Friday, 18 November 2011

What does the analysis of internet casino gambling player data tell us about behaviour and risk?

Our research analysing internet casino data has now been published in the latest edition of International Gambling Studies (Vol. 11, No.3), a special edition on Internet Gambling. The paper outlines the phase 1 findings from research undertaken by Bet Buddy in partnership with GTECH and City University London which utilised anonymised player data from a research cohort of 128,788 players from three internet gambling sites licensed in Malta offering internet casino and poker to regulated markets. Whilst the research builds on the methodology adopted by the Harvard Medical School and bwin Interactive Entertainment AG (specifically Braverman and Shaffer (2010)), which analysed live action sports betting internet data relative to gambling risk factors using k-means clustering analysis, our research explores the casino results in new contexts not covered in previous research. To the best of our knowledge this research, along with the Harvard/bwin collaboration (an overview of the collaboration can be found here), is the only peer-reviewed research to be published that analyses actual internet gambling data, and is the only research to analyse casino internet gambling data in the context of risk.

Whilst we discussed some early insights from the research in a previous blog this paper contains the full results and analysis. Our results are analysed in the context of risk factors, game structure, player education and clinical models for problem gambling. For example, we suggest that the analysis of some risk factors, such as loss chasing, could prove problematic when using current gambling screens (such as DSM-IV) in the context of internet gambling. Our results showed that real active money gamblers with the highest intensity and frequency levels gambled predominantly on slots type casino games, in comparison to the most moderate gamblers who preferred table games. We also examined how behavioural analysis and feedback mechanisms can help players to regulate gambling behaviour (for example how medical data is being used to help people make more informed choices - see this TED video). We explore how the opportunities that data analysis offers can help move beyond the traditional applications of data analytics in the gambling industry such as in marketing and risk management, in that applying advanced data analysis in new contexts (e.g. healthcare) can identify individuals who would benefit from proactive intervention or lifestyle changes (McKinsey's Big Data report discusses the application of data analytics in industry in general in greater detail). When the results were analysed in the context of clinical models for pathological and problem gambling (such as the Pathways Model) we found certain limitations. For example, we would have benefited from augmenting our existing internet gambling data sets with new data sets, such as call centre data, which can also be used to help predict gambling behaviours (see Haefeli, J., Lischer, S., & Schwarz, J.(2011)). 

We believe that this research is an important step in furthering our understanding of internet gambling behaviours in the context of risk and player protection and welcome feedback from industry and academic practitioners. If you interested in finding out more about our research and product offerings then please contact us.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Cognitive Bias Modification - Can Playing Games Help in the Treatment of Addictions?

In May 2011 The Economist wrote an article on Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM), a new form of therapy that can effectively treat conditions such as anxiety and addictions without the need for traditional methods such as cognitive behavioural therapy (typically consisting of 12-16 hour talk therapy sessions) or drugs.  How does it work? All it requires is sitting in front of a computer and using a program that subtly alters harmful thought patterns, and is found to be effective after only a few 15 minute sessions.

Researchers are now beginning to explore CBM.  Reinout Wiers from the University of Amsterdam and his collaborators conducted a study to test the application of CBM on 214 patients suffering from alcoholism. Their results showed that a group of patients that were subject to four 15 minute sessions over four consecutive days showed that the patients "approach bias for alcohol had changed to an avoidance bias, on a variety of tests", whereas the control group showed no such changes. In the US, a team from Harvard University are looking to launch a month-long programme that will use smart phones to assess the techniques effects on anxiety.

The idea that human interaction with computers and playing games can help in conditioning behaviours and treating addictions is very interesting, especially when considered in the context of the gaming and gambling industries. Why? Whilst the use of CBM in a clinical context is an emerging field one could argue that gaming designers and operators are masters in the application of CBM. An article in Forbes titled Zynga "Appeals to the Same Psychology as Gambling" sheds some light on this. Jeff Tseng, an analytics expert, states that whilst FarmVille "is not gambling, it’s a similar mechanic,” and that “it appeals to the same psychology as gambling does.” FarmVille's success has been attributed to its game mechanics, in that it has been designed to hook people in to keep returning to the game. It's also very well integrated with social media features which are now part of everyday life. In gambling these principles apply too, although game mechanics are often referred to as the structural charecteristics of a game by researchers e.g. methods for paying and receiving winnings, speed of play, gambling features such as maximum stake allowed, and ambience through as the use of stimulating light. An interesting article from Gamsutra titled 'Ethos Before Analytics' takes a deeper look into game design and behavioural conditioning.

