03.04.2024

by Mateusz Mazur

“The moment I walked into the office at EPIC, I knew I belonged there”

In this compelling interview with Daniel Spencer, Director of Safer Gambling at EPIC Global Solutions, we delve into his deeply personal journey from a challenging relationship with gambling to becoming a key figure in safer gambling advocacy.

Can you share how your personal journey influenced your decision to focus on safer gambling and harm prevention in the industry?

From the age of 15, I gambled in a completely unsustainable way. My gambling behaviours were based on escapism and dealing with unresolved trauma. By my 30’s I had lost control and couldn’t stop. I was trying to hold down a marriage and a senior position in a FTSE 100 company as well as juggling payday loans, personal debts and a 50 hour per week poker habit. Eventually this led me to a deep depression, and I attempted to end my life.

When my problem came out to friends and family, the support was incredible and I began my recovery in January 2018. Once I had settled into my new life, I began to look at how this could have been prevented and that led me to find EPIC. Working with the industry wasn’t the goal initially but I saw that it was something I could tackle. I wasn’t bitter and knew that true change could only come about with collaboration. I also met some key players in the industry that wanted to make a difference. If we want to prevent harm, we must start at the beginning, for me that’s education, early detection, and effective intervention.

What motivated you to join EPIC Global Solutions, and how does your role as Director of Safer Gambling align with your personal values and professional goals?

The moment I walked into the office at EPIC, I knew I belonged there. It’s a great community of people who have suffered gambling related harms whether directly or indirectly. I think it’s everyone’s goal to work for a business where the employees truly care about what they do and are passionate about doing it. Becoming a director happening quite naturally as the business grew. There were 13 of us when I joined at the start of 2020 and we are now closing in on 50 employees, both in the UK and USA working with the biggest brands in the world across 31 different countries.

Your expertise in safer gambling has led to your participation in significant industry events like the Sustainable Gambling Conference. Can you share insights from your experiences speaking at these events and the impact they’ve had on promoting safer gambling practices?

I’ve been honoured to be a part of these events, it’s been great for my personal development, public speaking is never easy but I’ve had plenty of practice at this point! I think that Safer Gambling needs more exposure within the industry and through these events I can help do that. I obviously have a story to tell that goes beyond the need for compliance, it’s a human story about families and the effect we can have when things go wrong, people can connect with that. Safer Gambling teams do a great job, but they need more support from the organisations that they sit within and having teams like ours speaking about the issue in public can help increase buy-in more widely within the industry.

With your background in compliance and developmental training, how do you approach the challenge of educating both industry professionals and the public about safer gambling?

Our model for training is very simple, we are authentic, honest and raw. Our stories speak for themselves and leave the audience in a great place to work through some of the barriers to great compliance. We use a workshop model, to ensure that our delegates are an active part of our programmes. Our most popular training course is called ‘Interactions Masterclass’, where we teach them a set of soft skills that allows them to excel in their position. We don’t want to repeat what the regulator is telling them they have to do, or give them scripts or checklists, we want to level up their own set of skills to tackle this issue with a personal touch.

Safer gambling is a broad and complex issue. In your view, what are the key components that make up a comprehensive safer gambling strategy?

For me, it starts at board level. We always use a top-down approach to our consultancy and training; I’ve been able to speak to board members and executives at some of the world’s most successful operators. The strategy must match the execution, it’s no good having sound board decisions on sustainability without an engaged workforce to execute the strategy. It’s the same the other way around, I’ve seen engaged skilled teams have their decisions overruled by commercial teams; it’s harmful to the culture as well as the customers. You need great technology to assist the teams, and harness effective data but you also need to be in contact with your player base. I sometimes hear operators trying to solve this issue without talking to their customers, you have to ask yourself why?

How do you see the future of safer gambling evolving, especially with the rapid changes in technology and the increasing popularity of online gambling?

I think we will see greater cross-operator collaboration. We are beginning to understand that the Safer Gambling agenda isn’t competitive and that we can all achieve more together. We often look to a regulator to lift the floor in compliance, but as an industry, I think we should be doing more ceiling lifting!

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