7 September, 2021

Methods in Motherhood

Grainne Hurst, described as the 'mother of Changing for the Bettor,’ speaks to Gambling Insider about comparisons between Government and gambling, and the growing accolades of women as gaming industry professionals

How have your previous roles in senior communications, corporate experiences and working in Government helped mould your new role as Entain’s first Corporate Affairs Director? It must have helped to have all of those experiences spearheading you onto this innovative role?

It definitely did, I think in two ways: the first two prepared me for what to do well and what to avoid. Having seen it from various sides of the fence, it’s been quite useful to know how you should be engaging and interacting with those sorts of audiences and stakeholders when you’re in the role that I am in now. I’ve seen it done really well but equally, not quite so well. So, I think that was quite a good influence coming into the role. Also, I’ve had some experience previously in other large FSTE companies, so that was a good grounding for me to know what to expect, in trying to get the balance right between all the different stakeholders we were trying to communicate with; that has really helped.


What are the comparisons of working in politics and gambling?

I’d say working in the gambling industry is a lot faster than working in the circles of Government. For obvious reasons, and understandable reasons, the cogs of Government move quite slowly. There are lots of different decision makers and departments that you have to bring along the journey with you, to get to a policy decision, creation of an idea or an announcement. Sometimes there are competing interests; you might have the Treasury on one side, your department on the other side and the political view on another side. So, it was often quite challenging bringing those interests together under the umbrella of the one goal you’re trying to achieve. Whereas in the gambling industry when you’re working in-house, you’re all striving for the same goal with the same outcome. So it’s a lot easier to navigate, and therefore decisions are taken in a much quicker and efficient manner than they are in Government.


Can you speak to me about the ‘Changing for the Bettor’ program? How is it making a difference and how are you ensuring it applies overall, as opposed to just being a promise?

One of my colleagues kindly described me as ‘The Mother for Changing for the Bettor’, which has stuck with me (for better or for worse). The program was really established as our global safer gambling strategy, where it came from was really GVC Holdings at the time – before we rebranded to Entain  – acquiring the Ladbrokes and Coral business, which was very UK-facing. It was a bit of an eye opener in terms of the amount of regulation in the UK market. So, in hopes to learn the lessons from previous regulatory hurdles in the UK, we decided that it would be best to be proactive and get ahead of the game by putting all of our priorities out there when it came to safer gambling. Underneath all of those we decided what our commitments would be in each one.

It’s such a multifaceted area that we couldn’t nail it down to one core pillar, so we actually ended up having seven pillars, which is quite a lot for a strategy. The area of gambling-related harm is so diverse that we felt that we wanted to try and cover off as many avenues as possible as part of our strategy. We had seven focus areas and we have made a difference in each and every one over the last couple of years. We were the first organisation to call for an increase in our donations to research education and treatment for problem gambling. It used to be 0.1% of our revenue and it’s now jumped to 1%; we were pleased that the other big five in the industry followed our lead on that. We thought it was the right thing to do and it’s paying great dividends for research education and treatment, because they have such a bigger pot to be able to expand their treatment centres nationally, and also look at some areas of research that haven’t been looked at before; so that was great.


And what about the whistle-to-whistle advertising ban?

We were also the first company to call for a whistle-to-whistle advertising ban in the UK; again, that’s because we saw there were quite a few gambling adverts on the TV during live sports before the watershed; and we spoke to lots of our stakeholders who weren’t too happy about it, so rather than sit back and wait for something to be done about it, we wanted to go out proactively and make sure we were leading the charge on that.

I think the evolution of Changing for the Bettor is that we started off with a strategy which was looking at how we can work with our partners externally; whether that’s the Harvard Medical School – looking at the causes of problem gambling harm – or running educational programs for people that may be at risk of gambling-related harm. We are now evolving Changing for the Bettor by looking deeper into our own operations and how we can better improve player protection.


What is it that you’re doing exactly to improve player protection; can you tell me a little bit about ARC?

You might have seen that we launched our Advanced Responsibility and Care (ARC) program six months ago, which was really focusing on what we can do internally with our algorithm. We compile all of our data, advice and evidence we have from all of these expert groups, to actually identify our customers who might be at risk at an earlier point and then intervene with them according to whichever risk profile they are showing. We always said at the time that Changing for the Bettor would never be a static document, it would always be evolving and I think ARC is a really good example of that evolution.


How do you feel about being named as an important part and influence of the gaming industry’s future? (As said by former GVC CEO Shay Segev).

I’m honoured, but obviously it also comes with quite a big responsibility to make sure we continue to drive and deliver [that responsibility] throughout the business. It’s not just me. We have a huge team internally that works to ensure we are following through with our promises. It’s definitely a team game and I am pleased to play my part in it.


In regards to Entain, what particular changes or adaptations did you envision for the company before you became promoted to Corporate Affairs Director?

For a long time, we’ve been grappling with how we make the evolution in Changing for the Bettor, and deciphering a global corporate strategy to operationalise it within the business. That is not my forte, I’ll be honest. It was something we always wanted to do but I was never able to crack that nut, as it was not in my area of expertise. However, we have worked with an amazing team, especially my colleague, Peter Marcus, our Group Regulatory Operations Director; we are kind of like yin and yang.

I do the policy strategy side and he does the operational delivery. I think that’s worked really well to move Changing for the Bettor on to the next iteration to make sure it is really at the forefront of driving player protection for our customers. It is a small number of our customers who are at risk.  We obviously know that a vast majority play and enjoy our products safely and securely but we wanted to make sure we have the most robust safety net in place, which we are delighted to say we are in the process of rolling out through ARC.


How have you found juggling your new role alongside motherhood? With all your past achievements and these major adaptations to your life, you’re pretty much Supermum.

I definitely don’t feel like Supermum! I now have two boys and they are a delight. Juggling motherhood, Covid, working from home and the new job is a challenge but I am really lucky that Entain have been massively supportive in letting me work flexibly. I have a really strong home network that is also supportive, so I’ve been very lucky to be able to follow both paths at the same time. Furthering my professional career while also having my kids keep me on my toes at the weekend. Children are quite good at bringing you back down to earth, if you’ve had a stressful or challenging day, or you’ve had to get your head really deep into solving a problem or working out a solution – as soon as you see the kids it kind of blows away the cobwebs.


Finally, I wanted to end with the question of gender equality in the gaming industry. How do you feel about the phrase ‘Women in Gaming’ or more so, ‘Women in the Industry?

I actually think it is still quite important, as there are so very few women in the gaming industry. I feel like we need to almost highlight and shout about that. And I’m not sure how best to do that if we don’t necessarily use that phraseology. I don’t at all want to stigmatise any particular group, but I think that women in the industry should talk about the joy, importance and excitement of being a woman in the gambling industry – if only to try and encourage others to want to get involved and join the sector. I think it’s very important. There’s a great organisation called Global Gaming Women, which works across the board to try and encourage and influence more women to get involved in the industry or the sector; wherever that might be and whichever roles that may be. I personally think the more we can do and say, and raise the profile about it the better.

One thing about women involved in the industry and Entain, which is important, is our partnership with Girls Who Code. They aim to inspire a passion in young girls and women to enter into the STEM world. This is so important to us as we know that 50% of the world’s workforce are women but only 15% are in STEM – at Entain we are already at 30% but we want to inspire as many more women as possible to join. It is also great having a female CEO role model in Jette Nygaard-Andersen to drive this change and inspire the next generation. Every little we can do to help is another step towards greater equality.