Whilst the continuing uptake of new technologies in the industry, such as behavioural analytics, is helping players make more informed decisions to prevent the onset of problem gaming, CBM could be used alongside traditional forms of treatment to help treat addiction. We think there is an exciting opportunity for the gambling research community and game designers to collaborate and test whether the same game mechanics that are used to make games addicitive can also be applied to developing CBM-type games that can help treat gaming addictions. Although it is somewhat ironic to ask the very game designers who are making games addictive to collaborate in the development of games that can help treat addictions.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Some trends in online gaming - A look at some data

We have been taking a look at some some technology and gaming trends by analysing Google search and news data since 2004.  Here are the results:

Software License v. Software-as-a-Service

There is clearly enormous interest in software services (or SaaS), which has been consistently outpacing the traditional software sales model in terms of interest.  SaaS is also outpacing traditional software implementations in terms of sales.  Why?  Businesses want safe, secure, on-demand and affordable software solutions.  Therefore SaaS, along with cloud computing, a technology megatrend fuelling SaaS, will continue to grow.

CRM v. Analytics

There has been a major shift in interest from traditional CRM software and activities to analytics i.e. statistics at speed, scale and simplicity, a topic we discuss in this whitepaper.  The 'one-size-fits-all' approach to marketing and consumer services is being replaced with more customised, personalised and relevant targeting and services.  Not only are companies benefiting from sales growth through the use of predictive analytics but also consumers are benefiting with more personalised and relevant services.  Analytics as a technology trend will continue to gain momentum as more organisations start leveraging data more intelligently.

Internet Gaming v. Social Gaming

There has been huge interest in social gaming in the past two years, and whilst Google searches for internet gaming still remain higher than for social gaming, the news volumes for social gaming have been considerably higher, reflecting the massive interest and growth in social media and the growing social gaming industry.

Online Poker v. FarmVille

Building on the last trend, it's interesting to see just how much interest FarmVille generated when it was launched in comparison to online poker, for example.  The only time that online poker news has matched that of FarmVille was in April 2011 following 'Black Friday', the US indictments against Poker Stars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker (if you are interested in poker news then try following Stuart Hoegner and Kim Lund on Twitter).  It's also interesting to think about this data in terms of the product lifecycle of social games i.e. are they relatively short-lived, in that the data suggests that after an initial large spike, interest begins to tail off.  Google's data doesn't go back far enough for us to analyse consumer search and news data when online poker first launched however the comaprisons from the last 7 years provide interesting insight.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Show Us the Data (It’s Ours, After All)

An interesting article by Richard Thaler, professor of economics at Chicago Booth Graduate School of Business, makes the case why consumers should own their ever growing personal data generated as a result of digital social and commercial interactions.  Data is big business.  Why?  Because sophisticated organisations who can accumulate and mine data use it to generate insights, and ultimately sales.  But whilst organisations invest heavily is using data to drive sales, Thaler focuses on the consumer and how access to personal data could help to provide better services.  In the mobile phone sector, for example, transparent pricing can not only help to stimulate the right kind of economic growth argues Thaler, but also that consumers could save considerable amounts of money by switching to the right plan. But to pick the best plan, you need to be able to estimate how much you use services like texting, social media, music streaming and sending photos.

James Beckland also discusses personal data and psychographics in this interesting Mashable article.  Buckley breaks personal data into three categories; social profile data, behavioural data and customer lifecycle data. We have discussed customer lifecycle data in our previous blog on marketing and we have also shared insight into our research on the analysis of gambling behavioural data too. Social profile data provides a rich new source of personal insight.  For example, organisations would very much like to know which affinity brands influence their best customers, which celebrities they follow, and the themes of the messages they regularly share.

