Our guest this week is Pinelope Georgiou, who takes our ‘responsible gaming’ talks to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, home to the land based Melco’s Cyprus Casinos and to the upcoming City of Dreams Mediterranean, the first Integrated Casino Resort (ICR) in Europe.
Pinelope Georgiou is the Regulatory Compliance Manager and AMLRO for the group, and has kindly agreed to discuss with us some of the most pressing gambling topics.
Here’s below our Q&As session:
Pinelope, how did your career begin?
PG: My career in the gaming industry started as a Risk & Fraud Analyst, before being promoted to Senior Risk & Fraud Analyst. Currently I am the Regulatory Compliance Manager at Cyprus Casinos (which include a temporary casino in Limassol and three satellite casinos in Nicosia, Larnaca and Ayia Napa at the moment, with a fourth expected in the next few months in Geroskipou, Paphos). In 2021, Cyprus’ first integrated casino-resort, the only one of its kind in Europe, is expected to open its doors.
What is your personal relationship with gambling?
PG: For myself gaming is a recreational activity. I strongly believe that gaming is a way to unwind and relax if you keep it under control. I have only been involved in gaming activities a few times, and each time I spent only the amount I expected to spend.
What do you like about the gaming industry?
PG: When we look at the global gaming industry as a whole, it’s no surprise that the industry has seen such huge growth. I believe that there is a need for this industry to exist because many people like gaming. It’s something that they enjoy. History tells us that prohibition of activities that many people like, is not good government policy. To be honest I totally agree with this view. What I really personally like when it comes to the regulated gaming industry is that it tries to provide its customers with a safe and enjoyable environment. That is what I love; that you can never be complacent in this industry. This is what I was taught from my current job and it is one of the things that make me more passionate about my job. We are not just trying to follow the law and regulations; we really believe in Responsible Gaming and for us it’s our culture. It’s our daily commitment to offer the highest standards of service and ensure a fair and safe gaming experience for guests. This is Melco’s global hallmark.
Who left the strongest impression on you professionally, and why?
PG: Everyone I have worked with had a wealth of positive attributes and talents but one of the persons who left the strongest impression on my career path, and still continues to do so, is the Head of Regulatory Compliance at Melco Cyprus, Ms. Isobel John. She taught me that some leaders fear that delegating tasks is a sign of weakness, when in fact it is a sign of strong leadership. What I learned from Isobel is that we work as one team and respect and embrace our differences. She is masterful in communication, strategic, funny, smart and fair. The most important lesson I’ve ever been taught is that actions speak louder than words. If there was something (feature, behaviour) you could change in every person, what would it be? Every person is different; however, I think the one thing I would change is how we all perceive each other. As human beings we are very wrapped up in looks, nationality, religion, sexuality, gender, presentation, etc. If we related to each other as equal without focusing on looks and identity, we might just be happier.
What would you tell young talents who are thinking to start a career in the industry?
PG: In this industry you will always find people who are experts and have more experience in a specific domain. Don’t be afraid to let them guide you and let your skills shine through. You will learn a lot. Also, a positive attitude can go a long way.
What do you think will be the next big breakthrough in the industry?
PG: Regarding online casinos, I have read that VR platforms have just started being tested, the aim being to include this technology in gaming. VR will completely change the players’ usual online casino experience, giving them the opportunity to play a number of immersive 3D slots titles while socialising with fellow players. There’s a big chance that this technology may be a breakthrough for the Gaming industry! I have also read that a Hong Kong-based tech firm has already created the first robot croupier prototype, named Min. It is essentially a prototype, but the ideal version of this concept would be a robotic dealer who can deal cards, run a game, interact with players, and even detect cheating, all at once. However, as the gaming laws differ from country to country, I am not sure what the next big break-through will be. Who knows what’s coming…? Casinos are always looking for new ways to entertain. Expect to see more forms of entertainment on the casino floor in the next few years.
