Betway Head of PR Alan Alger Talks Responsible Gambling while His Company Acquires Players through Notorious Hacker

The UK gambling industry has been under serious media fire over the past several weeks. And the heat from the growing media blaze has become more and more scorching ahead of the upcoming publication of the Government’s triennial review of the nation’s gambling market, both land-based and online.

British MPs have previously announced that responsible gambling will be among the topics paid special attention to in the report. The matter has long been the bone of contention among industry stakeholders, organizations calling for socially responsible provision of gaming and betting services, competent regulators, and UK ministers.

It is only fair that UK-licensed operators are given the right to defend themselves at a time when they are heavily attacked by media. Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live’s Stephen Nolan on Sunday, Betway’s Head of PR Alan Alger was given the right to explain how his company approaches players with clear indications for problem gambling behavior and how it prevents such players as well as its whole playerbase from playing irresponsibly.

In a recent article produced by Casino News Daily, we discussed the irregular and even illegal practices Betway and its fellow operator 888 have been involved in knowingly or unknowingly in a bid to entice larger playerbases. A notorious hacker, attention to whose activities has been raised on multiple occasions over the years, has been referring traffic to its own affiliate websites and to the two above-mentioned operators to generate affiliate marketing revenue and help both 888 and Betway grow their businesses.

While we understand why a big industry name like Betway would be sought for comment on the latest developments in the gambling space, we are still encouraging media and competent regulators to look into its player acquisition activities.

Highlights from Mr. Alger’s Interview with BBC Radio 5

According to Betway’s official website, Mr. Alger is Head of PR at the company and a person with more than two decades of experience in the gambling industry. In his September 17 interview with BBC Radio 5’s Stephen Nolan, he was asked to explain how his company is handling players with problem gambling behavior. The whole interview could be listened to here, but we would like to stress on certain highlights from it.

Mr. Alger was trying to present a picture of an industry that is “heavily regulated” with a regulatory and legislative framework almost impossible to breach. According to the Betway representative, the market being so “heavily regulated”, operators do not have “skeletons walking around” because such skeletons are “found out about very, very soon”. The skeletons referred to were poor and ineffective tools for handling problem gambling.

Here it is important to note that Mr. Alger repeatedly pointed out that Betway as well as its UK-facing counterparts have been operating in a “heavily regulated” environment. However, we as well as a number of other industry representatives have long been raising concerns about the fact that despite the heavy regulations there are skeletons walking around and that Betway’s closet, in particular, is full of such skeletons.

Returning our attention to Betway’s efforts to provide socially responsible operations, Mr. Alger explained that the company has “a very sophisticated system in place” (the Know Your Customer system), which system is aimed to notice any kind of activity that could be defined as excessive and problem gambling. Players whose behavior has been found out to have gone beyond the limits of wagering as a leisure activity are shut down and contacted by Betway within a 12-hour period, Mr. Alger has told his BBC Radio 5 interviewer.

When Mr. Nolan pointed out that a player could lose their everything within such a period of time, the Betway representative responded by saying that he has never witnessed an instance of “someone coming out of the blue” and losing a huge amount of money within hours.

Mr. Alger was also keen to discuss the element of “personal responsibility” involved in one person or another’s decision to participate in any kind of a gambling activity. It is true that a gambling customer gambles on their own responsibility, but given the fact that operators are using different tactics to lure players into gambling, they, too, must feel responsible and ensure a safe gambling environment for their customers.

In other words, Betway and its fellow UK licensees should not rely on their customers’ personal responsibility. Gambling might be a “leisure activity” to many, as Mr. Alger himself pointed out, but to others gambling has turned to addiction they cannot fight without the help of family, friends, regulators, and operators, as well.

Although we mean no offense, we consider it our duty to once again point to the fact that it is rather hypocritical that an operator with murky player acquisition practices is allowed to preach responsible gambling. And we consider it rather inconsiderate that competent regulatory bodies have allowed a company with murky player acquisition practices to benefit from the privileges of holding a UK license for so long.

Self-Exclusion and the Industry’s (Lack of) Efforts in that Direction

Interviewing Betway’s Head of PR, Mr. Nolan drew attention to a very important topic that, as it seems, has been given little consideration over the past several years. Under UK’s gambling regulations, each individual online gambling operator must ensure that a player could exclude themselves from gambling on their websites for a period of time of their own will.

However, as Mr. Nolan pointed out, none of the UK licensed operators has tools that automatically kick in to stop players from losing money, even if they have lost tens of thousands overnight.

Another important thing discussed during the interview was the creation of an industrywide self-exclusion system that would see all UK-facing operators share player databases so that when a player has chosen to self-exclude from one operator, they are automatically banned from gambling at all other operators legally operating in the UK.

The UK Gambling Commission has been working on such a system for some time now and has promised that it would finally be launched this year after multiple delays.

Mr. Alger was asked to explain the delays from his point of view, to which he responded with the fact that the creation of a comprehensive scheme is “impossible”. According to the Betway representative, there are scrupulous companies who would readily share their databases for the common good, but there are also operators that would refuse to that move.

Mr. Nolan suggested that a move of this kind could certainly affect the industry’s profitability and that this might be the reason why stakeholders were not particularly happy about it. He further pointed out that Betway and its peers are spending huge amounts of money on advertising and related activities and are turning over millions of pounds annually; yet an industry working with sophisticated tools still finds it difficult to create a multi-operator self-exclusion system.

Mr. Alger was quick to note that if a comprehensive database that includes all UK-licensed operators is created, all of the big industry names, his company included, would readily “sign up to it”.

To us, the interview with Betway’s Head of PR came as another bright signal that the industry needs to be reminded that players and their well-being should come first. What is more, industry stakeholders need to be reminded that by applying for a license from one regulator or another, they have agreed to comply with said regulator’s principles and rules. And finally, regulators need to be reminded that they need to fine and penalize violators so as to make sure that there will be fewer such violators in future.

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