Exclusive interview.- Focus Gaming News speaks to Maarten Haijer, Secretary General of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA).
With regulatory changes afoot across Europe, Focus Gaming News spoke to Maarten Haijer, Secretary General of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) about how the iGaming industry must rise to the challenge.
He noted that there were many challenges in jurisdictions that have traditionally been more friendly to the online gambling sector, including Spain, the UK, Denmark, and Italy, but that the biggest challenge faced by the industry was a question of public perception.
“The biggest challenge to the industry is that, at least in Europe, people look not very positively on gambling.”Maarten Haijer, Secretary General of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA).
Haijer believes the industry needs to do more to address negative public perceptions if it is to head off overly tight regulation.
He said: “The industry as a whole needs to take note of that. We need to step back and look at what’s happening. And look at what we do wrong and what we could do better. . . We really need to look at our own behaviour.”
Haijer signalled advertising as particularly responsible for this perception, noting that the volume of gambling advertising around sports events had produced a negative reaction among the public, and also legislators.
“Advertising is what makes the sector visible to a much wider audience.”Maarten Haijer, Secretary General of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA).
“When there was no regulation, there was much more limited advertising so much more limited visibility – not just to the average person watching TV or online, but to media and politicians,” Haijer says.
“Maybe people are fed up with seeing too much of products they’re not interested in,” he adds.
While he emphasises that there are no studies linking the level of advertising with problem gambling, Haijer understands why non-gamblers react negatively.
He said: “Even when I watch a football game and before, during and after a game you have very similar sports betting ads, you start to wonder why.”
At the same time he recognises there are major issues with self-regulatory limitations on advertising in terms of volume, but suggests more can be done through the use of targeting or more variation in advertising to avoid too much of the same thing.
“Targeting would be wise, and also a more distinct advertising product. I feel operators could do more.”
“If we want to be in existence in four years’ time, we need to clean up our act.”Maarten Haijer, Secretary General of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA).
The EGBA is hoping to influence legislators with its pan-European code of conduct on advertising.
The code has been ratified by several international bodies and the EGBA also had it submitted to a gap analysis by the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA).
Despite being welcomed by regulatory bodies and many EGBA members, Haijer said some operators had been put off by monitoring costs, but he insisted that monitoring was necessary for the code to serve its purpose.
He said: “I think that also shows a bit where the industry is at, that as soon as there are costs involved, people tend to shy away from it and that’s very short-term thinking.”
He added: “The costs of monitoring a code of conduct are infinitely more limited than the cost of stricter regulation, so it’s in all of our interests to act now.”
“For us as an industry regulation will get only more stringent and we need to adjust.”Maarten Haijer, Secretary General of the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA).
A code of conduct was an important move in stepping up the industry’s game and showing a responsible attitude to business, Haijer said.
“As an industry we need to behave in the way that regulated industries do and we need to have a place in society that gives us a sustainable position.
“We need to show to the regulator, and even more importantly, to the legislator that we’re a serious industry and we take responsibility for what we do. I think we’re there at the moment.”
He added: “It’s an easy sector to look upon for more tax revenue and the lack of knowledge also makes it easier for legislators to say this is a sector where we can get some more money.
“It’s up to us as a sector, and probably also up to the regulators, to educate politicians more about it.”