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Entain launches new affordability checks amid sustainability drive

| By Robin Harrison
Entain has launched what it describes as a “pioneering” affordability checking model for British customers, as part of the Advanced Responsibility and Care (ARC) initiative that will be fully implemented in the market this summer.
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The new checks will help the Ladbrokes and PartyGaming operator identify customers at risk of running into financial difficulty as a result of their gambling, and implement staking limits and tighter affordability checks. 

“We have been working on player affordability concepts for the past 18 months as part of our ARC affordability programme,” Entain group operations director Peter Marcus explained. “This aims to identify relevant limits at the right time to protect customers whom our technology has identified as being vulnerable, or particularly at risk.”

Entain has rolled out the functionality across its 14 brands active in the British market, and claims to be the first major operator to deploy technology-led player protection solutions, affordability checks and individualised stake limits. It expects this rollout to be completed by the summer. 

The ARC affordability framework uses open source and commercially available data on customers, combined with behavioural indicators. Entain data scientists have built models to demonstrate varying levels of potential financial risk, to help flag potential harm.

Affordability checks have emerged as a contentious issue in the industry, with the Gambling Commission launching a consultation in November last year to develop blanket thresholds to apply across all British licensees. 

They are supported by campaigners for regulatory reform, including the Social Markets Foundation, which has advocated for a £100 ‘soft cap’ for player spending. Any deposits above this figure would then trigger enhanced affordability checks on customers. 

However, many in the industry have attacked these proposals, claiming that it would make regulated sites less attractive to players, and even infringe on individuals’ right to privacy. Others have claimed that a blanket framework for all players would negatively impact on sustainable gamblers, while doing little to actually prevent problem gambling. 

Entain, however, aims to avoid this by setting limits based on available data, which can then be raised if the individual shares additional information about their affordability. 

“This means the vast majority of customers who show no indications of financial risk can still bet with us freely,” Marcus explained. “We think this is an important step in preserving personal freedoms, and will also greatly benefit the horse-racing industry, which is concerned about the impact of blanket measures on its future viability.”

Entain chief executive Jette Nygaard-Andersen added this personalised approach to affordability checks would offer the highest level of protection to the operator’s most vulnerable customers. 

“We are deeply committed to giving every customer the best experiences and protection we can, tailored to their particular needs.”

Launched in November 2020 alongside the business rebranding from GVC Holdings to Entain, ARC aims to ensure all the operator’s players have appropriate safeguards allowing them to gamble sustainably. 

By February this year ARC had expanded its range of behaviour indicators of harm to include factors such as fluctuations in stake levels, erratic play and evidence of chasing losses. Its data scientists had also begun to model situations to help safer gambling teams spot potential problems and intermittent signs of harm. 

Further models and behavioural indicators are in development, such as variable stake limits based on risk level, with tests having shown that interactions with targeted customers has led to players reducing their staking and depositing limits by around 55%. 

ARC will be fully live in Britain from this summer, with work underway to customise the solutions for different markets and cultural norms later in 2021.

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