The Malta Independent 15 June 2024, Saturday
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What is Responsible Gambling: MGA Experience and Player Protection Directive

Monday, 22 April 2024, 12:43 Last update: about 2 months ago

The world of gambling is adventurous and exciting. However, in order to keep it that way, players need to prioritize responsible gambling practices. This is the only way to ensure an enjoyable, safe experience without experiencing the consequences that come from problem gambling.

These days, responsible gambling is not just expected by the player. The responsibility also falls on the casinos, who need to inform and protect their players from problem gambling and bad habits. By promoting responsible gambling, casinos strive to protect their players and prevent any harmful habits.

Responsible gambling is a common goal of players but requires the collaboration of gambling operators and regulators, as well. This is where the Malta Gaming Authority or MGA comes into the picture. The MGA is one of the most respected regulators, ensuring that casinos are fair, and safe, and promote responsible gambling for their players.

In this post, we’ll tell you all about the MGA experience and player protection directive.

Understanding Responsible Gaming

Responsible gambling isn’t only about how much money you wager or how much time you spend gambling. It focuses on a variety of aspects from setting time and money limits to recognizing the signs of problem gambling to seeking help when necessary. It’s basically telling you how important it is to balance the entertainment, which is the point of gambling, with the potential risks associated with it.

Responsible gambling these days includes the collaboration of the casino with its regulator, as well as support organizations that provide tools and resources to keep players protected. Take, for instance, UKGC’s Gamstop program. This program, as strict as it is, is put in place to protect players from bad gambling habits.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that only the UKGC has a good program in place. In fact, some non Gamstop casinos are best known for their responsible gambling practices, not to mention famous for their big bonuses, excellent support, and an extensive list of games you can pick and choose from.

When it comes to responsible gambling, this is your responsibility as the player, but you should strive to play at casinos that promote safer gambling and, more importantly, give you options that will protect you if needed. Ideally, you should be able to reach out and get help when you experience problems. There are now many organizations that provide support and solutions, such as the Responsible Gambling Trust in the UK, The International Center for Responsible Gambling in the US, etc.

Ethical Approaches to Gambling Behavior

Generally speaking, there are six responsible gambling principles a player should always follow. Consider these six ultimate responsible gambling tips:

1. Spend only what you can afford to lose. You should always be aware of your financial limits and know how much you can afford to spend before you start gambling.

2. Set limitations for time, as well as money. Gambling is an entertaining activity, but everything needs to be balanced. Set some limitations not only for money but for the time you spend gambling, too.

3. Don’t view gambling as a solution to your financial problems. Gambling is a leisure activity and should not be seen as a way to make money. Instead, you should focus on the excitement and view it as a source of entertainment.

4. Don’t gamble when you are upset or angry. Your mood can seriously impact your decisions. If you are angry or upset, this can cause you to make mistakes and lose money.

5. Don’t let gambling interfere with your personal relationships. When gambling becomes a problem, it most often interferes with personal relationships. Don’t let gambling cause your close ones trouble.

6. Never, ever chase losses. Gambling is adrenaline-boosting and, when people lose, they can be tempted to chase losses and spend more than they initially planned, hoping they’ll win next time. Don’t wager more to make up for your losses.

 

Compliance with the Player Protection Directive

All MGA licensees are subject to player protection laws, which means that must follow the directive set by the regulator. This regulatory body is so highly valued for a reason – they have an excellent player protection program in place.

The MGA’s objectives are to “promote responsible gaming and to safeguard players’ rights”. One of the main goals of the organization is to make sure that every player can gamble securely and safely, minimizing the risks of gambling-related harm. According to the MGA’s player protection directive, this is a shared responsibility between the Authority, the player, and the operator.

According to the Directive, every operator or casino must display on a website that is licensed by the MGA the following things:

  • The details of the licensee

  • An ‘underage gaming is prohibited’ sign

  • Kite mark or dynamic seal

  • A message explaining that gambling can be harmful, promoting responsible gambling, and sharing information about the support measures available through the website

  • A link that leads the player to an app or webpage that lists all relevant responsible gambling information as required by the MGA directive

  • A link that allows the player to go to a gambling help organization/s

  • Message that pops up or appears before the player makes their first deposit, providing them with access to limits and responsible gaming tools.

