How to keep responsible gaming entertaining

20th March 2020 10:08 am GMT

Scientific Games chief product officer Tim Bucher has been working with regulators throughout the world to trial technology that makes gaming products safe for everyone.

The rollout of the Anonymous Player Awareness System (APAS) in the UK’s betting shops has the potential to be game-changing for an industry that has been hit hard by the government’s decision to drop the maximum bet on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) to £2.

As one of the chief suppliers of FOBTs, Scientific Games worked with the UK’s bookmakers to develop a technology that uses artificial intelligence algorithms to spot play that could be leading to dangerously addictive behaviour. For example, this might be players chasing losses with increased bets to counter heavy losses.

Pop-up messages are triggered to suggest it might be time to take a break, while shop staff are also alerted to consider an intervention. Importantly, the whole thing is done anonymously, saving the need for a player card.

“We think that it’s one of the many pieces in the puzzle to make responsible gambling a reality,” says Scientific Games chief product officer Tim Bucher.

Silicon Valley-based Bucher and other Scientific Games thought-leaders regularly participated in discussions during the past year with the UK Gambling Commission about the company’s responsible gaming technology. The UK regulator has been a trailblazer in driving the industry towards more responsible behaviour, and towards the protection of players.

Bucher continues: “The UK Gambling Commission does not want the responsible gambling element to suppress the entertainment. If you suppress the entertainment, you might make gaming responsible but you will also defeat the industry and make the whole market non-existent.”

Scientific Games is developing other technologies that make gaming more responsible. One of those is anonymous computer vision technology. “Computer vision technology, object detection technology, behaviour detection technology and emotion detection technology – it’s real now,” says Bucher. “Behind it all sits artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

However, the expertise needed to utilise these technologies is not widespread in the gaming industry. This has encouraged Scientific Games to look beyond its office walls for a partner at the cutting-edge of computer vision technology. The company has teamed up with Amazon Web Services to develop custom versions of Amazon’s computer vision technology for the gaming industry.

The first product of this collaboration is SG Vision. This puts cameras in gaming machines, lottery terminals and games tables that will help identify players – albeit anonymously. This can be used to verify players’ ages but perhaps more excitingly, it could also be used in conjunction with APAS.

SG Vision can generate a unique ID for every player that can be used across different locations and different companies. This means a player that has self-excluded or been warned about irresponsible behaviour cannot just leave William Hill and pop into Ladbrokes and carry on gambling.

SG Vision and APAS together can potentially provide the silver bullet that skewers many anti-gambling campaigners’ arguments against machine gaming in the UK. And it could, of course, be used in any jurisdiction.

“The UK Gambling Commission loved it,” says Bucher. “We are in trials and working very closely with all regulators.”

The third prong of Scientific Games’ responsible gambling innovations is PlayMyWay, which is a card-based tool that has been around for a bit longer than APAS and SG Vision. It was first adopted in Australia and New Zealand, and has since been used in the US and elsewhere. The technology allows players to set limits, view responsible gaming information and potentially self-exclude from games. It is a voluntary card-based tool linked to Scientific Games’ CMS and potentially, to a lottery’s central system.

“We are working on a digital integration of this technology,” says Bucher. “We believe PlayMyWay technology should be everywhere.”

Together, the three products comprise a responsible gaming portfolio that should help keep gaming entertaining and safe. In an environment where media, politicians and regulators are increasingly demanding, Scientific Games is generating new technology that could provide a dream scenario of products that are fun to play and safe to play.

“It is our responsibility to work in conjunction with regulators to keep the entertainment content entertaining and also to underpin it with technology that protects players,” concludes Bucher. “I believe that if we do that, gaming has a bright, bright future.”

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