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Can AI Prevent Problem Gambling?
The UK has approximately 2.1 million adult online gamblers and 430,000 of these suffer from compulsive gambling issues. On a worldwide scale, data suggests that problem gambling affects up to 5.8% of the total worldwide population. These are staggering figures which have only been exacerbated by the Covid 19 pandemic. Which has seen more and more adults homebound with more time on their hands.
Online casinos are under immense pressure to curb these figures from governments and gambling regulators. This is where Artificial Intelligence comes into play, this innovative technology can not only help us order our shopping but can also help combat problem gambling. But how?
What is AI?
Artificial Intelligence is concerned with creating smart machines that are capable of performing a multitude of tasks that usually require human intervention. AI is a sector of computer science that has already revolutionised the way we live our lives and has been harnessed by many industries such as sports, security, and entertainment.
Long gone are the days when we associated AI with terrifying human-shaped robots in dystopian Hollywood movies. How many of us now use the likes of Siri and Alexa in our homes? The future of self-driven cars is almost here and we all rely on email spam filters as well as choosing our next TV show from a list of Netflix recommendations.
How Does AI Work?
Just like the human brain, AI needs to learn and be ‘taught’. This is what is known as ‘machine learning' and is a subset of AI which studies computer algorithms to analyse masses of data within search patterns. Over time, these machines learn from the training data which they receive and become enabled to recognise certain patterns. Without the need for additional programming, these machines continue to learn and even become capable of predicting future events.
The main advantage of AI machine learning is its capability to absorb and analyse more data than a human brain could ever achieve. It can spot the most intricate of patterns, trends, and operate ‘by itself’.
Casinos Using AI Pros & Cons
- Capability to analyse more data than human.
- Can learn and predict future events.
- Can identify signs of problem gambling.
- No privacy regulations concerning AI.
- Possibility og players incorrectly flagged.
- Unregulated casinos unlikely to use AI.
How Does AI Help to Identify Problem Gambling?
The principle is to provide the machine learning algorithm with a set of data that ‘tells’ the AI the signs of problem gambling. These can include:
- Win and loss rates
- Total monetary amount of deposits made
- Number of failed deposits
- Time spent gambling
- Log in times and frequency
- Types of games played
- Number of successful withdrawals
- Wagering information
Once the machine has learned these hallmarks it then begins to detect patterns and identify players who display these signs. It can recognise individuals who it already thinks have problems when it comes to gambling. And also provide data on those players it predicts will develop issues as time goes by.
The next step in the process is for the online casino to reach out to the player, which has stirred up some hot debates among researchers. It’s these interventions that can be difficult as some gamblers may find this step incredibly intrusive. As well as being concerned with how their personal data has been handled. Interactions must therefore be made gently and tactfully for them to be effective.
Issues Concerning the Use of AI
Using AI to identify problem gamblers might seem like the golden pass for online casinos. And whilst it’s also a huge help to those affected players, it does come with issues. Some of these are ethical, regulatory, and technical:
AI requires data to be able to learn, but there are strict laws in place when it comes to player privacy rights. Whilst the EU has the ‘General Data Protection Regulation’, the US is without any similar directive. So far there have been no regulations laid out concerning AI and data anywhere in the world.
- False Positives
No matter how effective the AI is there will always be those players who are missed or incorrectly flagged. Human intervention is still required in these cases and judgement calls will need to be made.
- Unregulated Casinos
These rogue sites are a ticking time bomb for players in many ways. These casinos are very unlikely to adopt AI technology if it means restricting their operations any further. This leaves vulnerable players even more open to abuse.
Creating historical data for AI to ‘learn’ is difficult. The way players gamble today compared to 7 years ago is very different. And constantly developing these models will become time-consuming and costly. Other issues arise concerning those problem gamblers who hop between casinos and log in once a month, remaining ‘under the radar’ of the AI detection.
What Does This Mean for the Future?
Without a doubt, AI is worth its weight in gold when it comes to helping to prevent problem gambling for online casinos. These platforms simply do not have the ‘manpower’ to ensure that all players are analysed and monitored. However, AI does need to be used with caution especially in regards to data collection and the privacy of players.
It’s possible in the future that we see AI develop to enable accurate tracking of players across various platforms. We have recently seen Facebook announce that it will begin to monitor its users' online activity to identify suicidal tendencies using AI technology. Perhaps this could link with casinos to help tackle gambling issues?
However we view AI in the industry, it should be greeted as a positive and a welcomed tool to help prevent problem gambling, allowing players to be given the support they need.
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