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Job in focus - Chief Exec of Bet Buddy

27 November 2013

JOB IN FOCUS Simo Dragicevic, 40, chief executive of Bet Buddy Ltd, which can help identify and assist people who lose control of their betting

What is Bet Buddy?

We are a software company specialising in data analytics and gambling. We help gambling companies use data to help them build more meaningful and personalised interactions and relationships with their customers. You gave a presentation at the recent Remote Gambling Association agm on the vision of Bet Buddy. How can you help companies spot problem gamblers?

It’s difficult because the definition of problem gambling can be so broad. Analysing data alone sometimes means we cannot spot every issue a gambler may experience. On the other hand, we know from addiction research there are some strong signals that could indicate signs of problem gambling that can be analysed using technology and statistical techniques.

Give us some tell-tale signs?

Addiction research indicates an important behavioural signal for problem gambling is how much someone gambles over time. This is relevant because research indicates problem gamblers need to increase the amount of their bets to achieve the desired excitement previously experienced at lower levels; second, that they have made unsuccessful attempts to cut back or control gambling; third, they chase losses; and fourth, they suffer negative financial consequences, which are likely to increase with higher betting amounts in the long run. By flagging relevant increases in how much a player bets over time, the gambling operator can provide an early warning system to the gambler and make appropriate interventions, for example suggesting he or she sets a betting limit.

Has social responsibility genuinely become more than just a token phrase?

I think there are some gambling firms that genuinely do care about their customers and want to have happy customers for life. They understand gambling is entertainment and that problem gambling isn’t good for their customers or for their businesses. While the industry has done a lot in the last few years to put in place tools to help those at risk of problem gambling, technology has advanced and there are now new ways to help gamblers to make better decisions. We now need some of the major gambling companies who say social responsibility is at the heart of their business practices to start using the technology.

What processes should companies have in place to deal with this issue?

The gamblers can be provided with personalised feedback on their game play and betting habits. The gaming company’s customer service representatives can be given access to these data insights to provide more personalised and meaningful support to customers who may have issues or concerns. Building on the previous example, by understanding the gambler has been betting significantly more money over time, the conversation may be steered toward this behaviour and appropriate interventions by trained staff may be initiated. Likewise, the marketing department of the gaming company can use these insights to inform socially responsible marketing campaigns, for example by not targeting the gambler with marketing offers that are designed to further stimulate the risky behaviour the gambler has been exhibiting.

What is it that makes a small percentage of people susceptible to going out of control, and yet the vast majority can enjoy gambling responsibly?

Gambling is an addiction and there are multiple pathways to ‘going out of control’. It’s difficult to pinpoint one factor. Most people understand gambling is entertainment and should be fun (with a slim chance to make some money). When that boundary is crossed, that’s when problems can surface.

At what point should a person become worried about their gambling?

When someone starts to suffer negative financial consequences (for example, they need to borrow money to gamble), social consequences (such as spending less time with family and friends) or emotional consequences (for example when people criticise their gambling), then it’s time to think about whether gambling could or is causing problems.

What do you think of the concept of national self-exclusion?

It seems mistaken when a punter self-excludes from one company, then carries on elsewhere. I think it’s a very good idea for that very reason. The idea of providing the opportunity for a gambler to self-exclude from more than one company is beneficial to the gambler and supports the notion of the company providing a duty of care to vulnerable customers. The British industry should adopt it within the different gambling sectors and then across all sectors using a joined-up approach. There are operational challenges to linking national self-exclusion across all sectors, but the industry has a lot of smart people working in it and is technologically advanced, so there are no excuses not to try.

If you could wave a wand what would you ask the government to do?

Find additional funding to enable a more proactive approach in promoting and implementing new policies and technologies to help keep gambling fun.

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