Highlights from New Horizons in Responsible Gambling 2021: Player Health Reboot: Resetting the Future


More than 320 attendees gathered virtually for BCLC’s ninth-annual New Horizons in Responsible Gambling Conference on March 9 and 10, 2021. Delegates and speakers logged on from across British Columbia and Canada, the United States, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, England and Macau, among many other locations, to participate in 14 sessions addressing topics and findings around the theme: Player Health Reboot: Resetting the Future.

Keynote speaker Futurist Sanjay Khanna kicked off the conference with his address, Foresight in Gambling Innovation.

Khanna detailed the converging-crisis era the globe is grappling with: large-scale environmental and societal changes and how this era will impact the future of the gambling industry. Khanna’s address intertwined how influences like climate change and the proliferation of smart phones and social media will affect player health, social resilience and the future concept of play. He offered suggestions for how operators, product designers and policy makers can use technology, innovation and diversity to ‘reset’ and prepare for a future that is positive, resilient and sustainable.

“Bringing together new creators and inclusive design to the context of disruption is hugely important,” Khanna said. “Player health needs to be player health by design and built in at the early inception of new products and services…What we might want to see out of all of this, is a vision for diverse and inclusive play in gambling.”

In her session, Is it Gambling? Breaking Down Esports, Video Games & Social Games, Dr. Brett Abarbanel, Director of Research at the International Gaming Institute at University of Nevada, Las Vegas examined the definition of gambling and how elements of gambling and chance appear in unexpected ways in video games, esports, virtual reality and other applications.

“What do you think of when you think of the word, gambling?” she asked attendees. “A casino game, a slot machine, a poker game, the flipping of a coin at the start of a sports game, or when you role the dice in a board game?” Dr. Abarbanel examined how regulators in jurisdictions worldwide are examining these questions in determining the legality of emerging video-gaming elements like loot boxes.

“Game developers, toy designers, spectator-engagement tool creators who are putting these things together, may not even realize the potentially legal and certainly social ramifications of even just adding a simple random number generator to their games or other gambling-like elements.

“How we define gambling really starts to come into play,” she said.

In Breaking through the Sludge, Understanding Human Behaviour, Bing Feng, Senior Research Associate at Behavioural Economics in Action at Rotman School of Management, discussed how gambling operators can address ‘sludge’: broadly described as any intervention that impedes positive-decision making, the opposite of a ‘nudge’.

“Reminding people of their goal, or making their goal more salient will increase their motivation to work towards it,” she said of one approach to encouraging healthy play.

Feng highlighted recent research drawing similarities between effective tools used to increase financial literacy and positive gambling behaviours, including: setting limits, tracking behaviours impulse control, risk perception and alternative activity-seeking.

“Key behaviours can help us design better interventions and solutions,” Feng said. “Sometimes we just need to pause, and take a moment to see what we can improve and how we can make things easier and better for our end user.”

In addition to these sessions, New Horizons offered participants sessions on the emerging risks associated with self-directed investing (day trading), a discussion around the regulatory practices of sports betting and how responsible gambling can catch up with the rise of cashless technology.

To stay connected with New Horizons and for information about future virtual sessions, please visit https://horizonsrg.bclc.com/.


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