Christina Thakor-Rankin – Saving the Gambling Industry
The next installment in our interview series is with Christina Thakor-Rankin, the Co-Founder of the All-In Diversity Project. She kindly took the time to explain to us why diversity is important, not just in regards to fairness, but also how it is essential to the future of the industry and how the All-In Diversity Project is working to address this.
Please could you tell us a little about yourself and what drove you to create the All-In Diversity Project?
In a word - frustration. Frustration that 10 years on from the very first Women in Gaming initiatives, nothing had actually really changed, and frustration that hugely talented and experienced individuals from a huge range of backgrounds and cultures were being dismissed out of hand or ignored simply because they did not fit the industry's perception of what 'talent' looks like - mainly male and white.
Diversity is obviously a good thing, creating opportunities for people of all backgrounds and bringing in new perspectives. How do you think this relates to the gambling industry?
That's easy. Just look at our customer base. Is it homogenous? No. We have customers of every creed, color, culture, gender, race, ability, and sexual orientation. Historically we have simply taken what is essentially a Western product and put it out there.
The birth of the internet suddenly extended our customer base from local to global, and the industry's reaction to a more international product suite has been to develop games based on social and racial stereotypes or throw in a few live dealers dressed in a sari or cheongsam. That might have worked for previous generations, but not now. The next generation of players (tail end of the Millennials and the start of Gen Z) expect the world they interact with to reflect their values which are very much centered around diversity, equality, and inclusion. If this industry is not able to adapt to their world vision, it will not survive long term.
Would you say that the gambling industry poses many unique challenges in relation to diversity and inclusion?
The biggest challenge is that the industry is set in its ways. Just look at the various conferences and events. The only event organizer to have genuinely gone beyond the traditional predominantly male and white speaker line-up is Eventus. ICE and G2E continue to acknowledge the need to spotlight different groups but are still very much focusing on women rather than all under-represented groups.
To a generation for whom intersectionality is the norm, this continued categorization by gender, ethnicity, sexual preference, or ability is starting to look a little cheugy. SBC at their last event had very few women compared to men but tried to balance this putting the ones they had on the main stage (rather than being relegated to the periphery, which is all too often the case) and on subjects which were of interest to all.
The statistics on your homepage suggest that despite close to half of all employees in the industry being female, they are under-represented at major industry events. Is that a fair assessment, and how has the Project addressed it?
It is a fair assessment, and in breaking news, we are in the process of setting up a database of potential speakers, panelists, writers, and contributors representing all aspects of the industry to talk not about D & I as an HR issue but as a business and strategic conversation, from which event organizers and publishers can draw. We'd like to cover everything from recruitment to product design, fraud, responsible and safer gambling to how we can make our products, premises, and services as accessible as possible through the use of technology such as voice and audio, virtual reality, and enabling software.
How does a more diverse work environment reflect on company operations, in your opinion? Is it also limited to the business itself, or does it also affect the customers' perspective?
Innovation and engagement. Diversity of thought is about bringing together different views and perspectives and playing off each other.
Innovation is unlikely to happen when you have a team where everyone thinks and feels the same - innovation needs the ability to think and see things differently to generate that spark of 'what if we did this?'
From a customer perspective, how can you possibly as a business adapt to changing preferences, trends, and demographics unless you have those who are aware of these changes in your business. The biggest lesson (and I am not sure the industry has learned from it) is that it has failed to engage with Millennials because the people running the business are not. Unless they start to pull their finger out now, they are about to repeat that error of judgment with generation Z.
Some of the biggest names in iGaming are at the foundations of the Project, and more keep joining. What are some of the biggest changes they've pledged to integrate, and have you seen positive results so far?
The results speak for themselves. In 2018 Entain were quite low down the league table. They made the strategic decision to take a wider world view. In 2019 they topped the table. They are also now one of the most successful and valuable businesses in the industry.
Just below them (with only a point between them) came IGT, another phenomenally successful business and darling of the New York Stock Exchange. Our first ever members and supporters were Paddy Power (now Flutter Entertainment) and Caesars - just look at them now and compare them to those who have yet to wake up to the benefits of being able to tap into every possible pool of talent, irrespective of the shape, color or form in which it comes.
Is there something that you are particularly proud of that the Project has achieved?
The fact that we are still here, we're still growing, and we're starting to gain momentum. Most importantly, that we are educating, engaging, and starting to drive change in an industry we are hugely proud to be a part of.
Finally, what can we expect to see from the All-In Diversity Project in the future?
Taking what we have created in the betting and gambling sector out to other industries with the publication of the world's first officially recognized international standard and code of practice for diversity, equality, and inclusion in the workplace – watch this space!
It is clear that the All-In Diversity project is carrying out vital work, making the gambling industry fairer, creating more opportunities, and also safeguarding its future. We are extremely grateful to Christina for taking the time to answer our questions, and we look forward to following her work over the coming months and years.