Thinking of the decades ahead, do you foresee changes in casinos and sports betting?
PG: It’s clear that the evolution of casinos will continue, with the use of new technologies but also provision of more entertainment options such as live shows, spas, fitness activities and world-class restaurants and international conferences. A glimpse into the future is provided through Melco’s integrated casino-resorts, including the forthcoming City of Dreams Mediterranean in Limassol, Cyprus. City of Dreams Mediterranean will be located in Zakaki, Limassol.
Can you imagine a future without gaming?
PG: To be honest, I cannot imagine a future without gaming, as a pure form of entertainment and not a means to get rich. For visitors who play regularly with a certain amount of money that they can afford, their minds and attention to detail are sharpened through gaming, socializing, enjoying their refreshments, live music and other attractions.
Do you think companies should do more in the field of Responsible Gaming?
PG: The most important thing in the gaming industry is that all companies commit to Responsible Gaming and introduce corporate social responsibility initiatives to protect their customers. I believe that Responsible Gaming and Anti-Money Laundering are the top priorities. However, as I mentioned before, the attention to these priorities depends on the company’s beliefs. Responsible gaming practices can cover various areas, such as allowing customers to apply deposit limits, employing self-exclusion tools, promoting and raising awareness on responsible gaming and training staff on how to assist customers who may have a gambling problem. Responsible gaming is our unwavering commitment and I can say for sure that the best weapon is prevention.
Several countries are shifting toward stricter regulations. Do you think the trend will continue?
PG: I can’t be sure; again it depends on the previous legislation and many other factors, for instance how the casino has complied with new EU requirements such as 5AMLD, etc. Internet changed gaming, making it more accessible, but this has also raised social concerns due to the exposure of vulnerable individuals.
How can we balance the pros and cons of online gaming for long-term sustainability?
PG: Compliance with the regulations is not optional. Activities or behaviors which could indicate a customer is experiencing or is at risk of developing a gambling problem, must be reviewed. Online casinos can make better use of technology to minimize the risk of harm. We all need to focus on the outcome that we want, which is safer gaming, and ensure that our interventions are having a real, positive impact on that outcome.
Do you think a gaming ban is a solution for tackling gambling addiction?
PG: Firstly, I want to mention that customer interaction is very important, as the operators need to identify and interact with customers who may express a problematic behaviour. If customers are not in a position to take an informed decision about their gaming activity, then in some cases yes, I believe that a gaming exclusion and also RG education are solutions to protect customers who are not in control.
If you had one sentence to convince world leaders to legalise gaming in their country, what would you tell them?
PG: I believe that each of us, around the world, deserves access to a gaming industry with a safe and enjoyable environment.
What would you tell your teenage child if you noticed they started to show excitement toward gambling?
PG: First of all, I would tell them that they can only play once they turn 21. At Cyprus Casinos (C2), entrance is prohibited to people under the age of 21. Then I would explain that casinos are not a means to get rich but an alternative form of entertainment. In order to stay in control, you have to set your own limits – it is the only way to enjoy gaming. It is important to decide before playing what amount you are willing to wager and what would be the acceptable loss — don’t bet money you can’t afford to lose. Play responsibly and keep it a game.
Do you have any advice for current gamblers?
PG: Gambling is a game and there is always the possibility that money wagered could be lost or gained, so enjoy the game anyway. In the same way you attend the cinema, restaurants, events, etc. and expect to pay for these pleasures; gaming is the same. Gambling should be mainly fun, not a way to earn money. If you feel that you are losing your self-control, ask for help.
Is there something else you want to add for our readers?
PG: I would also like to mention that people should play at regulated casinos only. By making sure that the entire operation has been vetted by an impartial organization, it is certain that the casino will act with safety, behave in a responsible manner and offer a fair gaming experience.
Thank you very much for your time, Pinelope!
PG: Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts on Responsible Gaming topics.