Given that personal data is now i) exponentially increasing and ii) becoming increasingly valuable, what if your personal gambling data, data that describes in detail the games you play during each session you log on, all of your transaction details, details on your wins and losses, your social media interactions, chat room data, etc, could be easily downloadable and made available to share in a friendly format with other websites offering value-added services?  It is not inconceivable that one day players will be able to fully control who can see their personal data so that they can leverage it better, not only to get better deals, but also to make smarter decisions about their health and wealth. At Bet Buddy, one of the ways we are using data is to allow gamblers to make more informed decisions about their gambling.  For example take a look at Advisor, our player facing app, which provides rich, relevant, and interactive data insights for gamblers to help them make more informed decisions about their gambling.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Some Snippits from Westminster – The Future of Gambling

Yesterday's gambling seminar at Westminster (London, UK) brought together senior industry, parliamentary, and regulatory figures to debate how regulation, technology and international markets are shaping the future of the gambling industry.  Whilst there was much debate across a range of issues, such as EU regulatory harmonisation, taxation, US regulation and Black Friday, data privacy, sports betting and sports rights, we will share some highlights from the discussions that focused on the new opportunities that technology is providing for the industry.

Opening the ‘New technologies and platforms for gambling’ session was Mark Maydon, Commercial Director of Sporting Index.  Maydon said that the industry is witnessing an ‘arms race’ in terms of technology, in that there is a need for significant and continued investment in IT if operators are to remain competitive.  Operators need to develop more effective and scalable data processing capabilities, with Maydon suggesting that the gambling industry needs to learn from how the financial services industry has developed these capabilities.  Investment in mobile gaming was also an area of significant importance and growth for the industry.

Charles Cohen, CEO of Probability, was next and he stressed that whilst mobile gaming was a growing channel it was a very different channel to traditional online gaming.  He challenged the ‘myths of mobile gaming’  stressing mobile gaming’s objective is not about squeezing as much cash from online gamblers by encouraging them to gamble more (such as when in the pub or whilst waiting for the bus).  Rather, mobile gaming is about offering a different betting experience that appeals to a different customer i.e. not traditional PC-based online gamblers.  He stressed PC-based online games do not transfer well to the mobile channel and the best mobile games were very simple games.  He also shared some interesting insights from Probability’s own research: the average session of a mobile game is c.10 minutes and 82% of mobile gamers gamble whilst sitting at home sitting in front of the TV.  David Loveday, CEO of OpenBet, stated he felt that the TV channel, once integrated with broadband, along with online content provision, were two areas that will become increasingly prevalent in shaping the future of gambling.

Finally Martin Cruddace, Chief Legal and Regulatory Officer at Betfair, framed his views on technology in the context of social responsibility and integrity in betting.  Cruddace said the industry must lead from the ‘front foot’ on these issues and that Betfair was investing in technology to better protect the customer, including predictive analytics to identify problem gambling behaviour.  In addition, Betfair are further enhancing the current range of player protection features by offering self-exclusion via gaming vertical and are also assessing the possibility of giving players the ability to exclude themselves from gambling from certain parts of the day e.g. after 11pm.  Earlier Peter Reynolds, Head of Communications at, emphasised the that online gaming offered a perfect audit trail of data that allowed the industry to proactively track online behaviour and act upon insights obtained.

The key messages coming from the other sessions re-iterated common themes; US regulation will inevitably happen however this will be via multi-year state projects, a lack of harmonised regulation in Europe is making it increasingly expensive for operators to compete internationally, however EU harmonisation is realistically many years away, and regulating markets is the best way to protect the consumer.  And the consumer is what the industry must focus on during these consultations and debates over the coming months as the best way to influence policy makers is by framing the debate in the context of what is best for the consumer rather than what is best for the operator.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Further Analysis of Behavioural Markers for High-Risk Internet Gambling

At the Responsible Gambling Council’s Discovery 2011 conference we presented our research and solutions that help lotteries and operators to develop sustainable relationships with gamblers by helping them to make more informed decisions.  Part of our session was focused on sharing our latest research findings on the analysis of high-risk gambling behaviours.

