If a word could capture the last decade of global debate, it would be ‘sustainability’ – and the same is true within the iGaming sector. With technology at their core, industry players are uniquely positioned to harness their platforms’ power to inspire and engage people worldwide, which makes them essential partners in addressing the climate crisis and other societal issues.

And the big names among the world’s online betting and gaming operators know this. In fact, in November 2020, Entain launched its comprehensive Sustainability Charter to step things up a notch and formalise its belief that long-term sustainability is the key to even longer-term success.

“Sustainable businesses are vital to the integrity of the iGaming industry,” begins Karl Gonzi, who joined Entain as Managing Director of its Malta office in 2019. From the island, the multinational gaming giant works on some of the sector’s most iconic brands, including bwin, Ladbrokes, PartyCasino and Sportingbet. Entain still runs significant operations out of its hubs in Gibraltar, the UK, Austria and elsewhere, but opening an office in Malta was important to secure an anchor in Europe’s iGaming capital.

Worth over €1.1 billion, Malta’s gaming sector has blossomed into one of the most progressive and innovative markets globally. “To this day, iGaming remains one of the country’s biggest sources of employment, to which Entain is now contributing several career opportunities,” continues Mr Gonzi. “Our local team has almost tripled in the last year alone, and while we’re growing, we’re being strategic rather than prioritising growth for the sake of it. Our purpose is to revolutionise sports betting and gaming to create the most exciting and trusted entertainment for our customers.”

To this end, Entain’s Sustainability Charter consolidates its sustainability goals under four pillars: Regulation, Responsibility, Corporate Governance, and People and Communities. The aim is to add real value to its customers and employees, thereby creating thrilling moments, elevating player protection, and ensuring that the business is built on solid foundations with a view to ensuring long-term stability and growth.

Karl Gonzi headshot1
Karl Gonzi, Managing Director of Entain’s Malta office

“As the first of our sustainability pillars, regulation is vital. Without it, we would be working in a grey area where risk and uncertainty are high,” explains Mr Gonzi. “Entain operates in nationally regulated or regulating markets, to give us more control as a business. Within an established and sensible legislative framework, we can forecast more accurately and take action more effectively to sustain our business. It also gives peace of mind to our shareholders, players and other stakeholders.”

Still, the evolution of regulation is crucial in an ever-changing tech space like iGaming. A case in point is the recent consultation process run by the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) regarding the streamlining of the return-to-player percentage (RTP) applicable to remote and land-based gaming.

“By consulting industry players before enacting RTP-related changes to its regulations, the MGA could base its research on expert opinion about the current market and player experience. It is this kind of pro[1]active regulator engagement that leads to real, effective and sustainable industry advancement,” asserts Mr Gonzi.

Entain’s second sustainability principle centres on the responsibility it holds towards its players. “The company is taking a scientific approach to safer gambling by leveraging technology,” clarifies the Managing Director. “Our team is working on a ground-breaking AI-assisted system we’re calling our ARC (Advanced Responsibility and Care) programme. The idea is to protect players and proactively, and in real time, assess risk and direct players into a safer gambling experience when necessary. Through this system, we’ll be able to identify a player’s gambling problem before it manifests itself. What’s more, from 2021, a responsible gambling metric is being incorporated into the company’s annual bonus conditions too.”

Likewise, the Group is also raising the bar for corporate governance – its third sustainability pillar. By strengthening its board, introducing more diversity, and developing robust corporate governance structures and policies, Entain is setting the highest operational standards that befit its status as a FTSE 100 company.

“We are also committed to being the best place to work,” continues Mr Gonzi. “As a people-driven business, we strive to find, develop and retain the best talent from all backgrounds. We value our employees’ judgement and encourage them to bring their ethics to work.” The company has also committed €115 million to community initiatives worldwide through its Entain Foundation, which – among other projects – drives and supports research, sport, and education and treatment relating to safer gaming.

“In Malta, we joined an industry-wide initiative to procure face masks for frontliners during the pandemic, we are aiming to become carbon-neutral by 2035, and we are also involved in clean-ups and other community endeavours,” explains Mr Gonzi in his closing remarks. “By tackling sustainability’s many faces, I believe Entain will continue solidifying itself as one of the world’s biggest names in iGaming. Importantly, when there is the drive to improve, the entire sector stands to benefit: it will become safer, more inclusive and, ultimately, more sustainable.”

This interview was first carried in the summer edition of iGaming Capital magazine, the sister brand to iGamingCapital.mt

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