Entain looks to plant a flag with new sustainability initiatives

| By Marese O'Hagan
Entain chief executive Jette Nygaard-Andersen believes the most sustainable business in the gambling industry will be the most successful in future. At the operator’s Entain Sustain event earlier this week, it brought together multiple stakeholders to highlight its commitment to environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG).

Entain Sustain was an insight into the company’s commitment to ESG, as evidenced by its focus on equality, charitable causes, and harm prevention.

At the event, various stakeholders discussed topics ranging from investor relations, sports betting, the role of regulation and the shifting focus of consumer protection.

The day’s headline announcement was the launch of Entrain, a multi-million-pound technology and diversity programme, which follows the business committing to investing £100m in ESG initiatives over the next five years in 2020. In addition, the operator launched demonstrations of its Advanced Responsibility and Care (ARC) technology, which uses artificial intelligence in efforts to reduce harm levels.

With this clearly defined commitment, Entain aims to positively impact one million people by 2030, across all under-represented groups in the markets in which it is active.

“We want to increase access to technology and we want to increase diversity, especially within the tech community,” chief executive Jette Nygaard-Andersen explained. “Entrain will involve us in exciting new partnerships as varied as Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust [YGAM] and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas [UNLV].”

And the event was keen not just to show Entain’s commitment to ESG, but to encourage other operators to follow suit. On a panel discussion on the importance of sustainability to the gaming industry’s future, Carbon Trust consultant Tiphaine Aries pointed out that ESG matters “tremendously” to investors. “Being able to adapt to the way society is changing is so important.”

A fork in the road

At a time when European market regulation is evolving towards more a socially responsible framework with greater emphasis on consumer protection, the onus for gaming operators to step up was clear.

Epic Risk Management CEO and founder Paul Buck argued that the goal had to ultimately be ensuring all gambling was sustainable. “The goal should be that no one should lose one pound, dollar or minute that they can’t afford to lose.”

Entain, as it announced its ARC technology, argued that the industry’s own solutions would be better for all parties than government action.

ARC is designed to track markers of harm against 26 pre-determined measures and make users aware that they may be gambling too much, with soft and outright reminders to set deposit and time limits. Should they fail to act, the technology can take action and impose temporary account blocks.

Rob Hoskin, Entain’s chief governance officer, said the industry was facing a crucial moment.

“I believe we’re here today standing in a major fork in the road in the approach to dealing with problem gambling,” he explained.

“One route is poor regulation, that takes away the rights of people to do as they choose. One that takes a heavy handed approach to checks, limits and ultimately play.

“The other route is ARC… a safety net we can put around our customers.”

Ultimately Hoskin said he believes that solutions such as ARC could be the answer to strengthening player protection, without harming the player experience and risking pushing players offshore.

Yet Brigid Simmonds, chair of the Betting and Gaming Council, suggested the industry should also be more forthright about its safer gambling innovations.

“Companies have got to be proud about what their teams are doing to stop problem gambling,” Simmonds said. “It’s really important, as an industry, to work together.”

Stateside sticking points

With the US sports betting market still in its growth phase, there is less focus on sustainability, something that panellists admitted was a concern.

Brianne Doura-Schawohl, vice president of US policy and strategic development at Epic Risk Management, noted the US had a “very fractured response to problem gambling”.

Fellow panellist Alan Feldman from the University of Nevada Las Vegas International Center for Gambling Regulation agreed that the standard was “haphazard at best”.

“Somewhere in the course of every meeting about sports betting, someone has mentioned problem gambling,” said Feldman. “And it’s usually just someone stating that they recognise problem gambling.”

A sporting chance

Sustainability spans beyond the internal workings of the industry, to its positive impact on sectors with which it engages. And considering the upheaval and resulting financial turmoil faced by the sporting world as a result of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, discussions looked at the role of the betting sector in providing additional support.

Here Entain’s charitable arm, the Entain Foundation, has invested in grassroots football through its Pitching In initiative. This sees it invest in the Isthmian, Northern Premier and Southern Leagues, which make up the seventh and eighth tiers of English football.

Nick Robinson, chairman of the Isthmian Football League, explained that Covid-19 was “impactful across the board”, meaning Entain’s support was especially key.

“Under our agreement, Entain could’ve said, ‘Sorry, you didn’t finish the season, we want our money back’,” Robinson pointed out.

“But once Entain came back and said, ‘No, it’s yours’, we were then able to give benefits to clubs and relieve some of their worries. We didn’t lose one club through the pandemic.”

Sustainable success

Entain Sustain was a detailed look at the industry-wide facets of sustainability, and the operator’s wholehearted commitment to having a positive impact on society. The event itself was even carbon neutral.

The event showcased the more altruistic aspects of the betting world without shying away from the serious issues, such as problem gambling and player protection measures.

What was also clear is that Entain sees sustainability as giving it a competitive edge over its peers. After all, Nygaard-Andersen opened the conference by saying: “I believe that the most sustainable businesses in our industry will also be the most successful.

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