Braverman and Shaffer (2010), from Harvard’s Division on Addictions, published How do gamblers start gambling: identifying behavioural markers for high-risk internet gambling last year.  The paper is an important research asset as it was the first to analyse actual online gambling behaviour during a gambler’s first month of play to predict gambling-related problems.  Their study of live action sports bettors identified a small sub-group of gamblers (2.8%) from the total research cohort (n = 530) who demonstrated high levels of gambling variability and involvement.  These gamblers were found to be at higher risk than other gamblers of reporting gambling related problems.

The study was of particular interest to us because it was the first to use actual online gambling data to analyse  the first month of play, which allows for the possibility of intervention before gamblers start causing harm to themselves.  We wanted to see whether their results for sports betting would be consistent with other gamblers so we recreated the study using two new datasets, casino (n = 546) and poker (n = 575), using the same methodology as Harvard i.e. analysing the first month of play following registration, using the k-means clustering method and the same behavioural markers.  Our results showed some similarities to Harvard’s, in that we identified in both casino and poker a small-sub group of gamblers who showed markedly different gambling behaviours compared with the others gamblers during their first month of gambling activity, which in our case was highly variable gambling patterns e.g. see cluster 3 in our casino results.

We also observed other similarities with Harvard’s results e.g. the majority of gamblers in the research cohorts demonstrated moderate betting patterns.  There were also some differences e.g. our casino research identified a sub-group of gamblers who demonstrated high levels of gambling Intensity during their first month compared to the other gamblers.  This could be attributed to the nature of the casino games, such as slots and roulette, in that they are more continuous compared with live action sports betting and poker, which could allow for more intensive betting behaviour.  

Further opportunities exist to build on Harvard’s and our research, including extending the number of risk factors and also leveraging alternative statistical methodologies.  Whilst clustering is a useful machine learning technique for dividing data into meaningful groups, it has some limitations.  For example it has trouble clustering data with large outliers, such as skewed non-normally distributed populations such as these datasets.  It is also produces more meaningful and natural clusters with the application of greater numbers of variables and sub-clusters e.g. Experian, the credit rating agency, has used the k-means clustering technique to cluster populations into 45 types and 13 groups using 350 measures (Cameron et al, 2005.  A new methodology for segmenting consumers for financial services.  Journal of Financial Services Marketing, Vol 10, 3, 260-271).  

These findings provide further evidence of different gambling patterns and behaviours relative to high risk behavioural markers amongst gamblers.  We plan to publish the full findings later in the year.  However, when new technologies emerge, such as using behavioural analytics to help gamblers to better self-regulate their gambling behaviours, their usefulness is not always obvious and their uptake is rarely dependent on how well the technology works.  Rather, success and uptake depends on whether the ideas behind the technology spread and diffuse, which is why it is important that the industry has the opportunity to debate these ideas in detail.  At Discovery 2011 there was significant interest and debate across many sessions in how new technologies can help to better protect vulnerable gamblers.  Thanks must go to the Responsible Gambling Council for organising a great platform to enable lotteries, operators, software providers, problem gambling prevention and treatment providers and academics to debate these issues in a very open and collaborative manner.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Part One: Introducing VeriPlay, the Secure Cross-operator Self-exclusion Service

Self‐exclusion has been acknowledged as an important and effective means for players to protect themselves from excessive gambling by excluding themsleves from gambling for periods of time.  However gamblers can be their own worst enemy by excluding themselves from one operator and then betting with another.  This highlights a major weakness in the self‐exclusion process - self‐excluded players can sign‐up to different operators and continue gambling even though they have self‐excluded themselves from other sites.  Whilst the idea of providing the opportunity for a player to self-exclude from more than one operator is beneficial to the player, operators currently have no means of identifying whether their players have self‐excluded themselves from other online operators. 

