AI can inspire a responsible gambling revolution

28 May 2019

Greater collaboration between responsible gambling divisions and their colleagues in CRM will be among the most important developments in enhancing the industry’s social responsibility standards.

This is the view of Simo Dragicevic, the founder and CEO of Playtech-owned responsible gambling analytics platform BetBuddy, who believes there will be a greater focus on tangible results rather than simply identifying and contacting problem punters in the coming years.

Dragicevic, who founded BetBuddy in 2010, accepts that operators choosing to reveal responsible gambling key performance indicators (KPIs) in their annual reports is a welcome development and sign that the industry is “heading in the right direction”. However, he argues that greater focus on the outcome of interventions must be the next step.

“Analytics now give us the ability to identify those at risk of problem gambling and that in itself is important,” Dragicevic said.

“However, interventions – such as an email – are not a success within themselves. It is important to track correspondence and be able to analyse whether, for example, an email is opened and acted upon, and whether underlying player behaviour changes, both in the short-term and long-term. So measuring the quality of such KPIs is even more important.

“Evaluation is key, and we can leverage existing techniques such as AB testing (a randomised experiment with two variants). We must look at how we run trials and assess whether a customer interaction achieved its objective.”

The human touch in responsibility

London-based BetBuddy, which has been integrated by a number of Playtech customers and other operators, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to track customer habits via dozens of indicators such as the number of games played and declined deposits. The ‘explainability’ layer of AI gives justifications for decisions reached, which offers visibility and transparency and some comfort to operators, regulators and others who have concerns over the design of such algorithms and use of customer data.

However, Dragicevic believes it is important that the human touch is not forgotten. BetBuddy also offers the opportunity to streamline the relationship between responsible gambling analytics and CRM. For example, a campaign can be created that targets customers identified as presenting specific behaviours – perhaps a surge in deposits - and offers them advice on how to avoid risk, such as information on cash limits.

“We are not trying to replace people with computers. We are trying to help compliance and social responsibility teams become better,” Dragicevic said.

“To improve those responsible gambling indicators and achieve results it’s possible that CRM teams could look at encouraging certain behaviours in the way they do with loyalty programmes. Perhaps players could be rewarded for reading RG messages or for setting deposit limits.”

As well as analysing customers, technology can also reduce the risk of problem gambling by scrutinising products as well as people.

BetBuddy has developed a slots rating scheme which offers players information as to the volatility of games within a portfolio, together with safer gambling messaging.

“To get better results we need more understanding of whether particular products are contributing to harm,” Dragicevic said. “The scheme, which will be trialled using a ‘chilli rating’, gives customers more information as to whether a game is right for them. They might be looking for a bit of fun and not be so concerned with a big win. Alternatively, they may be a VIP customer who is looking to take greater risks, and can afford to.

“It’s good to be able to assess the games and to give customers that information.”

Technology-led risk reduction

Simo recently featured on a panel session at the Discovery Conference hosted by the Responsible Gambling Council in which the opportunities for reducing risk via technology were discussed.
Among the talking points was how much intervention should be used to control gambling habits. The public health model is identified as being high levels of intervention via regulation, warnings, education and other means. The other end of the spectrum is the economic model, a more laissez-faire attitude by which individuals should be allowed to spend their money and time as they wish, so long as they are informed. 

“I think advocates of either the risk averse public health model or the hands-off economic model need to come together,” he said. “Times have changed and operators can no longer wash their hands of problems. Over the last 10 years it’s become plain that these issues are not going away.
“That said, gambling at a manageable level provides enjoyment for many people. For example, some people’s enjoyment of sport is perhaps heightened by betting on the outcome. The gambling industry also contributes taxes and creates jobs.

“So it’s important that decision-makers find a middle ground by regulating operators and protecting people, but also allowing companies to offer their services and let people enjoy themselves if they wish to gamble.”