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Does Machine Learning Increase or Reduce Gambling Addiction?

Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) already have a major impact on various industries across the planet, with the gambling world certainly among them.

There are various ways that AI can be used in the sector but one of them is in trying to combat gambling addiction, which is a growing issue in a lot of different countries.

Research that was published in 2016 suggested gambling addiction rates in the US were actually stable between 1999 and 2013, but the study acknowledged the growth of the internet has made it easier to bet than ever before.

Indeed, it is internet betting that is believed to be behind the rise in gambling addiction globally, but can machine learning be used to help alleviate this issue?

Assessing gambling addiction with machine learning

The first thing that needs to happen in order to reduce gambling addiction is to identify it. While this might seem simple, it is fair to say that gambling companies have not paid a lot of attention to this problem in the past. After all, they make an awful lot of cash out of problem gamblers.

It is now understood across the industry, though, that more needs to be done to help people who are susceptible to developing an addiction to gambling. As a result, schemes such as self-exclusion programs have been released, allowing people to take control over their betting.

So where does machine learning come in? Well, bricks and mortar casinos can track who is entering and leaving their casinos through security cameras, which can also monitor how long they spend playing on a particular game, and whether or not they end up winning or losing.

Of course, there is no guarantee that being able to identify problem gamblers is going to result in casinos using this information for good. Traditionally, one of the main ways this information has been used by casino companies is to identify incidences of fraud, rather than problem gambling.

FlashCasino’s Angie Harper comments: “Machine learning has many benefits for players. But don’t be fooled, it can also help the casinos take you to the cleaners. Strict government regulation is crucial on how machine learning can be used else we might have an explosion of gambling addiction.”

With governments around the world seeming reluctant to get involved, this could be an issue. And if there is not going to be any regulation in the way AI and machine learning are used by casino companies, they may feel as though the road is clear for them to take advantage.

What this means is information they gather from machine learning could be used to create specialised tailored offers, aimed at extracting as much money from gamblers as they can.

Machine learning to combat gambling addiction is not new

As much as it might seem to be the case, using machine learning as a way to tackle rising gambling addiction is not something that has only just started to happen.

In fact, going all the way back to 2013, a project from a University of Cambridge engineering department was looking into the issue and came up with Featurespace.

David Excell of Featurespace

The corporate spin-out took advantage of machine learning techniques in order to find problem gamblers by identifying patterns of behavior. David Excell, co-founder and chief technology officer, explained in an interview with the Guardian that combating fraud was the top priority for gambling firms using early AI methods.

“We decided to start looking at the protections in place for customers at the moment to stop this kind of thing happening,” he said. “We decided since we’re harvesting so much data for our fraud solution work, how can we use some of that to try to understand the player from a corporate social responsibility point of view, to understand “is that player in control?” and so on.”

Excell and his team at Featurespace were also working on the interests of the gaming company as well, though, as players who self-exclude due to gambling addiction cease to be profitable.

The industry is therefore likely to try to find a balance between helping people who have already developed an addiction to gambling and identifying players at risk of doing so, in order for them to remain customers who spend their money on betting.

At the moment, it is impossible to say whether or not machine learning increases or reduces gambling addiction – though it can also be used to identify under-age gamblers – but it is clear this is a complex issue with lots of different factors involved.

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October 14, 2020
By I&T Today

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