Veteran investor and gambling industry entrepreneur, Chris North, untangles some of the ethical, technical and optical hazards firms face in using artificial intelligence.
iGT: How can artificial intelligence be used to monitor, highlight and prevent addictive behaviour?
AI needs data and lots of it to be effective. Gambling operators have endless amounts of data on its players which makes deploying AI into its player management systems an obvious path to follow.
If we look at a casino player as an example it is straightforward for the AI to identify problem gamblers from setting the initial parameters like player stake, deposit frequency, type of game and playing time for the AI to look at. Alongside that you let the AI have access to all the players that have self-excluded so the AI can learn the patterns and compare with new and current players. The AI would then flag players that are showing signs of addictive behaviour and the operator would then follow their social responsibility policies and intervene with those players
iGT: In you view, how commonly is AI being deployed to these ends within the industry?
I doubt it would be at the top of there list to use AI for identifying problem gamblers at this stage. I do think when the regulators catch up and build AI into there reporting processes then we will be able to get much better controls in place for dealing with problem gamblers. However, that is going to be a few years away and in the meantime operators will be using AI to improve the player experience and increase player values at the same time.
There are lots of ways that can be done from recommendation engines like you see on Netflix for films but for slot games or understanding a players gambling patterns and customising offers for them at the right time. All of this an AI can be trained to understand through the data the operators have about their players.
iGT: To what extent is AI being used to (knowingly) exploit addictive behaviour?
I don’t think any responsible regulated operator would knowingly exploit addictive behaviour but that’s not to say less scrupulous ones would. I do think though the regulator needs to get involved sooner than later as AI is being used to understand player behaviour unlike we have seen before and that can only mean that will be used for increased profitability from each player. Don’t forget that AI can be trained to spot the “Wise Guys” who win too much so the operators will be gaining from both sides!
iGT: How easy is it for gambling companies to navigate the difference between legitimately targeting interested players, and exploiting vulnerabilities?
If they are using AI to improve player lifetime values, then they can spot the problem gamblers. It is as simple as that. However, these are gambling companies and by their very nature are hard wired to make money. Of course, the regulated operators will have to follow their licensing rules about social responsibility. However, until the regulator sets out a code of ethics on how AI can be used then the operators will use AI to increase their profits!
I was at the Cogx.ai in London this month where the AI community gathered to listen to some of the leading minds talking about where AI is now and what could be possible. It was a mind-blowing couples of days looking into a future where the cure for cancer is not far away.
The main theme that I took away from the conference was regulation and a code of ethics. Kay Firth-Butterfield, Head of AI for the World Economic Forum talked about the creation of the Global AI council where the first meeting is this September in Tianjin, China. This council is taking on the task of setting out what a code of ethics might look like, which is a start.
iGT: Is there a need for more (or more clearly defined) regulations in this area? Or should this matter be left to individual responsibility?
The answer is clearly yes, we need more regulation around how gambling operators use technology like AI .
I do have a positive note to end this interview where technology in the future will be used to almost eradicate problem gambling where it can be monitored. I see a future where once AI starts to understand humans in terms of mental health we will have systems in place to intervene rather than react when it is too late. From treating depression to problem gambling, a world where we have AI supporting doctors and regulators is not far away.