European Group Takes on Responsible Gambling

13 May 2003

Pieter Remmers could become a key player in creating a global framework for regulating the interactive gaming industry.

Whenever gaming regulators study the feasibility of regulating Internet gambling, there are concerns over problem gambling. All over the world, the gambling industry is being urged to develop responsible gambling.

"The G4 standards exceed any current jurisdictional or regulatory standards in individual countries."
- Pieter Remmers, G4

That's where Remmers comes into the picture. Remmers has started the Global Gambling Guidance Group (G4), which is aimed at creating an accreditation program that will set the international benchmark for responsible gambling. The group addresses both online and offline gambling.

Through the program, gaming companies have an opportunity to show both regulators and the general public how serious they are about responsible gambling.

The accreditation standards are underdevelopment; Remmers hopes to have them finalized later this year. A draft version has already been established for those entities that have come on board since the inception of the G4 concept late last year.

Accreditation standards cover ethical business practices; information systems for staff and players; staff training; intervention on such issues as unattended children; underage gambling; and referrals to help problem gamblers. The group is also creating in each venue a policy procedure manual on which all activities of G4 will be based.

G4 is the brainchild of a group of responsible gambling specialists from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Australia and Sweden. The founding members' years of experience in the field are being applied to the drafting of the responsible gambling program and the devising and delivering of training programs for the staff at gambling venues as well as the operating of telephone and e-mail help lines and face-to-face counseling.

G4 was launched just over six months ago at a gambling conference in Europe. Since then, Remmers said, more than 24 clubs in New South Wales, Australia have signed on. He added that a handful of operators in both Europe and the United States are in talks with G4 representatives and should be coming on board soon.

He said one benefit of international accreditation is enhancing the perception of the entire industry. Once G4's international standards are generally accepted throughout the sector, he said, the companies that institute them will benefit from their involvement.

"It will promote the concept of rewarding responsible venues and will send a clear message to both communities and governments of the importance of responsible gambling," Remmers said. "The G4 standards exceed any current jurisdictional or regulatory standards in individual countries."

Remmers said responsible gaming is a "catch-all" term that applies to a wide array of elements to the gambling industry. Consumer protection information, such as details about the random nature of a gaming machines wins and warnings that excessive gambling may cause harm, play a key role in the G4 responsible gambling plan.

Also important to G4 is ensuring that measures are in place to reduce the incidence of problem gambling. Steps could include limiting access by young people to gambling, restrictions on the provision of alcohol to gaming patrons and controls on the availability of credit for gambling.

"As the mainstream gaming industry increases its control of Internet gambling, it will be strongly motivated to provide responsible gambling measures voluntarily."
- Pieter Remmers, G4

Once problem gamblers have been identified, Remmers said, it is crucial that programs are in place to assist them and their families. G4 members will be asked to provide counseling services, self-exclusion plans and gaming staff training.

G4 also extends beyond individual gaming groups in an attempt to tackle international issues, and the sharing of information is crucial to the process.

"Every jurisdiction that has embarked on the responsible gambling path has taken a different approach," Remmers pointed out. "To date, unfortunately, there has been very little sharing of information across these jurisdictions."

Remmers is also of the belief that regulators can't effectively prohibit Internet gambling and he stressed that there's still a place for responsible gambling online.

"Governments can make it difficult to gamble in cyberspace, but they are unable to prevent it," he said. "As this market grows, so will the pressure on governments to regulate and tax it. The undoubted criminal involvement in some of the shadier Internet casinos will need to be addressed. As the mainstream gaming industry increases its control of Internet gambling, it will be strongly motivated to provide responsible gambling measures voluntarily."

The technology available online, he added, can actually create an ideal situation for responsible gambling initiatives. Pre-set betting limits, online counseling and information about problem gambling can all be provided effectively and at low cost.

"The challenge of Net-based gaming continues to bother governments, as they struggle to find ways to control, tax or ban it," Remmers said. "It is inevitable that as Internet gaming increases in importance, governments will work more closely together to achieve their ends."

The industry itself has also been slow to globalize, he said.

"The vast majority of the gaming industry operators are limited to one country or one local jurisdiction," he said. "The result of this international fragmentation is a lack of transfer of information between jurisdictions."

Remmers is hopeful, though, that as more and more operators adopt the G4 system, regulators throughout the world will see the steps the industry has voluntarily taken to curb the amount of problem gambling and show responsible gambling practices are in place. Only then, he feels, will international regulators be more willing to accept Internet gambling as a new global industry.

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