Responsible Gameplay (RG) is core to Aristocrat’s values, and mission to ‘bring joy to life through the power of play’
For millennia, people all over the world have played games as a source of fun and recreation. In modern society, gameplay remains something that many people enjoy. Aristocrat offers two main types of games:
- Social or digital video games (‘video games’), which are played on consumer devices such as mobile phones or desktops; and
- Real money, Gambling games (‘gambling games’) which are played in regulated environments such as a casinos or clubs. Aristocrat’s gambling games are distinct and highly regulated because they offer players the opportunity to:
- stake real money;
- in a game of chance; and to
- win real money.
Aristocrat’s video games, in contrast, do not offer customers the opportunity to win real money or anything of value.
Aristocrat strongly supports having rigorous rules in place that strive to ensure every aspect of the design and operation of gambling games and video games are appropriate, transparent and fair, and gives players, customers and the community confidence that this is so.
Upholding the rules and promoting responsible gameplay more generally is one of Aristocrat’s most fundamental obligations. It’s a major way that we deliver our company mission to Bring Joy to Life through the Power of Play and is a tangible demonstration of our ‘Good Business, Good Citizen’ value. We believe it’s also key to ensuring we can continue to grow our business, attract and retain great talent, and promote a sustainable games industry that’s welcome in the community.
What does Responsible Gameplay mean?
Aristocrat believes that responsible gameplay is characterised by the following criteria:
- The player is playing for pleasure or entertainment;
- The player is exercising control over their play, and any associated spending; and
- The play activity occurs in balance with other activities in their lives.
With respect to excessive gameplay, we are constantly striving to learn more. We know that it is a complex issue, and we know that there is no single, simple solution. But as an industry leader, we believe that we have an important part to play, including in terms of responsible game and product design, upholding applicable rules and regulations that apply to our games, supporting research, and encouraging and adopting best practice standards in consultation with our stakeholders.
Aristocrat strives to make a genuine and active contribution by taking steps to promote responsible gameplay across three pillars we summarise as ‘comply, empower and improve’.
- This means compliance with relevant rules, regulations and legislation. Whether that’s about data protection, privacy and platform rules for our video games, or technical standards, licensing and game regulations in our gambling games, Aristocrat works hard to comply with the laws applicable to our business.
- Aristocrat designs products in line with our values. Our games are designed to offer great entertainment experiences to a broad range of players. Product development across our business is robustly governed and informed by our Responsible Gameplay Policy.
- Aristocrat strives to empower people to make informed choices about gameplay. Across our portfolio, we’re doing more to educate and empower, because we believe player choice and empowerment is fundamental to satisfied customers and a vibrant business and industry.
- This includes delivering more training for our employees, providing players with clear information on the way our games work, investing in responsible gameplay features, and providing options that give more choice and information to players.
- Through our membership in key industry associations, we encourage our industry to be open and proactive in responding to community concerns about responsible gameplay.
- We advocate and adopt best practice standards in our own business, we invest in responsible gameplay product innovation and we contribute financially to research done by academic institutions in the US and Australia to enhance the evidence base and promote better understanding of issues relating to excessive gameplay.
- In our gambling business, we’re also active in partnering with our business customers to deliver and improve their own venue based responsible gaming initiatives.
Our priorities are formally overseen and reviewed by the Responsible Gameplay Steering Committee chaired by our CEO, Trevor Croker. In 2020, we also established a Responsible Gameplay Digital Taskforce which is focused on executing initiatives to keep our video games products at or beyond industry best practice in RG.
Our priorities change over time as we make progress and as new challenges emerge. More detail on our priorities and progress throughout the 2020 financial year is set out below.
Employee Training, Product Development Charter and Marketing Guidelines
Mandatory responsible gameplay training was deployed across our business in 2020. The course content aims to help employees understand what responsible gameplay is, their role in supporting RG and raising awareness of Aristocrat’s commitment so we can continue to grow our business and promote a sustainable games industry. Approximately 99% of eligible employees completed the training, which has also been included in mandatory training for new hires.
During the year, we launched an RG portal to provide a one stop shop for resources on responsible gameplay. The portal is continuously updated with new content and promoted regularly to our employees.
Building on the launch of a Product Development Charter in 2019, in 2020 we also developed updated Marketing Guidelines for our Gaming business. The Guidelines are designed to ensure our game, product development, marketing, and legal teams have what they need to ensure that our marketing is always consistent with our Responsible Gameplay Policy. Specifically, this means that we:
- empower players with sufficient information to help them make informed choices;
- ensure that game rules and instructions are clear to players;
- do not mislead, trick or encourage excessive gameplay; and
- find ways of going ‘beyond compliance’ to positively promote responsible gameplay.
