Ian Shanahan has recently joined the Senior Leadership Team at YGAM in the role of Director of Business Development and Fundraising. He also heads up the pioneering Safer Gambling Training programme which provides expert training to customer-facing teams working in the gambling industry. Having spent many years working for Rank, Shanahan is now using his industry knowledge and experience to help raise standards in player protection.
iGaming Times: Safer Gambling is a hot topic at the moment. Do you believe progress is being made?
Ian Shanahan: I think the UK gambling industry has changed a huge amount over the past few years. It is really encouraging to see operators from all sectors now putting player protection and safer gambling initiatives at the heart of their business models. There is still lots more work to be done and we’re looking forward to working with more and more operators. I think the customer facing teams working in the gambling industry can develop by understanding gambling- related harm through the lens of lived-experience. It is vital that operators focus more on the outcomes after identifying and interacting with customers who may be at risk or experiencing harms. To move towards a consistent level of customer service, I believe there needs to be a basic level of competency, courtesy of training and staff development. I think having a national or even an international standard of training would speak volumes with government and regulators.
iGT: Tell us about Safer Gambling Training and how it differs to other training offers in the market?
Ian Shanahan: Our Safer Gambling Training programmes are the result of a unique collaboration between YGAM and Betknowmore UK. We’ve joined forces to develop a purposeful new training programme to provide gambling industry employees with specialist online training to strengthen player protection standards and effectively safeguard consumers from gambling-related harm. The collaboration combines specialist knowledge, lived experience insight and research to create one of the most advanced and comprehensive training programmes globally.
The training content is all relevant to the Gambling Commissions latest LCCP requirements and has received funding from regulatory settlements to support the delivery of the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling-related Harms. The Canada-based Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) is also involved in the alliance acting as independent evaluation partners.
These programmes are available as a suite, bespoke bundles, or individual workshops, offering complete flexibility to align the training with the business requirements. All training can be completed online, with eac programme taking around 60-minutes to complete. The training can be easily accessed on PC, laptop or tablet at a time that suits the learner. All profits made from Safer Gambling Training are directed back into the YGAM and Betknowmore charities to help support their social purpose.
iGT: What does the Safer Gambling Training content comprise of?
Ian Shanahan: We have six interactive digital training programmes which cover key topics including customer vulnerability, safeguarding, customer interaction, identifying harm and employee mental health and well-being. The training and resources have been developed using a methodology which adopts advanced eLearning techniques to keep the learn engaged and interacting with the programme.
The programmes comprise: Understanding customer vulnerability in a gambling environment: The aim of this programme is to raise learner awareness of customer vulnerability, in order to support an operator’s own Safer Gambling initiatives. Employees will explore what is meant by vulnerability, why it is important to recognise it and how this can help an operator in fulfilling its corporate responsibilities. By the end of the workshop, employee will be able to understand what is meant by ‘customer vulnerability’, identify potentially vulnerable groups, and describe the factors that can trigger vulnerability.
Understanding gambling-related harms: This 2-part programme explores Gambling Related Harms within the context of the individuals, families and communities in Part A. Employees will understand the factors that can make people more vulnerable to Gambling Related Harms and how recreational gambling can get out of control. Part B is told through the eyes of Joe and his journey through gambling addiction. Employees will be introduced to the work of psychologist Dr Custer to help identify gambling related harms in customers.
Understanding safeguarding and managing welfare: This programme is designed to give staff the information and confidence to identify safeguarding and welfare issues, exploring legal responsibilities within the gambling industry. Focus on safeguarding at risk groups and managing welfare issues relevant to gambling. Employees will be upskilled in recognising when someone is at risk of gambling-related harms and how to make an appropriate intervention.
Awareness of gambling support services: The objective of this programme is to give employees the knowledge needed to signpost vulnerable customers towards help and support. Staff will explore the organisations that support gamblers and the protections that are available to help customers take control when gambling becomes disordered. By the end of the workshop employees will be able to signpost to the different types of support services available and explain what they do.
Health and wellbeing: The health and wellbeing of employees is of increasing concern to all organisations, and the gambling sector is no exception. Dealing with customers who are expressing heightened and even extreme emotions can take its toll on an individual’s mental health and wellbeing, and this in turn represents a risk to the effectiveness of your organisation. The aim of this programme is to raise awareness of situations that may cause stress or contribute to mental or physical health issues, and to equip learners with tools, tips and techniques to help them to maintain their wellbeing and work life balance.
iGT: How has the industry responded to the Safer Gambling Training programme during the first year since you launched?
Ian Shanahan: The response we have had from the industry has been overwhelmingly positive. I think they have embraced our concept and content because it is so advanced to what has previously been in the market. We’ve created something that really helps raise standards but also meets the specific needs of individual operators. Our team has been very busy attending trade shows in Barcelona, London and Malta. We’ve used these events to have some really positive conversations with operators and stakeholders. I’m delighted to say we already have a number of large operators committing to long-term contracts which will see thousands of staff across the industry complete our training. We’ll be sharing some exciting news on these partnerships in the coming weeks.
iGT: With the pressure on margins in a sector that can’t share price hikes with its customers, can you understand how staff training might get pushed down the agenda for some operators?
Ian Shanahan: This has not been evident and if anything, the operators have moved to increase their team training to better support their customers as they come back into the business. Safer gambling should be at the core of every operator’s strategy moving forward. It shouldn’t just be a tick box exercise for operators and should instead enrich their business whilst also protecting their customers. I am constantly having really constructive conversations with operators about how this training can not only raise standards in harm prevention but also improve the knowledge, skills and development of their staff team.
iGT: You have also recently been promoted to the leadership team at YGAM as Director of Business Development and Fundraising. What does your new role involve and what plans does the charity have for 2020?
Ian Shanahan: It is an exciting time to work for YGAM as we start planning for our third strategic plan next year. We now have a strong portfolio of education programmes which provide training and resources to teachers, youth workers, parents, carers, health professionals, universities and faith leaders. Our fantastic team is growing, and our impact is increasing. Through the Young Peoples Gambling Harm Prevention programme alone, we’ve reached nearly one million young people in 2021. Next year is all set to be our biggest and most successful year yet so look out for us.