Scott Longley spoke to Bet Buddy founder Simo Dragicevic for SBC to explore how analytics can be used for identifying problem gambling behviour and the benefits of such an approach.
We know that the online gambling industry has fallen for data analytics in a big way. What it offers operators in terms of knowing the customer and being able to personalise their offering represents a great leap forward in their attempts at both customer acquisition and retention.
Data gives a fuller picture of player behaviour and this hasn’t gone unnoticed by those looking at issues surrounding responsible gambling. One company that has a keen interest in what player data can mean when it comes to spotting and potentially averting problem gambling issues is software analytics company Bet Buddy.
The company has devised an ‘early-warning system’ designed to detect potentially addictive behaviour. The system pinpoints whether a player’s gambling patterns are exhibiting signs of risk and starting to match those of previous players who asked online gambling sites to self-exclude. The system then allows the operator to inform players via various messaging and marketing options that can help to avoid the problem developing further.
This type of data analytics might be seen as being at odds with the data-led marketing efforts of the operators designed to encourage further betting, but Bet Buddy chief executive Simo Dragicevic insists the two aren’t mutually exclusive aims.
Whereas marketing is using data to personalise the offer, the Bet Buddy product uses similar methods to allow the gambling to continue to enjoy their experience but with feedback when the operators thinks they may be in reaching a point where their time on the site becomes unenjoyable. “Essentially what we are trying to do is improve the customer experience,” says Dragicevic.
“In one respect, if you look at it simplistically, marketing is about selling and responsible gambling is about moderating. But if you look at things in terms of lifetime value, something that is very pertinent in marketing, then I think the two things become much more aligned.”
He points out that what all operators are attempting is to build sustainable relationships with the customer base. “With the amount of choice that is out there, the brand that can engender more trust and loyalty, maybe could actually become a marketing factor in its own right.”
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the first customer for the Bet Buddy product has come from the lottery sector. Ontario Lottery signed up last December and is now using Bet Buddy’s responsible gambling products within the suite of tools for the Play OLG online offering.
The product identifies at-risk players and flags it for the operator. “If somebody is at risk, they will be encouraged to use the tools such as self-assessments and time and deposit limits settings,” says Dragicevic.
“But we also feed-back our risk profiles to the core back office systems, so the players who are flagged at risk, they will get a different marketing mix. So if you are deemed at risk, you will get less marketing messages and more generic RG messages. Whereas someone who is low risk will get the normal amount of marketing messages.”
As with other aspects of the use of data – and not just in the gambling field – questions about intrusiveness on the part of the operator come to the fore when the consumer comes to feel that their online lives are being mapped by any given site.
“It’s important there is consent – that comes down to terms and conditions and the operator being clear about what data is used for. That is important from both a marketing perspective and a responsible gambling level, because you are using the same data.”
The Bet Buddy product certainly has timing on its side. As Dragicevic suggests he would hope to see more adoption of the technology as regulators in various jurisdictions begin to understand its value. “I think more of that will happen as more regulators understand what is available and what the pros and cons are of such technology,” he says. “I would expect operators to be more proactive. I see the product developing; I see it evolving to meet the needs of the industry.”
But Dragicevic insists this isn’t just about the push from regulators and issues surrounding compliance. “People care about brands, people care about how they look after their customers, and I think some operators are starting to look at this differently, a little bit more strategically.
“In general, there is pressure from regulators. It’s a mixture of pressure from stakeholders, pressure groups, governments, the regulator, but also the brand is really important and this might be a way to increase brand value.”
Pointing out that Ontario Lottery sees responsible gambling as one of its key brand differentiators, Dragicevic thinks a similar approach is “starting to trickle into the commercial sector”.