The questions I get the most when I talk to people outside of the iGaming industry is “how do casinos deal with gambling addicts” and “how much of a casino’s profits come from gambling addicts?” Well, honestly I’m not even going to pretend that I have the complete answer to those questions. I’ve never worked with responsible gambling in that sense, and also I’m not privy to any casino’s financial reports showing which players contribute the most. I do think it’s safe to say though that a good chunk of the cash comes from problem gamblers, at least at some casinos. The way casinos deal with problem gamblers highly depends on the casino in question.
If a player contacted the support department and said they had some gambling issues it would not trigger anything.
To try to give an answer I can start by describing how it was back when I started working at an online casino. This was back in 2014, and at that time the casino I worked at was mostly targeting unregulated markets: Sweden, Norway, Germany and some other countries. This is important because the rules casinos have to obey in terms of responsible gambling, and most other aspects as well for that matter, depends on which gambling license they use. If a player is playing under the Maltese jurisdiction, it’s the rules set forth by Malta Gaming Authority, or Lotteries and Gaming Authority as it was called back then, that apply. For this license, the rules weren’t that strict. If a player contacted the support department and said they had some gambling issues it would not trigger anything. They would more or less have to spell out that they were addicted to gambling for us to close their account and block them from playing. That is not how it works anymore though.
Now all regulated markets, which is most of the countries in Europe, or at least the EU, have strict rules for everything related to responsible gambling; just to be clear, this includes the Malta Gaming Authority. Not only will a casino have to take action if a player contacts them to say that they have a gambling issue, but casinos are also supposed to try to find these players themselves, and reach out to them. This is a huge change, and one which guarantees that the portion of a casino’s revenue that comes from gambling addicts is much smaller than it used to be. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work at most casinos.
It’s easy for me to say that casinos take everything related to gambling addiction and responsible gambling very seriously, and that no casinos want to make their money from people suffering from these problems. I say that because a lot of things changed and the only casino I’ve ever worked at did take this very seriously by the time I left in 2016. There was a Responsible Gambling Team; everyone who looked into player accounts was supposed to look for signs of unhealthy gambling and report any suspicions to the Responsible Gambling Team – which we did. I’m sure it works like this at all the “good” casinos; it simply has to be if they want to keep their license. In addition, they don’t want the bad press coming from problem gamblers telling their story publicly. Being known as a casino that just lets players gamble away more or less everything they own and then some is nothing any good casinos would ever want.
All casinos do what they have to according to the gambling license they have, and quite a lot do even more – which should be applauded.
All casinos do what they have to according to the gambling license they have, and quite a lot do even more – which should be applauded. It’s almost like it’s become some sort of competition among the good casinos to be the best at promoting responsible gambling. Unfortunately, not all casinos can be categorized as “good”.
Casinos without a license, or operating in a specific country without a license to do so, can more or less do what they want. They are not bound by any rules, and they will often happily take all the money they can get from problem gamblers. To make matters worse, a lot of the players who end up playing at casinos such as these are problem gamblers who have at some point opted out of gambling for money by registering on a national register, excluding them from playing at any casinos that have a license to offer their services in the country. So quite often it’s already vulnerable players that end up playing at unlicensed casinos, as the national registers can’t do anything with casinos that don’t have a license. This is of course a huge problem, and also something I wrote a bit about in my other blog post: The Dangers of Over-Regulated Gambling Markets.
When talking about “good” and “bad” casinos there is another thing to keep in mind. It is really in a casino’s best interest to not let people gamble away everything they have. Sure, if a player deposits his whole salary one month and ends up losing it all, the casino has that money, but the player will most likely not do the same next month. It would, really, be better to get a smaller percentage of the player’s monthly salary for years to come, instead of one lump sum. The player can afford it, and the casino has a steady income stream without breaching any of the gambling authority’s rules in terms of responsible gambling. So in this way, even casinos that do look like the good guys at first glance might just be strategic about it. After all, we all know who won the race between the tortoise and the hare …
Long story short – it’s impossible to answer what casinos, in general, do when encountering a gambling addict, as this highly depends on both the casino itself and the license they are using (if they even have a license at all). Similarly, the percentage of their money that comes from gambling addicts is also highly individual for casinos. Some most likely have these kinds of players as their main income source, while other casinos take as little as possible from players like these.