The codification of common sense
Guidance for remote gambling operators
Summary: Customer Interaction
The Gambling Commission has written to all remote gambling Operating Licence holders drawing attention to the latest social responsibility guidance: Customer Interaction Guidance.
The Commission explains: “Customer Interaction describes how you identify people who may be experiencing, or at risk of developing, problems with their gambling.”
The new guidance gives remote gambling operators many thought-provoking suggestions as to how they should approach the tasks of identifying problem gamblers, interacting with them, and evaluating the outcomes of interaction.
My concern is that the guidance is too detailed and militates against good judgment. Instead of forming their own judgment as to what steps they should take in relation to a proposed customer interaction, gambling operators and their staff may instead determine their conduct solely upon whether or not it is covered by the guidance.
The advice also has a tendency towards either banality or condescension, or both – I am reminded of those loudspeaker announcements on railway stations that tell one to be careful not to slip on wet pavements when it is raining. By way of illustration, here are some extracts/summaries of the guidance given under each of the Commission’s headings: “Identify”, “Interact”,
Remote Gambling: Range of Indicators
- Use a range of indicators relevant to your business…
- Remember that not every customer will trigger every indicator.
- Monitor customer activity, so that you can interact early, and quickly.
- Train your staff to know their roles and responsibilities.
- We expect you to take social responsibility seriously for all customers, including VIPs.
Using the right Customer Interaction
You can interact with your customers in a number of ways: email, telephone calls, live chat or pop-up messages. The best way could depend on the circumstances…
A Customer Interaction has three parts:
- Observation – behaviour you have spotted or something the customer tells you
- Action – contact to prompt the customer to think about their gambling, and an opportunity for you to offer information or support
- Outcome – what you or the customer did next.
No doubt some may find the new guidance helpful; but my first reaction on reading it was that it is all rather obvious: of course an operator should do what is singled out for detailed advice, without being told.
There is not a suggestion made by the Commission with which anyone could seriously take issue. My concern about this guidance (and its many siblings and cousins in other disciplines) is that it attempts to codify what should be a matter of case-by-case judgment, and in doing so erodes the responsibilities of the operator and his employees. When common sense, duty, standards, ethical conduct, etc., are corralled into a list of ‘dos and don’ts’, the consequence is too often that the decision-maker ceases to think for himself and merely looks to the list for approval/disapproval of what he is about to do, or not do. Not long ago, the response of many an MP accused of claiming an unjustified expense was to say “I’ve done nothing wrong: it isn’t prohibited by the Green Book”.
It is my regrettable experience that gambling operators and their employees frequently do not need telling where they have fallen short of their ‘social responsibility’ duties relating to problem gamblers – they know perfectly well what they ought to have done, and what they have decided to do instead: they need no training or guidance as to how not to do it again. In some ways, the Commission’s codification of common sense makes it easier, not more difficult, for them to re-offend, whenever they encounter circumstances not specifically addressed in the guidance.
There is no shortage of minutely detailed advice in this new Guidance – but do we need the dotting and crossing of every concievable “i” and “t”? According to the Gospels, the Ten Commandments were subsequently reduced to two, the broad terms of which covered everything. The Gambling Commission might take note.
Gerald Gouriet QC
A useful compilation of the Commission’s guidance on this topic in one document can be downloaded here