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In the lead up to iGaming NEXT Valletta 23, editor Conor Mulheir caught up with Casino Guru sustainable and safer gambling lead Šimon Vincze.

Below, the duo discuss the prospect of a global self-exclusion scheme and why there is no silver bullet solution when it comes to gambling-related harm.

iGN: What projects are you working on right now?

SV: Most of my work wraps around the Global Self-Exclusion Initiative and the Casino Guru Academy, but I am picking a couple of smaller projects and initiatives throughout the year.

The Academy is currently releasing a course focused on ESG in iGaming, which we did together with Adrian Sladdin and his Seventh Wave trainings.

Furthermore, we spent the last couple of weeks digging into our own processes and values as we work on courses on complaints handling and unfair rules in online casinos.

These should give operators practical guidance on dealing with player complaints and provide deep insights into some problematic rules.

The Initiative is entering its next chapter with a research project focused on self-exclusion standards with City, University of London.

Most recently, I have cleared some space to explore what we can do with the issue of “not on GamStop” websites.

iGN: Why do you think it’s important for self-exclusion to be made possible on a global scale?

SV: Self-exclusion is not the silver bullet for gambling addiction (if there is any), but it helps many to stay in control.

It creates space between the person and the possibility of spending money gambling.

However, players will always be able to find a way to gamble further somewhere.

What creates a difference here is how easy it is and what the person needs to go through to achieve it.

The scope of any single system is now limited to single jurisdictions, as no solution goes beyond license holders in one country.

There are hundreds of other casinos operating from offshore, from which those with troubles cannot get blocked.

The global system’s goal is to increase the friction, extend the space between players and gambling activity, and include every operator who cares about those who do not want to get allowed to spend money gambling.

iGN: How can a global self-exclusion register work alongside local regulations?

SV: Quite independently.

The global system is proposed as another layer of protection, offering wider option for self-exclusion to those who struggle the most.

It is not here to replace single-operator or nationwide systems but to coexist with them.

Then comes the question of how such a system comes into action.

Our best stake currently is self-regulation and the willingness of operators to join the global system and expand it further.

I would love to cooperate with regulators on this project, but that represents a lot of challenges, given its international nature.

We would have to start with a bunch of most dedicated operators and show that the scheme works. Once operable, ways for further expenditure will start to open.

iGN: What are the biggest challenges in setting up a global self-exclusion register?

SV: Where to start…?

Self-exclusion as a concept is imperfect.

Unfortunately, you can’t just pull the plug on an individual’s possibility to gamble, and everything shuts down.

Regardless of gambling opportunities outside the self-exclusion scope, you must deal with stuff like the speed of execution, false negatives, account reopening, or marketing bans.

Probably the biggest technical challenge for global operations is the lack of unified, unique identification in combination with the registration process.

Most of the operators verify their players at the point of withdrawal, which left us relying on the combination of full name and date of birth to capture registered individuals.

Right next to it is the security challenge, as the scheme will work with sensitive (and for some valuable) personal data.

It goes hand in hand with reputation and credibility when dealing with partners, as it is with registering individuals.

Once operational, the system will be governed by an independent organization to ensure its integrity.

iGN: What stage is the project at now?

SV: We have made significant progress with awareness and proposal of the global system in the past two years, but we are really still at the beginning.

Nonetheless, we just recently initiated a new chapter in the project with work on self-exclusion standards, as there is currently no evidence-based guidance on the most effective process of self-exclusion internationally.

The project will have three phases: 1. Research & Fact-finding, 2. Workgroup Meetings, and 3. Broader Consultations.

I am really excited about this one, as the results shall serve as a source of inspiration for operators and regulators around the world.

Plus, it will clarify further what set of rules would be suitable for global system.

iGN: How does Casino Guru’s expertise position it well to undertake this work?

SV: Casino Guru is well-positioned to see the big picture of self-exclusion and player’s journeys, but we do not have the expertise to create a comprehensive guideline for self-exclusion.

That being said, I am so happy that we started working with City and prof. Margaret Carran on this and commissioned them to run the project.

Her vast experience as an academic and researcher in the field of gambling policy was the source for setting up a robust methodology for achieving the standards.

And there is more.

The second phase of the project relies on the workgroup member’s expertise and their background in the series of workshops aimed at the creation of recommendations on the self-exclusion practice.

Additionally, they will have the results from research and fact-finding as a source of current evidence.

To include a broader part of the industry, we will subject workgroup findings to feedback and criticism from other organizations, including regulators, trade associations, or treatment providers.

We want to ensure that the final paper will have a reliable method and collective knowledge behind it.

iGN: What are the next steps and your roadmap to making this project a reality?

SV: It was never completely clear how we could make the global system a reality.

Sure, we have a very specific proposal in the blue paper and a clear idea of which direction we want to go, but the truth is that only the closest following step is clearly visible to me.

So many things can influence progress, and as the Initiative is also a campaign, I am trying to build a momentum.

It is not like I would be just drifting in the wind. Do not get me wrong.

The work on the standards should take around 18 months, and the agenda and goals are very specific.

The final paper will accelerate the Initiative’s progress towards a specific solution, as we will have a much better idea of what details of self-exclusion should be part of it, but I see the process of achieving it as even more important.

The project includes many organizations and individuals from the industry and will bring them closer to the issues connected with self-exclusion and the creation of a global system.

I believe it will improve the Initiative’s momentum.

iGN: Which other areas would you like to focus your attention on?

SV: I am currently shifting my attention to the issue of websites and operators targeting players that are self-excluded in their national schemes.

The notorious “not on GamStop casinos” is a devious strategy aimed at the most vulnerable.

The problem is that there is no simple solution, as we deal with Google search results and players’ intentions to search for such keywords.

It is hard to stop someone from doing it or finding it by accident on the internet.

My idea is to focus on reflecting on such activity in casino reviews and influencing players to avoid it.

I do not have a clear idea yet, but something similar already works for us with T&Cs and complaints.

There is another thing that’s been stuck in my head for some time working around gambling research and evidence-based regulation.

There is a lot of research that already provides answers to many questions, but it is not being translated to the rest of the industry, including the public.

I think that, if we could make conclusions from research more accessible and digestible, it would help us to shape more sustainable gambling industry in many aspects.

Supporting research and contributing to it with our data and insights is one of the priorities within my scope.