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New White Paper on the technical advances in Responsible Gambling

20th November 2020 11:09 am GMT

With over £30m in fines being handed out by the Gambling Commission in 2020 and 11 licence suspensions, the gambling industry can be in no doubt that offering a sustainable and safe player experience needs to be front of mind.

Safer Gambling Week - which runs from 19th-25th November - is a growing industry initiative, aiming to highlight the importance of protecting players and a focal point around which we can all unite.

The theme of player protection and safety has amplified throughout the year, with strong guidance issued by the Gambling Commission about the importance of regularly monitoring player activities, safer products and improving current practices. 

In this White Paper published by Game Data Science specialists Future Anthem as part of its contribution to Safer Gambling Week, there are a number of interesting callouts and data points which resonate across gaming operators and suppliers.

Firstly, we need to remind ourselves that the overwhelming majority of people who gamble do so safely. According to the latest data from the NHS Digital Health Survey, the prevalence of problem gambling is 0.5 per cent (approximately 280,000 people in England). A further 0.8 per cent of gamblers are at moderate-risk, and 2.7 per cent are classified as low-risk.

However, rates of problem gambling vary widely between different gaming activities, with participation in slots having one of the highest proportions of problem gambling at 9.2 per cent according to the Gambling Commission.

The paper goes on to look at gambling rates pre & post Covid-19 which indicates that the most engaged gamblers did in fact increase their gambling activity.  The volume of activity on slots in particular grew 25 per cent year-on-year in March 2020.

More recent data from August shows that the number of online slots sessions lasting longer than an hour - an RG metric that the Commission are focused on - decreased by 7 per cent. Anthem’s own data indicates that just 2.5 per cent of slots sessions now last longer than one hour, which would suggest the industry is having some success in proactively preventing harm during a volatile and challenging period.

It goes on to cite three principle new dimensions that are likely to influence Responsible Gambling practices for the better, largely influenced by improvements in technology and machine learning. 

The transition to monitoring player behaviours when betting, in real time, is a fundamental tenet to improving the safety of players, as is factoring player protection into game design - all key principles underlying recent guidance from the Gambling Commission. 

The power of huge data sets from games, when combined with the AI, permits the widely referred “Markers of Harm” to be identified early, indicating signs of problem gambling. For example, vulnerable players are more likely to increase their stakes over the course of a session. Entropy, a measure of randomness of a series of bets, also offers signals of problematic play, as does comparing each bet with a player’s average, with over 80 per cent of players not wagering more than twice their average in a 30-day window. 

These data points, or signals inside gameplay, can be hidden within billions of bets, which requires the latest technologies and machine learning models to surface these patterns and the Markers of Harm - early warning signals if you like. 

“When I first started in the gambling industry in 2016 our responsible gambling model existed solely on an antiquated laptop, only looked at a handful of datapoints and was run once a week. The latest tech employs clusters of super computers to analyse each bet in real-time," said Dr Edmond Mitchell, lead data scientist at Future Anthem. “As a consequence, we can get much nearer the player’s session, identifying problematic play much earlier than previously.”

Leading operators seem to recognise that they too can learn more about their players and their behaviours with data science, with gaming giant GVC signing up with Future Anthem and also Mindway AI as part of their Advanced Responsibility and Care (ARC) safer gambling programme. Interestingly, a responsible gambling metric will be incorporated into the group’s annual group wide bonus conditions in future.

The activities around player safety in the UK continue to increase - today as part of Safer Gambling week everyone’s inboxes are loaded with player protection messages, signposts on how to set loss limits and who to contact in difficult times. TV adverts have adjusted from aggressive, loud instructions, to gentle, factual information on how to enjoy your gambling experience.

In an industry that is often criticised for a lack of action, sometimes its important to appreciate the positive momentum and pace of change to balance against the negativity that persists. And like the wider-world, technology is probably the most powerful driver of change.

Click here to download your copy of the White Paper: Game Play – the next frontier for Responsible Gambling.

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