One of the biggest debates among gambling authorities, enthusiasts, and providers is the topic of gambling addiction and the appropriate steps to combat it. Casinos who support the prevention of gambling addiction claim to enable responsible gambling. In fact, many online casinos have to implement tools that help prevent and control gambling addiction, before they are eligible for an official gambling license. But what exactly are these tools, and how do casinos help their players play responsibly?
Laws and Licenses
Most countries have gambling laws when it comes to real-life casinos and gambling services. However, when it comes to online gambling, many jurisdictions are still workshopping whether they want to legalize online gambling at all and under which prerequisites. What makes these discussions take so long, even after online casinos have been around for decades, is usually a question of ethics.
While the gambling market allows generating wealth, most countries want to examine the risk that comes with gambling before offering it to their citizens. Just recently, Germany legalized online gambling for the first time. The economic factor was one reason to push this decision. The other was allowing legal online gambling to target the growing number of unsafe illegal gambling services. By allowing online gambling, they can officially implement regulations that allow safe gambling and have a tighter control over the available offers.
The only way the German jurisdiction managed to push the legalization was to combine it with a strict set of rules. More than any other gambling license, the German license restricts both player and casino providers to prevent gambling addiction and protect minors.
In many countries, offering online gambling is only legal for providers with a gambling license from a reputable gambling authority. To get a license, the providers have to apply and adhere to the authority’s regulations. Only when they fulfill all of their prerequisites and continue to do so, they are awarded a license. On the other side, player reviews and recommendations typically only focus on those casinos. Both legally and for positive word-to-mouth, obtaining a license is required. That is why they are an important tool in enforcing responsible gaming.
Gambling Addiction Prevention Tools
In almost every license prerequisite, there are specific addiction prevention tools a licensed casino has to offer. Others are voluntary or a sign of morality and are implemented to show the casino’s focus on the player experience. In professional reviews, like the one for Slotsmillion on Casinomeister, you can find a list of the casino’s efforts to promote responsible gambling. Here are some of the tools the licenses require, or casino providers add by choice.
Online casinos must make information about gambling addiction readily available to their customers. This includes:
- Information on how to spot problem gambling
- Self-assessment tests
- Information on how and where to find help
- Information about the available responsible gambling tools
- Tips for safer gambling
- General information about how games and percentages work
Customer Identity Verification
Before a customer can create an account, they have to prove their identity. The KYC (know your customer) program is widespread. With it, the player has to provide IDs and other documents and information that clearly identify them. This way, minors have a harder time accessing online casinos.
Problem Gambling Analysis
Many online casinos have internal analysis and reporting systems that point out problematic gambling behavior. The casino can then direct more information about gambling addiction their way, make them aware of their behavior, or even ban them. Typically, the casino employees are trained and can help the person find help or create healthier habits.
Some licenses have eliminated especially addictive gambling elements. They force slot spins to take longer and removed features like autoplay, which allowed players to gamble on multiple tabs simultaneously.
The player can set limits, either by themselves or with the help of the staff. These include:
- Deposit limits
- Playtime limits
- Spending limits
- Wager limits
Players who know they tend to lose control in the heat of the moment can make sure there is only so much money they can lose, or restrict their playing time to a few hours a day and more.
Some licenses, such as the German license, enforce mandatory limits such as a monthly deposit limit of €1.000 and a limit of €1 bets placed on slot spins.
Some online casinos give you reality checks or the ability to activate them manually. If the feature is active, it reminds you in regular intervals of how long you have been playing and how much money you have lost and won.
Barring & Self-Exclusion
Most casinos offer a self-induced cool-off period. By hitting a panic button, you can ban yourself temporarily if you ever feel like your control is slipping. The duration usually lasts for 24 hours but can often be set to longer timeframes. If it is absolutely necessary, you can exclude yourself from being able to use the site indefinitely.
Additionally, using their system to track problematic behavior, the casino providers themselves have the ability to ban you from using their site. Some casinos even offer a third-party exclusion, in which a family member or friend can reach out to them when their loved one needs help.
The Effectiveness of Responsible Gambling Tools
Interestingly, most responsible gambling tools aren’t enforced through the casino as much as it lies in the hands of the player to use these functions. However, many studies on addiction in general have shown that forced help from the outside, when a person does not want to acknowledge or address the problem, rarely helps. The change is typically the most effective if the person instigates it themselves. The casinos definitely allow them to do so.
Controlling how much time is spent gambling and how much money can be used, as well as reminders and warnings about player habits, are a good set of tools for the responsible player who wants to create a safety net. According to this study, the tools that helped reflect the money and time that were spent, reminded of losses and helped adjust player behavior accordingly were the most useful.
However, many players feel as if they are in control at all times and trust in themselves to remain so. Players like these usually feel restricted by the limits some licenses force upon them. These players often search for the licensed casinos with the least mandatory player limits. It is unclear whether they would follow the movement if all licenses upped their regulations, or whether that would drive them to unlicensed services for good.
A good casino offers their players free and readily available information on how to play responsibly, how to recognize the signs of gambling addiction and where to find help. Trained staff and player analysis can help the casino to alert the player and direct them in the right direction.
The most helpful tools for responsible gambling are the ones that make users aware of their time and money spent and help them limit themselves to counteract problematic behavior. Players that have lost control can ban themselves or be banned by the casino if they continue with their unhealthy gambling habit.
Many gambling authorities are increasing their focus on the player safety. Germany’s new license regulations are the newest example of a legislation that eliminates the most addictive components of online gambling altogether and uses forced spending and betting limits. Under this rule set, German citizens can use online casinos more responsibly. We have yet to see if this strict set of rules will be successful in decreasing gambling addiction, or whether it effectively drives the users to other providers.