Kindred Group makes only 2% of its revenue from what it calls harmful gambling, and seeks to reduce this to 0% by 2023

Maris Catania Explains Kindred’s Player Safety Early Detection System

Online gambling industry insiders and watchers have been saying for years that operators need to use tech to up their responsible gambling (RG) acumen. That is, spotting problems, flagging them and taking measures to solve them. Kindred Group may be ahead of much of its competition in this regard, using its proprietary technology to do all three.

Kindred’s PS-EDS (Player Safety Early Detection System) is now active for its US products, operating under the Unibet brand. This is only a recent addition for US customers, however. Most of Malta-based Kindred’s nearly 2 million global customers have been benefiting from the technology for a while.

Maris Catania, Kindred’s head of RG and research, spoke with Online Poker Report about her company’s efforts to reach zero percent revenue from “harmful” gambling behaviors by 2023. At the moment, Kindred says it estimates that 2% of its revenue comes from such behavior.

Not all US online gambling operators are taking such proactive responsible gambling measures. There’s growing concern that if the industry doesn’t rein itself in of its own accord, the backlash could ultimately lead to a regulatory crackdown. Such is the situation facing the industry in the UK at the moment.

Here’s how Kindred is using PS-EDS to help accomplish that goal. OPR’s questions and Catania’s responses are taken verbatim from an email conversation, save for minor grammatical edits.

OPR: How does PS-EDS detect problem behavior?

Catania: It takes into account myriad indicators of harm. PS-EDS is based on several research papers that have looked into markers of harm, and also through discussions with treatment centers and experts with experience. What we have also additionally done is that we translated the DSM-5* criteria for a gambling disorder and applied this to our algorithms. The logic behind the thinking of PS-EDS is currently being peer reviewed, with the aim of being published.

* The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, now in its fifth edition, is the core handbook of the American Psychiatric Association.

How do you know 2% of your users are problem gamblers?

This is a reflection of prevalence studies and of what we see of gamblers that are detected.

How much of the RG program is self-reporting/self-exclusion?

We take into account every customer that discloses that they have an issue with gambling; and in cases where this is disclosed, we do not welcome the customer to play with us anymore. We still look into self-exclusions, but we understand that it is not enough to use this as a proxy measure for problem gambling.

Have you banned players due to PS-EDS detection?

Yes, but this would be as a result of the intervention. For example, someone is detected on PS-EDS, we call them and then they disclose that gambling is causing too much stress or other issues. If we see that this is the issue, it is our commitment to harm minimization for us to suspend the account and advise the consumer to seek professional advice.

How long have you had PS-EDS on US betting platforms?

We launched the PS-EDS methodology for the first US states in May/June this year, and are closely monitoring the output. Since we operate on a third-party platform, the overall process is slightly more manual. We aim to introduce PS-EDS in other states as we go live, and continuously apply learnings from our vast experience over the years.

Do the different state laws impact your efforts?

Not really. Most US states require a common set of responsible gaming tools (deposit limits, spending limits, session limits) and operate a state-wide self-exclusion registry. We comply fully with these state-by-state rules. Our PS-EDS tool is something we do in addition to what’s required, so we can support our customers in a more targeted manner, based on the behaviors we actually see.

Explain the customer breaks implemented for at-risk behavior

It is not necessarily breaks, but there are different responsible gambling tools that are presented. The interventions that result from higher levels of gambling harm detection require a more intrusive approach to limiting harm. We also employ a stepped-care approach, where the intervention may change if the customer is contacted more than once.

What percentage of US revenue is from problem gamblers?

Since we’ve just introduced PS-EDS in the US, we’re not yet able to reach a conclusion on the absolute numbers. However, we have no reason to assume that the US number would be substantially higher than in Europe. We will continue to monitor the US numbers and will include them in our group reporting shortly.

Do your excluded problem gamblers go to offshore operators?

We would not have this information, but we are aware that this may be an issue. That is why we pay for everyone to have Gamban, a software which allows you to block access to online gambling on all your devices, for free.

How many of the problem gamblers you find get treatment?

Due to data protection, we do not know this. But we do keep in touch and collaborate with treatment centers – not only to learn from them about their interventions, but also for them to evaluate our practices.

What types of messages do you send to at-risk players?

Here are two examples:

This is an example of an onsite message that we sent to customers detected on PS-EDS:

Subject: Temporary deposit block

Hi,

Your recent gambling activity was detected by our system and reviewed by a member of our Responsible Gaming team.

We’ve decided to temporarily block your deposits as a precautionary measure.

It’s our job to create a safe, secure and supportive environment for all our players, and to also make sure we comply with gambling regulations.

What’s next?

We’ll get in touch with you soon to give you more details and talk about this deposit block – thank you for your patience!

In the meantime, you could check out our Responsible Gaming tools. They’ve helped many of our players keep their gambling fun and sustainable.

Best wishes,

The Responsible Gaming Team

This is another example of an onsite message, which includes information about different responsible gambling tools that we offer.

Subject: Tools for Responsible Gambling

Dear <player>,

Unibet provides a safe, secure and supportive gaming environment for our customers and would like to share information about our responsible gaming tools with you.

Responsible Gaming limits

Deposit and Loss limits mean that you can still enjoy playing, and that you will be notified if you exceed your limit. They therefore ensure that you can easily and conveniently control your preferences.

If you feel that your Deposit or Loss Limit option will work for you, visit our responsible gaming page for more information: https://www.unibet.eu/general-info/whentostop.

Reality Check

We also offer the option for you to activate the Reality Check tool on your account. When this limit is activated, after 30/60/90 minutes it will show you a reminder of how long you have been playing on the website. It will also give you an overview of how much you have been winning/losing within that specific time frame.

This reality check can be activated via: “Go to my account”> “Responsible Gaming”> “Reality Check” and then tick the relevant box in the “Settings” tab.

Product Block

If you’d like to take a break from one of our products, you can easily restrict your access for a set period of time (Go to my account – Responsible Gaming – Restrict my gambling).

Canceled withdrawals 

When you request a withdrawal, you will always need to take a processing time of 24 hours into account. During this period, a player can still cancel the requested withdrawal and have the amount returned into the gaming account.

Should you wish, we can disable this option for you. You will then no longer be able to cancel a withdrawal request that was made.

If you wish to speak to someone about your gambling, you can also access www.gamblingtherapy.org.

You can choose your own language and speak with a counselor through live chat, email or phone.

Best Regards,

Responsible Gaming team

You have global statistics on reduced deposits, healthier behavior, tools used and messages sent on your sites outside of the US. How much of that can you separate out regarding the US?

As previously stated, since we’ve just introduced PS-EDS in the US, we’re not yet able to reach a conclusion on the absolute numbers. We will continue to monitor the US numbers and include them in our group reporting shortly.

What else should the OPR audience know?

I would like to bring awareness of the [Oct. 5, Kindred-hosted] Sustainable Gambling Conference … which is free to attend. The conference aims to facilitate a broad discussion on how we can ensure a sustainable, long-term industry and the theme of this year’s conference is “Safer gambling: a shared responsibility.”

- Heather Fletcher is the lead writer with OnlinePokerReport. She's a career journalist, with bylines in The New York Times, Adweek and other publications. Reach her at [email protected]
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