Valentina Dobre Interview – (EEGReport Magazine – Issue 4 – October 2016 – January 2017)
EEGReport Magazine: It’s been a while since you’ve started together with ROMSLOT the development of the “Responsible Gambling” program in Romania. What is the development of the project and what is the progress since our last interview
V.D.: Yes, several years have passed since then. Also, the program has a strong tradition of its own, as it was launched 4 years ago. The “Responsible Gambling” program was an innovative initiative for the Romanian gambling market at the time of its establishment, not to mention the fact that it was launched proactively. This premiere for the local landscape, the “Responsible Gambling” platform, was and still is a self-regulation program which was born from the interest for nurturing a responsible attitude towards the gambling actions among both operators and players.
The initiative grew in time and is currently developed by ROMSLOT together with Romanian Bookmakers association. The program has
now national coverage and psychology clinics in Bucharest, Cluj and Iasi, the 3 most important regions of Romania, but any person from Romania can receive specialized counseling though a free of charge HELPLINE. Besides this, it is important to remind that the persons with gambling issues also: beneficiate for free of online self-testing sessions, on www.jocresponsabil.ro, can have a free evaluation and counseling sessions at one of the program’s clinics, can read informative materials about responsible behavior in gaming halls.
More than that, as this responsible behavior is encouraged among all actors from our industry (be they players or the operators and their employees), the program also ensures training courses for the persons working in this industry, which are held by the program’s psychologists.
The fact that the program grew and offers a real help at national scale can be seen also from figures, as last year, the programs website was visited by almost 18.600 unique visitors who accessed the informative materials, or the auto-evaluation tests or read more about the program itself.
Besides this, the messages of the program and the encouragements towards responsible behavior when gambling were also disseminated through dedicated events, be they organized by the „Responsible Gambling” program or by other entities which invited the „Responsible Gambling” team to talk about the platform and about the best methods for approaching the gambling problems topic.
The positive results didn’t fail to appear. We can see that people take this subject more and more seriously and think about it. For example, last year, almost 1,200 persons called the HELPLINE and beneficiated of free psychological counseling (mostly men).
The fact that the program set the Romanian standards for responsible gambling and that it has a complex approach on this topic, through a varied range of services, is also shown by the fact that other players from the market followed the model and the idea of our initiative. This pleases us as it proves that the general interest towards a responsible behavior and for promoting healthy business approaches is rising. These positive signs are coming to the “Responsible Gambling” team from a newer segment of our market, as well: the online gambling sector, as we were approached by players active on this segment.
EEGReport Magazine: We’ve noticed that you have the support of many psychologists, including the most famous psychologist “DR. Cristian Andrei”. We can say you have a real team of specialists ready to give a helping hand to those that struggle with diverse problems. Tell us more about this team and what they managed to achieve until now in terms of providing a professional Responsible Gambling service.
V.D.: Our interest is to offer a real long term support to persons with gambling problems and to help them have a responsible, balanced and mature approach on the topic, to help them see that gambling is just entertainment and a relaxing activity, during which you have fun and spend quality time with other members of the community or with friends. For having a correct perception on this activity, balance is needed, like in any other segment of life, in fact.
To succeed in bringing a real and long term help to those having an issue, the “Responsible Gambling” program needed a strong team with specialists with various areas of expertise and with a vast experience behind. That is why, the platform has a national coverage and psychology clinics in Bucharest, Cluj and Iasi and an extended team of psychologists.
This network is coordinated by me along with a team of 3 experts with an extended expertise in various segments of psychology:
- Cristian Andrei who also has a degree in psychiatry and is specialized in treating similar problems in other industries as well (to have an interdisciplinary and cross-industry approach on the topic).
- Leliana Valentina Pârvulescu, who is psychologist and the “practical” coordinator of the program and has an extensive experience as psychologist. Also, Dr. Pârvulescu is specialized in innovative treatment techniques, is also sociologist and trainer specialized in, NLP, F.A.C.S and body language. Besides these, Dr. Pârvulescu is an expert in behavioral analysis and evaluation, nonverbal language and truth evaluation, just to mention some of her expertise segments.
- Psychologist Steliana Rizeanu, who is the “scientific” coordinator of the program, having a PHD in psychology in topics related with gambling problems. Also, Dr. Rizeanu is author of several books approaching this very topic.