Self-exclusion is a licensing requirement in many jurisdictions such as in the UK, which recorded 62,957 self-exclusions in 2009/10.  The published CEN Workshop Agreement on Remote Responsible Gambling Measures recommends that operators should offer self-exclusion for a minimum of six months.  Whilst the weakness in the self-exclusion process has been recognised by the industry for some time, complex issues and challenges have halted the adoption of an effective solution within the industry.  Today we are kicking off a series of initiatives related to our new cross-operator self-exclusion service called VeriPlay, with today’s post introducing some of the key concepts of how VeriPlay works. 

VeriPlay is a fast, safe and secure central counterparty solution developed to meet the need for an industry‐wide self‐exclusion service.   VeriPlay helps operators and the industry to more effectively use their player data to protect vulnerable players by undertaking an intermediary role in the self‐exclusion process.  As an intermediary VeriPlay will maintain a central database of self‐excluded players, known as the ‘grey list’.  Self‐excluded player details are safely and securely uploaded to VeriPlay using anonymised player data

Log-in via Secure Web Services or Portal 
Veriplay can be accessed either via secure web services or via a web portal.  Whilst we envisage that the majority operators will use web services to integrate with VeriPlay, since it enables low‐touch straight trough processing, like geo‐filtering and ID verification, a benefit of the web portal is that it allows for easy access for both land-based and online operators.

Operator Account Page 
Once an operator has a VeriPlay account they can quickly check to see whether any of their players are on the grey list via the Check Your Players functionality.  Operators can also safely and securely add self-excluded players to the grey list via the Share and Help functionality.

Operator data is always safe with VeriPlay. The service meets and exceeds industry security standards and a secure encryption algorithm ensures data always remains anonymous and meaningless to anyone except the operators sending and receiving the data.

VeriPlay’s player matching algorithm provides a grading of matching confidence for operators.  The service is configurable to add further data combinations that operators wish to use and can be configured to only provide 100% matches if required.  All VeriPlay matching results are automatically sent direct to the operator's mail box.

What Next?
The gambling industry has in the past tackled many of the CSR and sustainability issues on the front foot and in a collaborative manner with all stakeholders and such an approach is key for cross-operator self-exclusion to work.  We are now collaborating with a number of stakeholders to assess the next steps required to start rolling-out the service, including leading providers of problem gambling prevention and support services like GamCare, who are working in partnership with the industry and the University of Salford on self-exclusion and other gambling sustainability initiatives.

Responsible gaming codes and provisions require operators to take all available means to help identify and protect vulnerable players and VeriPlay is an important and progressive step towards meeting these obligations.  VeriPlaywill be of interest to any online gambling operator that puts responsible gaming at the heart of its business practices.  The more operators that use the service, the more effective it becomes, both in terms of player protection and reducing customer attrition.

We plan to organise a webinar to walk through in more detail how VeriPlay works and will post details of the webinar in due course.  If you are interested in using VeriPlay or would like to receive further information then please contact us.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Can lottery linked savings give people the thrill of winning with the benefits of saving?

An article posted in December titled Who Could Say No to a ‘No-Lose’ Lottery? by the Freakonomics team is triggering debate about the merits of Prize or Lottery Linked Savings schemes.  The concept of lottery and prize linked schemes is not new in many countries, especially the UK which has been running them for decades.  The UK’s prize linked saving scheme, called the Premium Bond scheme, was launched in 1964, and was described by the then Prime Minister Harold McMillan as ‘savings with a thrill’.  People 'invest' (and kind of gamble) up to £30,000 in bonds, with more bonds increasing the chances of winning the prizes, ranging from £50 - £1m.  The price or cost to the investor for having the chance of winning a prize is a guaranteed return on your principal or investment at below market interest rates.
So why the recent interest in these schemes and lotteries?  Peter Orszag, former director of the US Office of Management and Budget under Barack Obama, has argued in a recent article in the Financial Times that lottery linked saving schemes could be an innovative means by which to encourage people to save in the post-recession era.  Professor Peter Tufano of Harvard University, an expert in mutual fund and lottery linked savings schemes, agrees with Orszag.  And people love lotteries!  Seth Godin’s recent blog explains this succinctly; in terms of practical mathematics the chances of winning a lottery are very slim, which means people play the game for a thrill. 
In his paper Saving whilst Gambling: An Empirical Analysis of U.K. Premium Bonds, Tufano explains that lottery linked saving schemes are fascinating because of their appeal to non-savers, especially low income families, many of whom play the lottery.  He argues there is evidence to suggest that in Latin America these schemes have gone a long way in helping the unbanked population to save, arguing they wouldn’t have saved if such schemes hadn’t existed.  There is also a psychological appeal, in that because the principal payment (i.e. investment) is riskless, it appeals to people’s loss averse nature to gambling and investments (see our earlier post Can Loss Chasing be Explained by Behavioural Economic Theory? to read more about the behavioural factors that drive our financial decision making processes).  Tufano has been putting his theory into practice with eight credit unions in Michigan with the launch of a product which turn savings accounts into a game called ‘Save to Win’.  By the end of 2010 there had been $28m in savings racked-up and two winners.  Alabama has recently lauched a Save Now Win Later product.