Players Protection Tools

Speaking of protection tools, players who gamble at MGA-licensed casinos aren’t just getting contact information for help groups or organizations. These days, the casinos will give them actual tools they can use to protect themselves, including:

  • Self-exclusion programs, where the player can exclude himself from playing (for an indefinite or definite time) for 24 hours, 48 hours, months, a year, or forever.

This process must be clear and always available, as well as implemented immediately. The casinos cannot in any way induce the player to keep playing. When a company operates multiple brands, the operator must check if the exclusion request is for all brands and not just one. During a self-exclusion, players cannot be allowed to access gambling services – they can only withdraw funds if they have them.

 

  • Gaming limits and reality checks

According to the Player Protection Directive, casinos must provide tools to help players manage their gambling in a safe way. These tools can include deposit limits, wagering limits (within a set timeframe), loss limits, time limits, and more. When a player is given a limit, this limit must be realistic and can only be removed upon the player’s request.

Policies on Responsible Gambling

According to the Malta Gaming Authority, every operator who is licensed by the regulator must have updated procedures and policies to promote responsible gambling. The policies should include the ever-changing measures used to detect problem gambling or any behaviors that show that a player is at risk of a gambling problem.

When the operator identifies concerning player behaviors, they are obligated to take steps and address this. They must keep all the evidence that they followed the policies and procedures, as well as keep records of any conducted investigations and decisions taken.

Operators must consider the following criteria when checking for gambling-related harm:

  • Use of different payment options

  • Frequency of deposits and wagers

  • Amount deposited or wagered

  • Use of responsible gambling tools

  • Increased bonus requests, player complaints, or other communication-based indicators

  • Number of failed deposits

  • Average daily stake

  • Increase in the number of games played by the same player

  • Reinvesting of bigger wins

  • Late-night gambling sessions, etc.

It is the casino’s responsibility to make sure that the employees who work with players with gambling problems or interact with players, in general, are trained appropriately on the newest responsible gaming procedures. Every employee who has contact with players has to be trained to look out for these or any other signs and indications of gambling problems.

In addition to this, operators must have effective methods to prevent minors from gambling on their websites. Unlike physical casinos that can check and physically see the person entering their premises, online casinos must take different measures to make sure that minors cannot bypass their procedures.

Minors cannot exactly visit a casino or hop on from one casino to the next one, so their way to access gambling is online. It is the job of the online casino operator to make sure that no underage person can access and gamble on their website, as well as take all the steps to block them from using their website.

In case the operator finds out that a player is a minor after the fact, they should take steps to block them and return them to the same position before gambling i.e. return any money wagered, confiscate all winnings, etc.

Handling Player Complaints and Disputes

Every MGA licensed operator must have a support team. There is no rule as to when they need to work i.e. non-stop or in set hours. However, the MGA requires that the player support team has sufficient resources that allow them to effectively communicate with players, as well as require a documented procedure for managing disputes and complaints.

The operator must also establish an expected timeframe needed to settle a dispute and tell the player how long it will take for their problem to be resolved. The procedure should be readily available to players, as well as described on the casino’s Terms and Conditions page.

When a player tries to talk to the support and exhausts the process, the operator must give them the option to refer their dispute to a registered ADR entity, as well as tell the player how to reach out to the ADR entity in question.

When the ADR entity comes up with a solution, this is binding upon both parties, even if they haven’t agreed on it previously. Still, when the operator refers your dispute to an ADR entity, this doesn’t restrict you from bringing proceedings against the operator in court.

Before they go live and offer games to players, operators must first engage with the ADR entity, which in the case of MGA, is established by the European Economic Area or the European Union.

In the case of a contractual agreement being reached with such an entity, the operator must communicate with the MGA by sending a soft copy of the contract via an application located in the ‘Licensee Portal’. They must send an agreement with an effective date, fees, duration, termination, and signatures of all parties.

How many gamers are associated with MGA operators?

As of the latest MGA annual report, the number of gaming companies that offer online services using an MGA license stood at 338 at the end of 2022. You can check the full report here. 


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