Energame’s Director of Communications and Marketing, Alona Kobozieva, questions how technological advancements within igaming regulation are being used to prioritise player protection, suggesting that “technology alone is not enough to solve the problem”. 

Making serious inroads into tackling problem gambling online will need a complex approach involving a combination of technology, regulation and education, but human outreach will play a fundamental role in any sustainable and effective approach. 

The expansion of online gambling means it is easier than it has ever been to place a bet. While this has opened up new avenues for entertainment for the majority of users, it is also complicating the situation for a small proportion, potentially compounding existing problems on the margins of the player community. Compulsive gambling can cause serious harm and needs to be addressed.

While much emphasis has been put on technological solutions that can flag problem gambling by using AI to spot patterns, technology alone is not enough to solve the problem. Operators must embrace a complex approach that involves technology, regulation, education, and human outreach.

Superior insights from technology

The problem gambling rate in the UK is around 0.3 per cent for the general population, according to recent surveys, although those classified as problem or at-risk gamblers rises to 0.6 per cent. That relatively small proportion masks the outsized impact problem gambling has on individual lives. It is also troubling that the prevalence of problem gambling appears to be higher in younger age groups.

Technology in combination with the data available to online platforms has an important role to play. AI is ideally suited to picking up patterns across millions of users placing bets around the clock. It is being used to identify problem habits such as gambling throughout the night, or betting large amounts at the start of the month, indicating users may be betting a substantive proportion of their wages. AI can distinguish these gamblers from people betting on a favourite sports team each week, or expertly betting on teams across a league.

More can be done to enable data sharing

More could be done on the technology front. Open Banking technology and sharing financial data would help to identify if users are gambling within their means. Identifying users across platforms would make it harder to use multiple identities. The measures would also have the added benefit of improving know-your-customer processes and helping to prevent money laundering.

However, it is before and after the technological intervention where there are gaps to fill and more can be done. Typically, the standard industry response is to offer self-exclusion or self-imposed gambling limits. However, these can be hard to administer and monitor and have limited efficiency on determined problem gamblers, the group that needs help most.

Role of education: Forewarned is forearmed 

Education plays an important role. Before a bet is even placed, players need to be informed  about the dangers of problem gambling, how to recognise it, deal with it and ultimately avoid it. This is particularly important when it comes to the younger demographic and in the emerging and frontier markets that have large new customer bases. Online betting in these markets is relatively new, recognition can be slow and support scarce.

While significant education programs are already in place in countries with long-standing regulated gaming markets, the industry itself must do more in newer markets.

Once monitoring has flagged a potential problem gambler, the human element cannot be marginalised. Intervention by a trained individual who can provide guidance and support could help in identifying and preventing the problem in its early stages. VIP schemes that provide incentives to gamble must be carefully considered and customer interaction needs to be more proactive. 

Regulators could do more to encourage data collection and sharing across the industry. Energame has advocated for increased cooperation among regulators globally. As already noted, this could also help to identify money laundering as well as reduce problem gambling. More also needs to be done to mandate minimum standards among operators. Operators willing and able to cut corners will be a disincentive to invest in serious solutions. 

Player safety will remain a strategic priority for the industry as it becomes ever more global. Without a complex approach that robustly demonstrates that platforms are doing all they can, criticism of the industry as a whole is likely to grow. The industry should not be seen as a problem, instead it needs to be taking a lead role in shaping solutions.