So what is driving people to these schemes and are they encouraging greater gambling behaviour?  Tufano says there is evidence to suggest that UK Premium Bond demand mixes both gambling and saving incentives, with sales correlated to the size of the largest prize, similar to a lottery.  However the UK's recent Gambling Prevalence Survey doesn't include such schemes in its list of gambling activities, which is interesting considering these schemes would violate state gambling laws in the US according to Tufano.  Whilst there is no evidence yet to suggest such schemes are encouraging greater gambling involvement Tufano is now looking closely at the results of Save to Win to assess whether the savings accounts are giving rise to new gambling behaviour.  Others also argue that such schemes are regressive and that governments should be encouraging citizens to save by promoting the benefits of saving, rather than taking away the benefits of saving (i.e. interest) and replacing this with a slim chance of winning a prize.

The attraction of lottery or prize linked saving schemes is undeniable.  In the UK it is estimated up to 40% of the population could hold Premium Bonds.  The attraction of the lottery is undeniable.  In the UK 59% of the population bought lottery tickets in 2010.  The question is whether such schemes will take-off in new markets, such as the US, a key factor being whether the benefits outweigh the potential pitfalls.  Also the math behind such schemes requires large participation to make them attractive.  Whilst historical evidence in other countries suggests they could become very popular, overcoming the legal hurdles associated with offering hybrid savings and gambling products may mean that US citizens have to wait a little while longer before schemes such as Save to Win become widely available.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Gambling Industry and Academia - Should They Collaborate?

A topic of interest within the gambling industry is the question as to what extent research and services to tackle problem gambling should be funded by the industry.  The topic is not new and has been debated for many years.  It was highlighted in Bet Buddy’s and City University's research paper last year and more recently was brought to attention in Professor Jim Orford’s new book called An Unsafe Bet: The Dangerous Rise of Gambling and the Debate We Should Be Having. 

Professor Orford states that government, service providers and academics are trapped in a consensus view about the benign nature of gambling expansion and are compromised in their ability to seriously challenge gambling expansion.  Orford argues that the independence of the academic community is crucial in areas such as tobacco, alcohol and gambling, however he states that there’s a growing risk that gambling research is being co-opted to serve industry interests.  Whilst some of the Orford's anti gambling expansion recommendations will not sit well with the industry (e.g.”UK based gambling internet sites should be made illegal”) it is a well written and researched book and provides an interesting overview of many issues within the industry.

There is no doubt that some conflicts of interest will always exist in collaborations between the gambling industry and academia.  However does this mean that they shouldn't collaborate?  The world is changing, and fast.  As gambling continues to evolve along a steep technology gradient, new and innovative approaches to research are required to keep up with the pace of industry innovation.  Whilst the rise of internet gambling offers exciting new opportunities for research it also requires more multidisciplinary experience and skills to effectively exploit these opportunities.  For example, B2C and B2B operators are best placed to provide access to players and player data and to advise on the features and technicalities of the vast range of online games they develop.  Specialist software analytics providers have the capability of taking player data and quickly identifying the sub-groups of players whose behaviour differentiates them from the norm.  Academics in gambling and psychology are best placed to validate the research underpinning analytical models and the results from them.  It is difficult to find one organisation that has all of this experience and capability under one roof.

