonstrated to the citizenry that tribes have something positive to offer. That’s what was at stake in the ballot.”