Operators need to use AI to identify problem gamblers according to industry specialist

Operators need to be more proactive in identifying problem gambling and also use AI tools to aid the process according to industry specialist Jonathan Michaels.

As part of Problem Gambling Awareness Month  the principle of Michaels Strategies joined SBC Americas Editor Jessica Welman on an episode of iGaming Daily to discuss his latest LinkedIn article, titled ‘The problem with problem gambling’.

You can listen to the episode here:

Challenges of identifying a problem gambler

Michaels spent some time discussing the difficulty that the industry has identifying problem gamblers and the need to be proactive in identifying problem behavior as it happens rather than in retrospect.

“The issue that exists is there’s no standards on what markers of harm and identification are. There’s no standard on what actually works to help ensure players wager responsibly.”

He believes that the challenge for operators and regulators going forward is to understand what tools will actually work in preventing problem gambling behaviors, whether that be deposit limits or other responsible gambling tools.

Effective AI responsible gambling tools

Michaels also discussed how AI technology can be utilized to analyze players’ playing patterns and identify problem behavior. 

“There are solutions out there that will look at the different betting patterns, and certainly a lot of it is financially based. Because if you were depositing $50 and, all of a sudden, you’re depositing $500 and it’s the middle of May, why might they be doing that? Maybe they like betting on horses or maybe it’s indicative that there’s some behavior going on that is problematic.”

He suggested that these patterns of behavior could be used as triggers to reach out to customers with responsible gambling information that could prompt them to step back and analyze their spending habits as well as set limits going forward.

Gaming operators need to be proactive

He also urged operators to be proactive in their efforts to identify problem gambling in order to prevent regulators stepping in and going “way too far” with their measures.

Michaels highlighted the example of banning credit card deposits, which he believes will be ineffective in preventing problem gambling.

“All the research indicates that people that use credit cards, deposit into accounts, have a higher likelihood of developing challenges with their game. But we should use that as a data point to find ways to help them. I could go to a bank, pop my credit card in, do a credit card cash advance, deposit that in my account, and it looks like it’s a debit transaction. I think, ultimately, if somebody has an addiction, they’re gonna find ways to get money in the system,” he said.

He added that the U.S should heed the example of countries such as the U.K., Australia, Spain and Italy where operators were not proactive and as a result regulators have implemented a “host of bad policies”.

VIP customers vs problem gamblers

Finally, Michaels discussed the tightrope that operators walk when deciding who is a VIP player and who is a problem gambler.

Again he emphasized the need for technology to be a part of the strategy used to identify when a person has transitioned from a VIP type player to someone who is a problem gambler.

“How do you marry your VIP and your marketing team with your responsible gambling team? At some level, you have to take that out of their hands and that’s why these identification tools are so important and potentially valuable because they can say to both teams, hey this doesn’t look right, you need to do something. 

“And, at the end of the day, if you’re a VIP host, you want your players to play. That’s what you are paid to do. You’re not incentivized to say we need to toss them over to the responsible gaming side of the house. So I think you need to see some things.”

This month saw former Jacksonville Jaguars employee Amit Patel be sentenced to over six years in prison for embezzling money that was used to fund a gambling habit.

Michaels highlighted this case as a reason why gambling operators need to do more regular checks to make sure that they understand where funds are coming from for large deposits in order to avoid potential fraud or AML.