This structure and team (which will continue to grow in parallel with the development of the program) makes us confident that the gambling related problems are approached and managed with utmost care and that the persons who enter the program overpass their issue and can continue their activity in a balanced and responsible way.
EEGReport Magazine: As the number of players rises, so does the number of problems. What are your plans for the near future in overcoming unexpected situations in the online gambling industry?
V.D.: As the market develops, the landscape becomes more complex it is true. But, in the same time, so do the opportunities, the interest of the local market for responsibility.
What I mean by this is that due to the various educative and communication actions, unfolded in the past years by the “Responsible Gambling” program, this topic was put on the public agenda, the interest for it grew, the model of our platform inspired others to launch initiatives or similar messages.
Also, another thing that encourages us, is that people started more to get in touch with us and to beneficiate by the assistance offered by our program.
Besides this, the development of the online sector and their interest in approaching the “Responsible Gambling” sector makes us be hopeful for the future, as there is place for joining efforts and for promoting the responsible behavior principles both online and offline, for the overall benefit of the Romanian market.
EEGReport Magazine: Can you give us a statistic, or tell us more about how the Romanian gamblers, compared to other European gamblers, manage to overcome personal gambling problems? Are the Romanian gamblers overcoming these issues better than other countries?
V.D.: The most recent statistics on this topic are those offered by a national research conducted by GfK (research company) and ROMSLOT, in 2013. It was the first study on the local market ever done, proactively started by ROMSLOT, and shows us that, compared to other markets, Romanians’ the interest in slot machines is quite lower compared to other European markets.
For example, out of the total number of adult Romanians, only 3% played in the last year at slot machines. Out of them, only 1% played weekly. Compared to these local figures, according to international statistics, the number of people gambling in other European countries is 4 times larger, in Britain approx. 13% of the population was playing at slot machines in 2010.
One of the reasons for explaining these percentages is that, in Romania, playing the Lottery is a lot more popular, as approx. 20% of the population plays here, out of which 5% plays weekly at the Lottery.
Given the lower dimension of the market compared to other countries, the gambling problem phenomenon has, implicitly, a lower intensity. Nevertheless, this is not a reason to neglect its importance and risk potential.
That is why, the “Responsible Gambling” program approaches the gambling problems topics very seriously and continues its efforts of educating the market and of underlining the importance of having a responsible behavior both as a business and as a player. We are the first who militate for this durable business approach, as we believe that the market has to enter and to “play” in the “responsible profit” era.
EEGReport Magazine: Tell us more about your future projects and aims.
V.D.: As I was mentioning, we will continue to unfold communication and educative campaign and activities (workshops, conferences, participation at local and international events approaching the Responsibility topic) and to militate for promoting a responsible approach when conducting a business or as a player.
As the market develops and enters on newer segments (like the online gambling sector) we will stay opened and work with companies from the local market in order to grow our initiative and to meet the needs generated by these online and offline expansions.
EEGReport Magazine: Do you have partnerships with companies from other countries, or plans for a common platform involving similar projects?
V.D.: The core objective of our program is to expand our activities, counseling services and responsibility campaigns as much as we can, so that we can promote the “responsible gambling” concept and “responsible way of doing business” as much as we can, as far as we can. That is why, as I was previously mentioning, we are always open to collaboration and are currently investigating how we can grow this platform so that it can truly offer tailored help for players coming from various gambling environments (e.g.: online segment, besides than traditional offline gambling).
EEGReport Magazine: Helping gamblers that struggle with diverse problems is a very good thing, but preventing problems is even better. What should be done in order to prevent such problems in the future, rather than combating them?
V.D.: It is known that prevention is the best treatment. This is precisely why, a strong component of the “Responsible Gambling” program is focused on “education” and on having constant activities through which to transmit the messages regarding the importance of responsible gambling (from articles in the media, to workshops on this topic, to hosting or participating as speakers in conferences, both at local and international level).
In short, education and helping all actors from the gambling market realize the importance of responsibility and of having a sustainable approach is the key for having a healthy and successful business and industry.
EEGReport Magazine: And lastly, tell us about the vision of your company. Where do you see this company in 5 years from now?
V.D.: The greatest wish is to continue the directions started together with my colleagues and to develop at a larger scale the projects we initiated. To militate for a better legislative framework, which also takes into account the legitimate interests of our specific industry and to continue to promote the “responsible gambling” concept and the CSR principles.