RGC, Flutter Team Up On Groundbreaking Responsible Gambling Study

Written By Robyn McNeil on August 12, 2022 - Last Updated on March 13, 2023
anDuel and RGC talks groundbreaking new gambling ad study funded by Flutter. Groundbreaking on a green meadow. Foot pushes shovel into green grass

A timely new study aims to improve regulations and best practices around gambling advertising and marketing.

Since the expansion of the Ontario online casino and sports betting market, there’s been considerable attention paid to the relationship between gambling ads and gambling-related harms.

Balancing business needs against community health for gambling advertisements is a hot topic globally. At issue is everything from front-of-jersey sponsorships to celebrity and ambassador endorsements. And that’s just the start.

Change is in the air

Until now, regulations for gambling marketing and advertising have been grounded on more a wing and a prayer than data. Best practices are rooted in the same despite best intentions.

But this study, led by the Responsible Gaming Council and funded by Flutter International, aims to change all that. The results, it is said, will offer an evidence-based backbone for regulations and best practices.

PlayCanada spoke to RGC’s CEO Shelley White and Dale Hooper, Canadian GM of Flutter subsidiary FanDuel, about the groundbreaking partnership.

Study to enhance gambling industry, leave positive impact

“We are very excited,” White (below) told PlayCanada via Zoom about the collaboration with Flutter. “They were very keen to work with us on this really important study.”

Shelley White, CEO Responsible Gaming Council
Shelley White, RGC

A few months back, Flutter’s VP of regulatory affairs, George Sweny, approached RGC with an offer, said White.

The offer to “do some work with RGC that is going to advance the industry” opened a conversation around research priorities and what might make a positive impact, said White.

That conversation led to the obvious questions about advertising.

From there, RGC undertook a literature review and found little research exists on the impacts of gambling advertising. And with the global expansion that’s happening across the industry, there’s a real need to develop enhanced harm prevention methods.

“In order for standards, regulations and legislation to be impactful and effective,” said White, “they really need to be evidence-informed. And so this research study is about that.”

Importantly, the study, despite Flutter’s funding, is independent. That means the outcome won’t just benefit the company and its subsidiaries but the industry as a whole.

“This means this is RGC running this study,” said White. “Yes, it’s being funded by Flutter. They’re supporting the thesis and concept. But we’re not providing them with a deliverable that is going to support just them. This is about creating a study and results and recommendations from RGC.”

As for the cost of the study, neither Flutter nor RGC has tied a number to the amount. White would only say it’s a “significant investment” on Flutter’s part.

FanDuel, Flutter at the forefront of responsible gambling research

“We want to be at the forefront of this,” said Hooper (below).

Dale Hooper, Canada GM for FanDuel
Dale Hooper, FanDuel

“Helping folks like RGC find the answers to questions that are very difficult and looking around the globe for them will inform the whole industry… It will inform industry and government and everybody so that we’re doing things safely and responsibly.”

Both Flutter and FanDuel have shown a commitment to “put their money where their mouth is” to support responsible gambling.

To that end, Flutter’s responsible gaming strategy, Play Well, is a comprehensive, holistic strategy, said White.

“It’s a very comprehensive holistic strategy that cuts across the entire organization… and is really about creating a positive play experience for their customers.”

Unsurprisingly, under the Flutter umbrella, FanDuel has followed suit, prioritizing a responsible gambling focus in Canada from day one.

“The first five days, we only advertised Responsible Gambling ads,” said Hooper of FanDuel’s Ontario online sports betting and casino entry. “From an operator’s perspective, what’s really important is we’re doing everything in the best interest of our customers.”

Multiphase project beneficial by end of its first year

The two-year, multi-phase independent study is led by researchers from RGC’s Centre for the Advancement of Best Practices.

Throughout, the research will explore the current landscape of gambling marketing and advertising globally. The study will culminate in early 2024 with a final report and recommendations for policy improvements and best practices.

One bonus of the multiphase approach, however, means we won’t wait until the study ends to benefit. Phase one, which kicks off over the next weeks, said White, wraps near the end of year one. With that milestone comes the delivery of a white paper.

Said, White:

“One of the other stellar aspects of this research study is that we don’t have to wait till the end of two years to actually have a deliverable operators and regulators can use. Actually, after year one, they’re going to have a white paper that points out those better and best practices… Year two, we’ll have the final report, the operator roadmap, and the benchmarking tools.”

Study group led by reputed gambling researcher Dr. Candice Muir

Leading the study for the CABP is Dr. Candice Muir, a researcher with over 13 years of gambling studies experience.

“She is a biopsychosocial researcher,” said White. “So, she looks at the integration between the biochemistry [and] the social, emotional, psychological impacts of gambling, to develop responsible gambling standards.”

“She has a tremendous reputation. She’s published a lot, and this is one of her areas of expertise, leading studies.”

Additionally, Muir’s team and the RGC have experience putting results into practice. One way they’ll do that is by updating RGC’s RG Check accreditation process.

(To operate in Ontario, operators need to pass RG Check within two years of market entry. Reaccreditation takes place every three. The program is active in jurisdictions outside Canada, too)

RGC also plans to lean on the research to enhance its public education and informational components, said White.

“We have a particular focus on high priority populations such as youth and young adults. Right now, we have parenting resources on our website to provide some information to parents about the kinds of things that they can talk to their kids about.”

RGC’s programs for high school kids and college and university students will also benefit from the findings.

“We’ll continue to make it a priority to provide public information and education based on the most current evidence and best practices.”

Benefits abound for players and industry alike

There’s a reputational benefit and a sustainability benefit, said White, about advantages the industry and consumers can expect.

“You’re looking at creating a sustainable gaming industry, that so that’s one. Reputation is another… Consumers knowing that operators care about them as customers and want to put the safeguards in place to keep gambling fun and entertaining,” she said.

“For society, knowing we have best practices and leading practices in place in terms of advertising and marketing that are going to provide safeguards and a safer gambling environment for the consumer… We want to see that more individuals are playing within their means and fewer people are experiencing a problem.”

With Play Well, said Hooper, the intent is that no wager placed on any platform results in hurting a loved one.

“For us, it’s not just about the act of playing our games and betting with us. It’s the whole act of how we influence new players, consumers”

The good thing about this study is everybody benefits, he added.

“We believe in this so much, we want to make sure that it’s important for everybody… I think that demonstrates our commitment… It’s for the betterment of the industry and all the stakeholders. For players, for broadcasters, for operators, for regulators, and it’s being led out of Canada”

For its part, RGC feels fortunate for the support

“We are very grateful for Flutter’s leadership,” said White.

“This study is going to have a global impact. It’s certainly going to benefit Ontario and Canada, but a lot of these same questions are being asked in other jurisdictions around the world. This will have a tremendous international impact and allow us to develop common approaches to advertising and marketing based on best and leading practices around the world.”

Photo by Shutterstock
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Robyn McNeil

Robyn McNeil is a Nova Scotia-based writer and editor. She lives in Halifax in an empty nest with a mischievous cat and a penchant for good stories, strong tea, cheeseburgers, yoga, graveyards, hammocks, gardening, games, herb, and hoppy beer.

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