Behavior Analytics for Compulsive Gamblers

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I agree with Sheldon Adelson’s concerns – online gambling presents serious dangers for underage and compulsive gamblers.But regulation, not prohibition, is the better answer. Adelson’s argument in his recent op-ed is obviously specious:

“So let me get this straight. Proponents say that technology exists to effectively regulate Internet gambling to stop minors, addicted gamblers, money launderers and organized crime from accessing it. But the technology does not exist to block the unscrupulous foreign websites from targeting those same audiences.Apparently, the technology exists to serve the needs of Internet gambling proponents, but doesn’t exist to serve the needs of those of us who oppose it.Sounds to me like the height of hypocrisy.”

Under regulation effective technology works because the implementation of the technology by the online sites that is necessary to make it work is required by the regulations. “Unscrupulous foreign websites” don’t care and don’t implement these necessary safeguards. You can’t implement technology from here to stop them from being unscrupulous there. Law enforcement (blocking, seizures, indictments, etc.) has worked to some degree in some instances, but it hasn’t stopped U.S. gamblers from playing online nor closed off the U.S. market to foreign online casinos. Only by providing U.S.-regulated sites will U.S. players have a safer choice.

However, on the other side of the coin, there is a serious flaw in the U.S. regulated markets (NV, NJ, DE) in that the technology for protection for compulsive gamblers has not been properly implemented. Nowhere in the current regulations or the implementation by the sites has there been any use of technology for what we argue is the advantage over live gaming: detection of problem gambling behavior.

Yes, there are self-limits and self-exclusions available, and regulated state-wide exclusion lists. But where are the detection safeguards? There are definite behavior patterns that could be flagged for follow up or referral to counseling – loss and reload patterns, player wagering patterns and other behavior analytics. And with easy access to online gambling, it is easy for those with a compulsive addictive personality who don’t currently gamble (but are addicted to online gaming activities, or even to non-gaming-related activities) to be lured into the more dangerous real-money gambling.

Until such time as these detection technologies are actually required and implemented under regulation, we have no right to claim that the US regulation of online gambling is effective in providing protections for compulsive gamblers. You can’t say “it’s okay because we have the technology to make it safe” and then don’t. That’s both specious and immoral.

Fortunately, the technology for behavior analytics is on the horizon. The Responsible Gambling Trust, a UK-based charity dedicated to “minimizing gambling-related harm” and funded by online gambling sites, is forwarding this technology. FeatureSpace is one company that already has it available. Hopefully the platform providers will get on board soon and implement these protections. If not, it is incumbent upon the regulatory authorities to require it. And as players, we should be asking for it – we, too, are responsible for the condition of our industry.


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