When you think about gambling's place in society, you quickly realise responsible gambling is a unique proposition in comparison to other industries.
Putting the entertainment angle to one side, ultimately, gambling is a business that involves customers losing money. So are most products in life, of course, but the addiction problems gambling can bring make it ripe for criticism. Maximising profit therefore becomes problematic.
If a car dealer sells 10 Ferraris to a young, naive professional footballer earning six figures every week, the likelihood is no one bats an eyelid. If that same footballer were to spend a week's salary on casino betting, however, it would make front-page news.
In societies like the UK's, gambling can be heavily frowned upon. Responsible gaming is a key reason. If that sounds like a contradiction, let me explain...
For critics, whether they are politically or financially motivated (usually on the less-reasonable scale), or people who have genuinely been affected by gambling harm and truly want to protect people (far more reasoned and understanding), responsible gambling is considered a tick-box exercise. Operators must avoid this by making the protection of players a core part of their business.
And this is where we truly get to the crux of the matter. Gambling companies' primary source of income is when a bettor loses – we hear time and again the punters' prophecy of 'beating the bookies.' Meanwhile, public companies, especially when you consider that both Entain and Flutter Entertainment are part of the FTSE 100, are answerable to investors and shareholders. It is no coincidence that when new regulations are announced, share prices tumble, likewise when financials fall.
On the flip side, gambling is an entertainment business. The product is an experience. If you win, the thrill is hard to match by, for example, watching Netflix or building a model aeroplane. So how do gambling companies balance the quality of this offering with the need to protect players who suffer from gambling-related harm, or are betting more than they can afford?
Coming full circle, all of the above is exactly why responsible gaming is a truly unique proposition, and why reporting on this industry is so exciting and rewarding for a journalist like myself. I, personally, love betting. But responsible gambling for the masses? It's one tough nut to crack.
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