One of the most striking developments over the past year in betting and gaming has been the adoption of a no-nonsense approach to the sector by regulators.
This has been particularly prevalent in the UK, where the Gambling Commission (UKGC) has been targeting operators that have fallen short on their player protection and responsible gambling requirements.
Finding true value
Observing this trend, Paula Murphy, Mindway AI’s Business Development Manager (BDM), noted that operators have been taking player protection far more seriously in recent years, partly due to the threat of enforcement action but also out of genuine social consideration.
“Meeting the requirements should be viewed as the minimum standard,” she informed SBC News, in a discussion on Mindway AI’s tech, objectives and operations.
“More and more operators are taking player protection seriously, not just because it’s the right thing to do but also understanding that there is a commercial benefit in doing so and maintaining a sustainable player base.”
Part of the reason for a rise in operator interest on compliance is of course the penalties – as Murphy observed, when charges run into the millions or in the case of Entain tens of millions, this can no longer be considered a cost of business.
However, in the BDM’s viewpoint, there is something ‘bigger and more significant’ at play, that being that bookmakers and casinos are grasping who the real VIP customers are, the benefits of a sustainable customer base.
“The true VIP customer is the one who plays without any risk of harm and is someone you can do business with over a long period of time without there being the risk of them burning out,” she said.
As well as clamping down on non-compliant operators and dropping hints on the future of the industry post-Gambling Act review, the Commission also updated its guidance to betting stakeholders on customer interactions this year.
The development was not lost on Mindway AI, as Murphy detailed that the firm has ‘opened up its books’ to allow Gaming Labs International (GLI) to examine the accuracy of its Gamescanner solution.
Murphy added that Mindway AI operates around the principle that third party suppliers should conduct their business to the highest possible standards and with complete transparency.
By choosing third party supplies which work to these standards, the operators can also mitigate criticism, she continued – as stakeholders and observers receive assurance that player protection solutions have been developed independently.
“If you’re working with a third party, you get that assurance that the system is actually detecting potential issues,” she explained.
“Responsible gambling is the only thing we are concerned with. Operators who develop in-house could have a situation where they are fighting for tech resources – in comparison, 100% of our time is on this.
“It’s the same as when the industry pays for research – the quality and integrity of the studies could be perfect, but it is always under scrutiny due to it being industry funded.”
The AI seatbelt
Having ‘completely incorporated’ the UKGC’s new guidance into its own model, Mindway AI has now moved forward to assist operators in detecting problematic behaviour and conducting player interventions.
“Interventions are much more meaningful and tailored to that individual player,” Murphy explained. “With evaluations, functionality is built into the system to support this and allow firms to keep track of the customers that they’ve had interactions or interventions with.”
The key to this detection and intervention process, as the company’s name suggests, is Artificial Intelligence.
In the digitally driven contemporary industry, where multinational operators such as Entain, Flutter, bet365 and many more cater to millions of customers, AI poses some distinct advantages.
The technology can be used to understand complex behaviour patterns and identify potential problems early on, which can then inform interventions and return customers to the ideal sustainable user base highlighted by Murphy.
Founded on 10+ years of research in neuroscience, neuroimaging, and problem gambling, having developed out of the Aarhus University to now operate in 20+jurisdictions, Mindway AI has set a goal of providing ‘AI with a human touch’ to its operator partners.
Players are not just viewed as numbers in a database, they are individuals and so have individualised behaviour patterns,” Murphy continued. “You can’t treat people as groups, you have to look at individuals and their behaviour. We train our algorithm to replicate a human psychological expert.
“When we say AI with a human touch, we are training it to replicate a highly qualified expert. There is a lot of detailed information on what has triggered the system and operators can see the same plots that the experts see.
“The people making the interaction then know that person and their behaviour based on the AI data. This influences pathways to help by identifying what an individual’s problematic behaviour might be, for example, if they’ve suddenly started playing for longer into the late hours of the night.”
There is, of course, also a balancing act to player protection. Looking at the UK throughout the course of the Gambling Act review, industry stakeholders have repeatedly raised concerns that customer privacy could be impacted by enhanced measures.
For Mindway, AI is a solution to this hurdle too, by sifting through operators’ vast customer base to provide a layer of protection to those who need it, something Murphy likened to car safety systems.
“it’s a similar principle to a seatbelt – an added safety function to the gaming experience,” she explained. “Many people enjoy gambling as a legitimate leisure activity, but others will come into harm. We aim to help operators identify the people that they need to talk to, and protect from harm.”