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Emily D. Swoboda
 

Trying to Push in the Right Direction

12 December 2005

Two brothers from the United Kingdom have developed an online crisis intervention service for Internet and mobile gamblers facing self-control issues.

The Gordon House Association, a British charity organization that provides residential support to gamblers recovering from addiction, began marketing "GamAid/GamStop" to online gambling operators in September.

Kevin Farrell-Roberts, a social worker and CEO of Gordon House, masterminded the therapeutic aspects of the service, while Tony Roberts, CEO of U.K.-based Internet solutions group Datasmith Ltd., designed the system and handled the technical aspects. The project itself belongs to Gordon House.

Datasmith and Gordon House shared the cost of developing the software, and they are looking to the government and the industry to help get the project off the ground.

The system, in Roberts' words, "provides problem gamblers with a personal, one-to-one professional advice service which has information about local support wherever the gambler lives."

"The advisor," he said, "also can help someone who wants to self-exclude to do so, and can provide a copy of GamStop for the gambler to run on their PC. GamStop detects attempts to gamble online, and instead refers the user back to GamAid."

Roberts said the project is the result of many conversations between him and his brother about the lack timely support for online problem gamblers.

The brothers intended to offer an open-enrollment, three-month free trial to online gambling operators beginning Dec. 1, but plans were changed after funding issues created a road block. They switched gears and decided to work with a select group of operators as a test group and from there assess the demand for the service.

They have since applied to the U.K. gambling industry's Responsibility in Gambling Trust for funding for the operational support of the pilot and are waiting for approval. Roberts is hopeful it will be approved by Christmas so that they can get the pilot off the ground Jan. 1.

Reports said that Betfair, Ladbrokes and Sportingbet have agreed to offer the service during the trial and that one other "major (non-U.K.) operator" has agreed in principle to join.

He also said that despite the delayed launch, GamAid has been well received so far.

"We could not have been more pleased with the response from the industry and from the regulators we have discussed it with," Roberts said. "We also have had support from the Remote Gambling Association (RGA)."

The partners began developing the project in September 2004 with the creation of a proof-of-concept service, building on the success of the gambling therapy e-helpline, GamblingTherapy.org, started earlier that year by Gordon House and Datasmith. The helpline site now welcomes about 120,000 visitors a year.

"The goal of the project is to see just how useful this idea is in practice--to see how many visitors will there be," Roberts said. "How useful will GamAid’s advice be? Will operators find the service a good way to meet Social Responsibility objectives? If the three-month pilot is successful, then we shall offer the service to all."

If all goes well, gambling operators who participate in the GamAid program will be licensed to display a link on their Web sites (near the point at which customers fund their accounts) leading to a page with advice and practical help concerning responsible gambling.

The goal, Roberts said, is to get the entire industry on board.

"We would like to see a button like this on every e- and m-gaming site," he said, "and we would like to see all regulators and trade associations require such a link as a matter of good practice."

Trying to Push in the Right Direction is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Emily D. Swoboda
Emily D. Swoboda