Parliament’s self-exclusion bill has more negative than positive effects

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

We learn directly from specialists why such a legislative initiative, in the form proposed in Parliament, will bring gambling organizers an unbearable operational burden, but also what it entails, from a psychological perspective, if, indeed, the underlying problem of a player who has exceeded the limit is solved.

In the circuit of the Chamber of Deputies, with an adoption report proposed by the allocated rapporteur committee, respectively the Budget Committee, there is a legislative proposal that aims to introduce new obligations for the gambling organizers. It is about PL-x no. 54/2021, “Draft Law for completing the Government Emergency Ordinance no. 77/2009 on the organization and operation of gambling”, tacitly adopted by the Senate and approved negatively in the committees responsible for the approval of the Chamber of Deputies, which stipulates the obligation to create a centralized electronic database in order to manage the persons requesting self-exclusion. If this initiative is taken, it will make gambling organizers a difficult task to bear, being in a situation identifying all those who enter the premises and keep track of identification data in electronic format. A measure that will only have the effect of hampering the work of licensed organizers and bona fide participants, removing customers and creating the conditions for the transfer of players to the black market.

Beyond the many legal issues – including compliance with the RGPD – that such a legislative initiative calls into question, but especially the series of technical details that may (or may not) lead to the successful implementation of the measure, Such an initiative can only be appropriate if it takes information from industry experts, psychologists and researchers in the field, as well as examples of good practice from other countries with experience in the field.

Liviu Popovici

“Certainly, if we look at the document that justifies the need, this project has a good intention, but its transposition is fundamentally unprofessional, focusing only on the effect of the problem, without bending to its cause. The long experience gained both by interacting with customers but especially by running the Responsible Gaming Association programs and the feedback received from the psychologists involved strengthens our belief that such a project will only enter the paradigm of the stopped fruit. It does not solve the player’s problem, it only forbids him to participate in some games of chance. It may have a good effect in the short term, but after going through the crisis phase in which he could not play in the usual environment because he was self-excluded, relapse will certainly occur and he will want to play again. And if he wants to play, he has the favorable context, in retail or online, in Romania or abroad. So his problem was not solved. Apart from the fact that it brings with it a multitude of implementation difficulties, this project will have an extremely low positive effect”, says Liviu Popovici, president of Romanian Bookmakers and of the Responsible Gaming Association.

The management of centralized databases by the organizers will call into question the very possibility of carrying out economic activity, considering that the number of daily entries at the level of an organizer, depending on the activity carried out, varies from a few tens to a few thousand. “Unfortunately, generally speaking, there is only something left on the parliamentary agenda of the initiators, but no one has carried out an impact study beforehand and does not go further to see if that project, transformed into a normative act, generates positive effects discounted. Our problem is that there are a lot of politicians who want to do something, to bring more responsibility in gambling, but I don’t know how to do it and they don’t talk to gambling experts to achieve something good, useful. We, the industry, are open, we have initiated projects in this regard, unfortunately few have been taken over, but certainly from a closer collaboration between the political environment and industry experts something good could come out. Money has been collected and is being collected every year from the organizers for the development of responsibility programs in gambling, but the legal framework for their financing has not yet been completed. This is where the policy should be focused in a first phase as the basis of the problem is targeted: overcoming the recreational sphere by some players”, adds Liviu Popovici.

The mechanisms adopted at European level are primarily in the direction of education, prevention, responsible communication and subsequent intervention, the measure of self-exclusion being called for only when these steps have been implemented. Otherwise, this measure will, from several perspectives, lead only to risks and outcomes that deviate from the intended purpose. 

Dr. Cristian Andrei

Dr. Cristian Andrei: “Players don’t want to say they’re playing, you can’t force them to reveal their identities”

I also talked to Dr. Cristian Andrei, neuropsychiatrist and coordinator of the Responsible Gaming Association programs, to find out if and how such a measure helps in the treatment of the addiction. “It is something rudimentary. While it is commendable that one wants to take an extra step in meeting the man who wants self-exclusion, it still does not solve things. The more that it involves a record of people’s identities. One of the situations in which a player finds himself is that he does not want to say that he is playing, so to offer his identity, nor does he want a forceful intervention on him. His tendency is to run away from those who use databases and go to those who will always exist without this kind of measure. There is a time when the player agrees to give details about him, but that time must be chosen by him, not by anyone else. A player who realizes that he has a problem because he has been helped to realize, who realizes that he is dealing with a therapist, an intervener in whom he believes, will feel more willing reveal important parts of his identity and his private life, but you can’t force him to do that, you have to let him decide. I don’t think it’s a matter of respecting that person, if you force him to give his identity on a subject that he does not take seriously then, and therefore he is not even willing to give his data about him.

Moreover, Dr. Cristian Andrei raises the hypothesis of a possible development of addiction to other games of chance, including those in the online environment: “From the moment someone pressures the player to reveal their identity or adopt a certain behavior, either they start shopping for locations, that is, going from location to location until he finds someone or something with less vigilance, or moves to online, although the profile of the land-based player is different from the online one. I mean, he’s a player who wants to “get big” with the fact that he wins, with the atmosphere in the game room and he doesn’t really like to play online, in anonymity, but if he really has an addiction, he will do anything to play elsewhere, under his own conditions, and he will find his place. It is, after all, also a matter of abstinence, he is becoming more and more agitated and there is a risk of doing a lot of nonsense, of leaving home and family, to borrow from completely unknown people, to hurt themselves because the addiction is radicalized, being under additional pressure”, claims the neuropsychiatrist.

The solution to the problem of gambling is to provide specialized support to players who face such problems, respectively in the orientation of public policies towards the support of education and prevention programs against the risks generated by the danger of excessive gambling. The gambling industry in Romania, through the programs developed especially by the Responsible Gaming Association, is, to a very large extent, aligned in this direction. The association currently contributes to the promotion of an environment responsible for entertainment and gambling only as a means of entertainment. The experience gained in a decade of development and development of specialized programs requires that any draft regulatory act aimed at protecting players to materialize with the support of the specialists of the Responsible Gaming Association.

Author: Editor

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