Machine learning and artificial intelligence are hot buzzwords in addressing problem gambling. Most operators already have some form of an intelligent system for identifying problematic behavior, but new regulations will likely push this use to nearly 100% in the next few years. Presently, these tools are mostly being used to identify players who are showing clear signs of problematic play, and customer service reps/responsible gaming departments are using these flags to interact with the players. This is a great use of the technology, but the key to unlocking the full power of this intelligence will be to move upstream. If we move to early identification of subtle behavior changes and then implement well-timed and carefully written automated messaging, we should increase our chances of nudging players back towards play which is less likely to result in gambling harm.
I’ve never been much of a believer in friction as a solution to address or prevent problem gambling. If a person has the desire to gamble, the amount of friction doesn’t matter. And in some ways, it can actually stoke frustration and heavier gambling to blow off steam from the annoyance. In a text from a good friend (and new online sports bettor), this point was highlighted in a way I hadn’t previously considered. Mark mentioned that he noticed one operator logging him out of his account at more frequent intervals than another. Traditional wisdom would see this as a good thing as it creates a little friction between thinking about a bet and placing it. However, it is having the opposite effect on him as he finds himself irritated by the process and staying more active on the app to avoid this logging out. The takeaway here isn’t that friction is good or bad, but rather that it is complicated. Talking to gamblers and getting feedback as to how our strategies are being received is necessary as we evolve and refine them.
Problem Gambling Rates
The more I consider the current landscape of macro and micro contributors to problem gambling, the more I believe we should expect to see rising problem gambling rates in the future. Even if I was granted 50 wishes by a magical genie to instantly implement my top 50 ideas/strategies for gaming operators, game designers, treatment & prevention efforts, and other key stakeholders, I still believe we might see a rise in problem gambling rates. If millennials do indeed become the first generation to do worse than their parents, then it would make sense that more and more individuals in this age demographic (and those to follow) will take on more risks in an attempt to attain the things they believe they should have based on their parents lives. Time will tell, but it’s always important to consider these factors beyond the walls of traditional gambling which influence behavior.