Skill or Will: What’s the Primary Obstacle Standing in the Way of Better Responsible Gambling Campaigns?

Corporate Social Responsibility

May 14, 2021

Responsible gambling campaigns just aren’t that good…yet.

Yes, despite the lack of historical success, the optimist—and more importantly brand strategist—in me believes that we can and will get to a place where these campaigns aren’t as highly scrutinized and will deliver on their intended purpose of reducing gambling harm.

However, to get to this mutually beneficial outcome, I think we’re going to need to have a few uncomfortable conversations. We’ll need to fearlessly explore what hasn’t been working in the past in order to learn and make changes moving forward.

Start with Skill & Will

I believe the best starting point for historical exploration is to study the impact of skill and will on past efforts. Is it simply a knowledge gap (skill) that has stood in the way of effective responsible gambling campaigns? Or is it a lack of will that has been the sticking point for progress?

From what I’ve seen, I think the answer we’ll find is that both have played leading roles in our struggles to create meaningful campaigns.

Knowing the Target Audience

The primary skill required for effective campaign development is understanding the target audience. Intimately knowing the thoughts, emotions, and desires of the target audience is foundational in creating any campaign, and this need is even more essential for responsible gambling campaigns which tread in highly sensitive waters.

From what I’ve seen, the creators often make easily correctable mistakes that are the result of not knowing the audience. This makes sense given that operators are just recently utilizing individuals with lived experiences of gambling addiction for training and guidance in these areas. By not fully understanding the person they are trying to reach, campaigns often flop upon launch as they fail to connect in both messaging and tone.

Examination of Investment and Beliefs

While gaps in skill can be rather easy to identify and fill, exploring gaps in will requires both a spreadsheet and a truth serum.

Everyone involved in gaming seems to be an advocate for responsible gambling. In fact, they’ll likely say that it is one of the most—if not the most—important things.

However, a deep examination of the financial investment into responsible gambling campaigns (especially expressed as a % of total advertising spend) might paint a different picture. Put simply, I don’t believe the statements we make about the importance of responsible gambling align with the historical investment of capital to create or promote these campaigns. This, in my opinion, is a will problem.

Additionally, if we really open up the discussion and dig deep, what we might find is that while responsible gambling is indeed very important, it’s also quite difficult to track the success or impact of these campaigns. Whereas an advertising campaign focused on generating new account signups can be tracked and measured, the same cannot be said about a campaign designed to keep players’ wagers within their budget or to build goodwill in the brand. We’re just not sure whether it’s actually good for business, so inaction has felt like a safer path to travel.

Making decisions without complete information is no doubt a difficult task. However, it should be well within the skillset of gaming leaders. We simply need more of them to willfully move beyond the surface level discussions and take on exploring the ways responsible gambling efforts might positively impact the companies they lead. To this point, this has been a task relegated down the pecking order, but for meaningful change to occur it will need to be the will of those at the highest levels of the organization.

Yes, I believe great responsible gambling campaigns that benefit both operators and customers are just around the corner. We simply need to align the development of skills required to create them with the will from the C-Suite to see them through.

Jamie combined his professional background as a brand strategist with his experience as a former problem gambler to create dyve. He is also host of The After Gambling Podcast.