And the winner of Responsible Gambling Operator of the Year Award for 2017 is… no one.

Yes, we had a strong range of entries from a number of companies doing some impressive things. However, our judging panel came to the decision that no company had done quite enough to justify the prize.

No one can argue that public confidence in the gambling industry has not deteriorated in a number of major markets over the past year.

In a year in which operators have been forced to pay millions in settlements for failings in their responsible gambling safeguards, it would have taken something particularly special to secure this prize.

Last year Kindred walked away with this prize for the work it had done, but people's expectations of effective responsible gambling controls have moved on a long way in a year.

Kindred Group's Maris Bonello sparked the company's current approach, which aims to detect rather than react to problem gambling. Mr Green's renewed focus on social responsibility, Green Gaming, is a noteworthy example, led by the mastermind of responsible gambling Jesper Kärrbrink. The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation's (OLG) PlaySmart is an also an excellent initiative that uses education to help prevent problem gambling habits.

These are all effective approaches that should be adopted by all.

"The industry needs to try and solve the riddle of making gambling a safe form of entertainment," says one of our judges, Laura da Silva Gomes of Silverfish CSR.

This could begin with something as simple as allocating more resources to measuring the effectiveness of responsible gambling controls.

More emphasis should be put on assessing how any responsible gambling measure has helped reduce problem gambling, or whether it has changed the way this issue is dealt with, either in the long- or short-term.

Responsible gambling efforts could be boosted further if the industry is willing to apply a fraction of the creativity used to communicate its brand and product to customers.

"The industry should be deploying a similar level of energy, positivity and resources to how it promotes responsible gambling as a leisure activity," GIA judge Pearse McCabe of McCabe Brands says. "It needs to be thought of less as something companies have to do, and more as something which has positive outcomes for all, namely the long-term sustainability of their brands and the industry as a whole."

Sky Bet has recently started broadcasting TV spots which explain what the 'When the fun stops, stop' message carried by all gambling ads in the UK actually means. Presented by Sky Sports anchor Jeff Stelling, it's a small but effective way of properly communicating the importance of responsible gambling rather than relegating it to a quick flash on the screen.

With the UK Gambling Commission and Malta Gaming Authority looking to shift to a results-based approach to regulation and away from the current prescriptive strategy, there will be more room for innovation.

Even small steps can have a major impact, da Silva Gomes believes. Small moves can have huge consequences, and there are already a number of operators and suppliers trying new things. These could change the way responsible gambling is tackled.

What is arguably most important is for gambling operators to think of responsible gambling and corporate social responsibility as central to their businesses. For many companies it is a necessary evil rather than a central part of the business.

When responsible gambling becomes more than just a way to improve a company's image, and an important part of how a gambling business is run, this prize will be awarded. Some companies are moving in the right direction, but no one is quite there yet.

 

GIA 2018 Winners:

Sports betting operator of the year - Sky Betting & Gaming
Poker operator of the year - PokerStars
Bingo operator of the year - Stride Gaming
Casino operator of the year - PokerStars Casino
Social casino operator of the year - Aristocrat Leisure
Lottery operator of the year - La Française des Jeux
One to watch – operator award - VideoSlots
Operator innovation award - The Stars Group - Stars Rewards
eSports operator of the year - Pinnacle
Marketing campaign of the year - LeoVegas - Hitta.se
Social casino supplier of the year - Scientific Games
Sports betting supplier of the year - SBTech
Poker supplier of the year - Playtech
Bingo supplier of the year - Playtech
Marketing solutions provider of the year - Beehive 
Casino supplier of the year - NetEnt
Game of the year - Playtech - Age of the Gods
Supplier innovation award - Scientific Games OneVoice
Lottery supplier of the year - Scientific Games
One to watch – supplier award - Red Tiger Gaming
eSports supplier of the year - Betgenius 

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