Interview with Mr. Andreas Kötter, CEO of WestLotto we hear all about being Responsible Gaming certified for the fifth time, especially during a pandemic as well as practical advice and tips for other EL Members.
As our last partial assessment was conducted online in Spring 2020, our fifth assessment did not differ much as we had already practiced via a digital platform. Due to our previous experience the whole process went fairly smooth. We have learnt that in order for it to work efficiently, the whole process must be well coordinated from the start. Of course it is also important to have working technology and to test it beforehand.
For WestLotto continuous improvement is part of our Responsible Gaming programme. We have learnt a great deal through the various certification processes, and they always helped us to improve further. They also helped us to make colleagues from other departments aware of future challenges.
Throughout the years, the use of technology has made a real difference to our responsible gaming measures, especially in the remote environment. We also rely on research and have several cooperation partnerships with research institutes. Additionally, independent academic reviews of our prevention strategies and initiatives are an important part of our responsible gaming strategy.
Our responsible gaming program is based on continuous improvement. To us it is very important that responsible gaming is also a pillar of our management system and that everyone in the company knows and supports this. Also, we have to react to market developments, for example the fact that in the digital world gaming and gambling get closer and customer behaviour constantly changes. We have adapted our Responsible Gaming strategy to these challenges, set ourselves ambitious targets, strived for the best results and got approved.
The most difficult part was the COVID-19 situation and the fact that there was no possibility for face-to-face exchanges, not only during the assessment, but also beforehand between colleagues. It was a real challenge to conduct such an assessment, but with our experience from the previous partial assessment, the use of technology and the right preparation we were able to overcome it.
We were amongst one of the first lotteries that have been certified and throughout the years we have developed a very robust Responsible Gaming programme that involves continuous engagement not only with colleagues, but also with retailers and stakeholders. It is very important for us to value and appreciate the responsible gaming work everyone is doing on a daily basis, but also to be shown that what we are doing is acknowledged by our stakeholders.
However, the certification has also taught us to be braver and to do things that seem to be unusual for others. For example: As a gambling provider our products are not for people under the age of 18 and by law, we are not allowed to contact that audience. In our opinion it is very important though to teach people from a young age about the risks of gambling. We therefore decided to cooperate with Smart Camps, a provider that goes directly into schools and teaches young adults between 14-18 years old about the digital world. Smart Camps by WestLotto teaches that audience about gaming (which they already know a lot about), but also about how gaming can turn fun into risky behaviour, how to decide if it is still ‘gaming’ or actually ‘gambling’, what loot boxes are and so on.
The project has been very successful so far and right now we are planning on developing a digital Smart Camp Academy, so that more students can learn about the programme online. It took us some courage though to start that project in the beginning, as we didn´t know how our stakeholders would react to us going into schools as a cooperation partner. But our courage has been rewarded – our stakeholders have complimented us on our approach. That fact is, we did well, and we want to do well in the future by continuing to be brave and taking unusual steps.
Our last assessment was under the old certification framework. The new one brings additional challenges with a new responsible gaming governance section. Therefore, we certainly would recommend that lotteries need to integrate a strong and systematic management approach to responsible gaming within the organisation.
Often the certification process might look like a huge mountain to climb. However, as we experienced, many responsible gaming measurements are already in place and only have to be documented. We very much want to encourage lotteries to go through the certification process, because it helps to convince your stakeholders that you are a responsible operator.
It also helps to participate in the EL Responsible Gaming events and have continuous exchanges with other lotteries, academics and stakeholders.