In the coming year, we will develop a second set of Marketing Guidelines focused on our Digital business.
Informing Gaming Machine Players
During 2020, Aristocrat created a further two player information videos in a series designed to help players make informed choices and contribute to busting myths about how gaming machines work. The new videos explain what “return to player” means and how bets work on multi-line gaming machines. These complement the first video which was launched in 2019, explaining the odds of winning a jackpot.
The videos have generated positive feedback from staff, industry groups and customers, as a result of which Aristocrat is planning to create further videos in the year ahead.
Age minimums for social casino-style games
Aristocrat’s product portfolio includes free-to-play social casino-style video games. All of our social casino-style video games include multiple consumer touchpoints which make clear they are intended only for adult players (18+). These touchpoints include messages on landing pages, in platform storefronts, and on the Product Madness and Big Fish websites. We are also working with our industry associations and platform providers to encourage broader uptake of our proactive approach, and the adoption of consistent age-rating of social casino-style video games across the industry.
Increasing transparency for digital game players
We continue to take proactive steps to promote transparency in our video games. An example of this can be seen with Product Madness, Big Fish and Plarium all adopting harmonised disclosure guidelines for loot box mechanics which were rolled out across all portfolios in 2020. Loot boxes contain in-game items varying in rarity (and unknown to the player before the loot box is opened) and can only be accessed through earning points or paying a fee.
“Player Power” Resources for Video Game Players
Over the course of 2020, Aristocrat took a number of steps to further empower and inform players of our social casino-style video games. These included:
- The introduction of in-app “Responsible Play” player resources, including tips on managing in-game experiences, self-help materials and instructions on our policy for instituting self-bans;
- Unifying customer service policy and governance across Big Fish and Product Madness; and
- Unifying procedures for player self-bans, including the introduction of a ban policy.
Further player information and empowerment initiatives are planned for 2021, to expand account management options for players and continue to lead the industry.
Contribution to research
Aristocrat has provided research funding to the University of Sydney’s Gambling Treatment and Research Clinic to explore best practices relating to the deployment of responsible gambling initiatives. Aristocrat has also provided funding to the International Center for Responsible Gaming and the Nevada Council of Problem Gambling in the US. For video games, Aristocrat has been a long-time contributor to research conducted by the International Social Games Association to help build a robust fact base and support informed debate and effective policy-making in this field.
Commitment to innovation
Aristocrat has a strong reputation for its investment in the development and testing of responsible gaming features, beginning with the ‘Bluegum’ product in 2013 which trialled various features including a charity meter and alarm clock. In partnership with key customers and with the support of regulators, Aristocrat continues to develop and test options in our Gaming business that are aimed at empowering players and supporting our responsible gameplay commitments. This includes pre-commitment and self-exclusion functionality in our systems business and new measures to support payment modernisation initiatives in key markets.
Aristocrat is a bronze donor to the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG), a US charitable organisation dedicated to increasing understanding of gambling disorders and youth gambling, and to finding effective treatments.
Aristocrat is also a member of The American Gaming Association (AGA), the leading national trade group representing the US gaming industry. In January 2020, our CEO Trevor Croker was appointed Chair of the AGA for a two-year term. Aristocrat remains closely involved with the AGA’s Responsible Gaming Task Force which is focused on elevating responsible gameplay as a key priority for the industry, advocating for policy that protects consumers, and facilitating innovation.
Aristocrat is also a member of the Australasian Gaming Council (AGC) and sits on the AGC’s Board. The AGC works to promote a sustainable industry that delivers entertainment and economic benefits while promoting gambling education, responsible gaming awareness, research and evidence-based policy.
Aristocrat is also a founding member of the International Social Games Association (ISGA). We are represented on the ISGA’s Board, and we proactively support the work of the organisation, including research on video games and the development of best practices for the industry.
Raising awareness with employees
Our commitment to responsible gameplay goes to the heart of our values and is also critical to our vision of a sustainable and vibrant gaming industry that is welcome in the community. Each year in September and October we recognise major responsible gaming weeks in the US and Australia with a program of employee events.
In 2020, our program for Responsible Gaming Education Week in the US included a panel session featuring guest speaker Constance Jones, the Director of Responsible Gaming from the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM). The session was attended by around 150 employees and generated lively discussion. We were also proud to have our responsible gameplay initiatives cited in an article to mark the week, published by the American Gaming Association.
In 2020, we also marked Responsible Gambling Awareness and GambleAware Weeks in Australia. A Panel Discussion featuring a number of industry leaders and key customers was attended by over 250 employees and focused on best practice in responsible gaming across Australian markets.