We are in a very exciting moment in the history and evolution of our Industry. We finally have a collective conscious approach to protecting players from the risk of addiction, or worse. However, the cloud of manual paper processes and legacy technology are silently creating a problem that may be far worse than the solutions and safeguards we are trying to implement.
2020 is a pivotal year. Whilst our Industry globally embraces the concept of Responsible Gaming, the existential threat to our commercial model has never been greater. Let me explain. Our industry provides an entertainment experience. It can be called gambling, gaming or whatever, but it is a disposable income activity. What is critical to realize is that it competes with other entertainment and disposable income product and service offerings.
Entertainment, consumer spending and disposable income spending is evolving at an accelerating pace. Amazon product and service sales are skyrocketing, NetFlix consumer metrics are evolving rapidly and video gaming is being transformed into a gamification experience that can be considered a form of gambling. This means that our Industry will experience increasing pressure on its product offering, connex services and experiential environment as gamblers are evolving and have other options to find entertainment.
Legacy methods, procedures and technology of enforcing responsible gaming have to put in blanket policies and processes. Time on device, total spend per bet, session or any combination of these elements creates the base of surveillance and enforcement. Self-exclusion and other policies, training and surveillance have to then take over to hopefully detect and protect a potentially addicted player from hurting themselves and their families.
Can you imagine if Amazon limited your purchases to protect you against compulsive purchasing or if restaurants implemented policies to protect you from overeating or failing to follow the guidance of your doctor’s diagnosis of a health condition or worse, Netflix implemented a anti-binge watching policy to prevent you from watching all the episodes of a season or two of your favorite TV series on a snowy, rainy weekend?
Our regulators and operators have done tremendous work to bring Responsible Gaming to the forefront of our preoccupations and for all actors in our Industry to be conscious of our social responsibility. However, are we investing in the right actions and policies ? If we limit gaming activity, track it and report on it, will we drive players away to other industries ? Will they spend more of their disposable income on wine, overpriced steaks, unnecessary sale items on Amazon or worse.
How do we support our operators to provide a world-class entertainment experience without the looming one size fits all approach, without the feeling of doing something wrong (like gambling), and without the stress of being under surveillance for metrics that may or not apply to each individual because they are mostly determined on impersonal and standard arbitrary metrics ?
The revenue in our Industry has to grow like any other Industry or it will be eaten alive by the competing industries that want to increase their market share at our expense. But how can we get beyond this first, incredible step we have taken to be aware, conscious and concerned ?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the answer.
AI mathematical algorithms can offer infinite possibilities to detect a patron that is having a physical and psychological reaction to an entertainment experience. Instead of creating more and more impersonal restrictions on player time and amounts, intelligent algorithms can monitor and detect potential experiences that display cortisol or adrenaline fight or flight responses to game play. By detecting face, eye, mouth, tongue and gestural movements, AI algorithms can learn if the player is in a potential state of distress. Neuro Linguistic programming techniques can then be implemented to teach the person to manage the distress (fight or flight) response with time outs, information, interventions or game play banning for small amounts of time to teach the person to manage the moments when they have surrendered self-control. Gaming time and spend parameters could be replaced by real-time surveillance of individual behavior with learning mechanisms to cure the problem before the problem occurs. That is how we teach our children, though constant course correction and AI can offer this avenue to create a healthy entertainment experience with safeguards when issues arrive.
Our Industry has come a long way in a short time. Our regulators and operators should be applauded for the emphasis and the results to bring Responsible Gaming to the forefront of our macro discussions and preoccupations. However, to evolve our Industry to compete with the other entertainment experiences, our curative approach has to be evolved to reduce play restrictions and focus on early detection of signs of distress and to offer immediate remedies and guidance so that the person can learn one step at a time how to find self-governance. We cannot evolve and compete on punishing 100% of the players for a small percentage. AI is the way to get Responsible Gaming to the next level.
It is time to take our game to the next level. The technology is out there. We have to have the courage to embrace it to nourish our operators and support them with technology that will allow them to forcefully compete with other entertainment industries that are already investing massively in AI.
Author: Earle G. Hall
Treasurer & Blockchain Committee Chair,
International Gaming Standards Association &
President & CEO, AXES.ai