Francesco Rodano, Chief Policy Officer at Playtech, talked to SBC Noticias about the impact of the company’s technology in developing responsible gaming actions in the newly regulated Latin American markets.
In the first of the two-part interview, Rodano analyzes the situation of each market in regards to regulation and responsible gaming, the opportunities that arise from technology, and what is still missing around operations and regulation for the region to finish shaping its framework.
SBC: How do you assess the general status of the industry in Latin America? How has been the experience so far in recently regulated markets such as Buenos Aires?
Francesco Rodano: Latin America is one of Playtech’s key markets. The region is going through a transformational phase in terms of gambling regulation, with some countries at a more advanced stage than others. Colombia, Mexico, the Province and City of Buenos Aires, as well as other provinces, have already legalized the sector, with discussions taking place in most other states. We expect that in the coming years, most territories in the region, starting probably from Brazil, will be regulated just as took place In Europe 15 years ago, and we are ready to play our part in all of them.
The company’s focus is indeed to operate in all currently regulated and newly regulated markets, where more than 85% of the group’s revenue is generated. Buenos Aires is a good example. As soon as the new legislation was operational, we applied for a supplier license that allows us to offer our games and services to every operator which is going to launch in this jurisdiction. Thanks to the flexibility and the breadth of our offering, which includes our player management platform, sportsbook, casino, live casino, poker, and bingo, we can meet the needs of local and international licensees of any size.
SBC: After implementing regulation, the Buenos Aires government is now focusing on problem gaming. How can Playtech’s technology help with new solutions?
FR: The recent announcement of the City of Buenos Aires of the launch of a study on the prevalence of problem gambling is extremely important. It shows the intention of evaluating the phenomenon in a scientific, evidence-based way. It will also represent a solid starting point in order to evaluate the possible regulatory interventions needed to mitigate the risks linked to excessive gambling.
Over the years, we have been putting a lot of effort into the use of technology applied to players’ protection. Our objective is to identify potentially vulnerable players at the earliest possible stage and focus our intervention efforts specifically on them.
Traditionally, the industry has been using simple scorecards based on fixed thresholds, such as money deposited or staked, and time spent playing, in order to spot potential problem gamblers. These methods are probably too generic to be accurate. We are instead using artificial intelligence to analyze up to 70 different behavioral markers of each online gambler to flag those at risk and then carry out a personalized intervention that is tailored to the individual behavioral profiles. In our trials, AI-driven interventions proved to be more than twenty times more effective in triggering a responsible gaming action than previous blanket email campaigns.
SBC: Why is it more important to ensure responsible gambling in grey markets like the ones in Latin America?
FR: Responsible gambling should be a guiding principle of the whole gambling sector’s stakeholders regardless of the regulatory status of a single country. If for grey markets we mean those in which there is a political discussion on the possible introduction of a licensing system, then a genuine safer gambling culture could actually encourage this process. A better reputation for the gambling industry would make policymakers less reluctant in approaching the legalization of the sector. Existing good practices would also offer a better foundation to build the regulatory framework. A notable example is represented by The Netherlands, a newly regulated market (it launched last October), whose regulator has put in place a set of responsible gaming requirements that represent best practice, recognized globally.
SBC: How is Playtech’s technology improving the responsible gambling tools in these markets and throughout the world? What does it consist of?
FR: Online gambling operators have access to an incredible amount of very detailed data. Therefore, we have an amazing opportunity to use that data to analyze the behavior of every single player in order to understand, at an early stage, if any of them is starting to show signs of problematic play. This is a field on which BetBuddy, a specialized Playtech company that used artificial intelligence to analyze players’ behaviors and predict their risk, has been investing and researching in the last 12 years, and the results are quite promising, with an impressive level of accuracy.
As mentioned earlier, the next and significant step, also made possible by technology, is to use the individual behavioral profile of each risky player to engage with them and intervene in a personalized way, through automated tools and customized messages that have a great potential in helping players no to lose control. Automation will be key to allowing operators to engage effectively with a large number of players in a financially sustainable way.
I like to imagine a world in which AI tools will be so accurate that will only spot those players actually at risk, and at a stage so early that, again with the help of AI, we can use automated psychological techniques and personalized nudges that will prevent them from becoming problematic without even noticing.