The annual New Horizons Conference in Responsible Gambling, hosted by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), attracts critical and forward thinkers that consider how the gambling industry can improve its role in developing meaningful responsible gambling tools. Last year, BCLC committed itself to a long-term aspirational goal of future proofing the industry — a point where no gambling revenue would be generated by those exhibiting problem gambling or gambling disorder. This year’s theme was Player Health Reboot: Resetting the Future.

Futurist Sanjay Khanna detailed the large-scale environmental and societal changes the globe is grappling with and how this era will impact the future of the gambling industry. Khanna explained 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 on 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. He emphasized that player health needs to be considered by design and incorporated into the early inception of new products and services.

Another thought-provoking session was presented by Dr. Brett Abarbanel, director of research at the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She 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.

Dr. Abarbanel explained how the word gambling can mean different things to different people. She noted that it can mean a casino game, a slot machine, a poker game, the flipping of a coin at the start of a sports contest, or when rolling the dice in a board game. Regulators in jurisdictions worldwide are challenged by these questions in determining the legality of emerging video-gaming elements such as loot boxes.

“Game developers, toy designers and 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,” says Dr. Abarbanel. “How we define gambling really starts to come into play.”