So whilst a collaborative approach appears to make sense how does one overcome the conflicts of interest that exist?  Whilst there is no easy solution, academics and the industry working in isolation will not result in fast progress.  One of Orford’s recommendations is that 10% of industry profits should be directed towards problem gambling prevention and research.  Whilst additional funds will no doubt help researchers, forcing the industry to support research in such a manner may not be conducive to building important industry relationships.

An alternative and approach could be for interested collaborators to develop frameworks with which to build partnerships.  Such frameworks could include a series of principles that each collaborating party signs up to.  For example, one principle could be that academics must be held ultimately accountable for the design of research project aims and for presenting results.  Another could be that industry partners have sufficient consultation in the design of research proposals to enable them to fully apply their knowledge and expertise.  All participating parties could be asked to fund their own efforts in any collaboration project independently.  A more controversial principle could be that accountable academics are not allowed to commercialise the results of research that they were accountable for (although commercialising university research does happen).

As with the introduction of new technology, new research approaches would need to be actively tried to assess how effective they are, and either adapted (we are never 100% right first time) or rejected.  There are now examples in the industry where such collaborations have shed new insight into gambling research that could not have been possible without collaboration.  We at Bet Buddy are doing this too and will be presenting our research, undertaken in collaboration with both industry and academic partners, at the Responsible Gambling Council’s 2011 Discovery Conference.  We need academics to keep innovating and advancing research and we need the industry to support them in doing this therefore we believe that despite challanges to making such collaborations work we will see more of them developing as the industry continues to grow and mature.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Helping lotteries and operators move up the responsible gaming value chain

At the core of sustainability, transparency and trust within the online gambling industry is the concept of responsible gaming. Whilst the term is now commonly used within the industry what it exactly encapsulates is open to interpretation. Changing attitudes in society and industry towards the importance of sustainability coupled with advances in technology are having a major impact on how lotteries and operators perceive the responsible gaming value chain and how it can enhance the playing experience to better inform and protect players.

The majority of regulated and established operators are now offering what is termed ‘Level 1’ responsible gaming features. We have used the term Level 1 following an interview with Dr. Jonathan Parke from Salford University in the summer of 2010 as part of Bet Buddy’s research at City University London. Level 1 responsible gaming includes i) Core Responsible Gaming Features such as setting credit limits, ii) Age Verification, iii) Fair Games and Payments and iv) Safe and Secure Systems. Even though we believe the industry has done a good job in reaching this level (which is now considered a hygiene factor), there still remain inconsistencies in how these practices are applied.

Whilst the industry continues to bed-in and consolidate the Level 1 responsible gaming value chain, in parallel the past 2 years has witnessed the birth of more advanced responsible gaming tools and features. These are becoming increasingly adopted across the industry, such as leveraging more sophisticated player self‐tests that provide detailed player feedback and operator statistical feedback and using data mining and analytics technology to undertake player behavioural analysis across all operator channels (including call centres). At Bet Buddy we believe the need to help customers make better and more informed choices about their health and wealth and the need to retain customers in an increasingly competiive operating envrionment will see leading operators start to implement more sophisticated tools and features to help their players.

Another area we believe will continue to grow is cross‐operator collaboration, specifically sharing data to help protect players. Whilst operators have been doing this to help prevent fraudulent transactions in sports betting, we will see more operators in future sharing anonymised player data in areas such as self-exclusion through the use of safe and secure services to help protect known vulnerable players.  The development and deployment of the advanced responsible gaming value chain is a logical progression for an industry that continues to grow and mature.

Bet Buddy’s manifesto is to develop advanced responsible gambling software for every online gambling operator in the world to enable operators to better protect their players. Over the next few weeks we will be showcasing in greater detail how our products (PowerCrunch, Advisor, QuickTest and VeriPlay) are helping operators move beyond Level 1 and further up the responsible gaming value chain to deliver state-of-the-art gaming experiences for their players.