A warning about online casino gambling
You can call them what you like – slot machines, casino machines, roulette – they have all made their entry into our internet and mobile phones and are called online casino games. These are among the most addictive games that exist.
Norsk Tipping has offered online casino games since 2014 as part of our aim to attract players to safer gambling settings. About a year ago, we carried out a significant upgrade of our online casino portfolio so that we could offer the same games as are provided by our unregulated competitors. Popular games – they attracted many customers. The idea behind this was to give those customers who are attracted to these games the opportunity to play them within responsible and secure settings, incorporating restrictions such as mandatory loss limits.
From the outside, our games look exactly the same as those offered by our unregulated competitors. The difference is that Norsk Tipping has incorporated a number of restrictions into its games, which make them something quite different. Taken together, our stake limit of NOK 30 per spin, three seconds between spins and no fast spin or autoplay options, make our product very different. Let’s just look at an example. If you play Norsk Tipping’s Starburst game for one hour, set at the maximum stake option, you will lose NOK 1,400 kroner on average. In the same scenario playing with a private sector company you will lose NOK 134,000. In just one hour.
A clear indication of the impact of these differences can be seen in statistics revealed by the Help Line, which is used by people concerned about gambling addiction. Here, as many as 71 per cent of calls are about casino gambling offered by foreign gambling companies. Only five per cent are related to Norsk Tipping’s casino games.
But even the restrictions incorporated by Norsk Tipping are clearly inadequate. We have been following developments in the casino gambling segment very closely after our new games were introduced. And what we find is very worrying.
The share of Norsk Tipping’s revenues obtained from customers classified as “high-risk” is on the increase. This increase is the result purely and simply of the advance of online casino games, for which 55 per cent of revenues is now sourced from customers in the high-risk category. The number of high-risk players engaging in casino gambling has increased from about 6,000 to about 10,000 during the last ten months.
This is a serious matter – because when we see a trend like this among our own customers, what must it be like for those using companies that operate with maximum stakes of NOK 1000 or more per spin, with no mandatory loss limits whatsoever?
A high-risk player on our KongKasino game loses NOK 1000 per week on average, not that we want to trivialise the matter. There are big differences in how much different people can afford to lose. Behind the averages there are players who lose NOK 10,000 per month and have reached their maximum loss limit under our rules.
We know what Norsk Tipping will do about this and we have developed even more measures to lessen the unwanted impact that these games have on our customers. However, I am writing this with an uneasy feeling about the casino gambling market – that offers the most addictive games and is now seeing the highest levels of growth in the gaming sector. It is these games that are marketed most aggressively.
We know that the Swedish public health authorities have presented figures showing that 75 per cent of all revenues from private sector gambling is sourced from high-risk and problem gamblers. Nevertheless, I have yet to see a senior executive from a foreign company present his figures for high-risk gambling in the casino gambling sector.
How many problem gamblers have they identified? And what proportion of their revenues is sourced from such gamblers?
Figures from the Help Line indicate that 54 per cent of all calls received in 2018 were related to casino gambling, and the numbers are increasing. In other words, we are regressing to where we were twelve years ago when all physical one-armed bandit and fruit machines were banned because of the high numbers of problem gamblers they generated.
Norsk Tipping has chosen not to promote its casino gambling games on TV and offers no big incentives such as bonuses or free spins. But of course, we all know from the TV adverts transmitted from other European countries what is on offer in the unregulated market.
The media are saturated with foreign gambling companies and TV channels claiming that their adverts make no contribution towards generating gambling problems. They may succeed in fooling themselves, but the situation is very clear. Less advertising for online casino will mean that fewer people will play these games, which in turn will result in fewer problem gamblers.
For this reason, the proposal for changes to the Norwegian Broadcasting Act (kringkastingsloven) aimed at removing advertising and strengthening enforcement of the gambling monopoly is the right way to go.