Corporate social responsibility in gambling: What’s the end game?By Luke Haward, CDC Gaming ReportsOctober 17, 2018 at 2:50 amShort-term thinking is an affliction deep-rooted and almost definitional to the nature of a corporate structure. It presents major challenges across most industries, including the gambling sector.The emphasis on turning maximum profits in the immediate term and a healthy and continual improvement for shareholders has traditionally come at the expense of almost every other consideration. A clear-cut example of this is the customer service industry’s deployment of single-use plastics. The world would be better off without the product and, thankfully, it will be phased out in time.Different industries have different externalities, and most operators are not taking full responsibility for these. In the gambling world the main externalities (aside from pollution caused by energy use) involve human lives and the courses they are likely to take. How the use of a gambling service interrelates with the financial, social, and mental well-being of an individual using that service is of key importance. This is true both in terms of what regulations should be in place, and to the long-term sustainability of the relationship which that gambling company hopes to keep with that person.The UK gambling industry has been under pressure following a positive slew of penalties and bad media coverage for major firms related to shortcomings in customer care and diligence. New incoming regulations have been created with tighter controls over both customer relations and advertising. Two of the big players have gone for a facelift recently with specific campaigns focused on reducing harm in gambling. I’m referring to William Hill’s “Zero Harm” campaign and the recently announced “Bet Safe” television advertising campaign from Sky Bet.If the big firms are going further and committing real resources toward becoming more responsible, what will that entail in the long term? What would an optimally responsible and ethically mature gambling company look like? What would it act like?First, it seems clear any such firm would have to be at least homing in on the zero-harm goal in terms of gambling’s impact on players. Even if the problem gambling rate is low, that’s still a serious challenge. This would require more investment in local resources for treatment and prevention, not to mention research.Channeling a much greater percentage of overall profits toward charitable ends is going to be another major element in the long-term future success of the gambling industry. People are much happier paying a rake when a healthy chunk goes toward truly good causes. Again, in the long run this needn’t hurt company profits since having greater player retention, better player relations and a deservedly better reputation are all going to help the long-term outlook for a firm. As a further good, the company in question would indisputably be playing a more beneficial role in the state of the world through contributing more to charitable foundations.Very often the consequences of short-term thinking are devastating. Given time, this will usually come around to bite the perpetrator of the thinking as well. The £500,000-penalty issued to the Rank Group for its inappropriate treatment of a VIP with problem gambling issues is a perfect case in point. The customer was visited at their home during a self-exclusion period, which – quite naturally – the UK Gambling Commission deemed inappropriate. He then went on to lose more than £1 million within 24 hours of gambling a year later.To their credit, Rank Group self-reported the failures. Otherwise, the penalties would surely have been much higher. A fine illustration that rich and poor alike need protecting when considering problem gambling. Squeezing customers’ resources is likely to lead to both a greater frequency of addiction problems and, in some cases, financial and/or mental ruin. Not destroying our customer base is always a good start, but we must aim higher. We must aim for them to flourish, all of them.