Betting operators have become more aware, or in some cases enforced to acknowledge, the importance of safeguarding their customers. 

Learning from finance sectors in certain areas, as well as making greater use of technology, is key to achieving a multifaceted and broad approach when it pertains to protecting customers. 

Attending the Canadian Gaming Summit (CGS) this week, Payment Expert listened in on the opening panel discussion around safeguarding VIP players. Making use of data to monitor player behaviour was cited repeatedly during the conversation between three industry stakeholders.

“We talk a lot about data, and I think gaming, especially online gaming, is a very unique industry. We have a lot of opportunities,” said Jeff Laniado, Senior Account Executive at Optimove, a marketing solutions provider.

He added: “When it comes to RG (responsible gaming), this data should be deployed and used to make decisions about players. When it comes to defining VIPs, then we should be able to determine this player based on his or her average deposit about an average bet amount.”

It is clear from comments made by various gaming stakeholders throughout the CGS Player Protection Symposium that betting operators are taking RG more seriously than ever before.

Martin Lychka, SVP of American Regulatory Affairs and Responsible Gambling at Entain, one of the world’s largest gambling groups, remarked: “The whole industry has embraced the RG course, a lot of funds have been spent on it, but perhaps to make it slightly controversial, we are not as good as we should be at shouting from the rooftops about all the good stuff we’ve done.”

AI’s ability to sift through vast amounts of data, including customer data, makes it a valuable tool for gaming firms with regards to social responsibility. The technology can be used to identify changes in customer behaviour, for example.

In the event that the VIP customers the CGS panel were referring to increase their stakes significantly, or begin betting far more frequently or for longer periods of time, AI could identify this by continuously analysing customer activity.

Given that VIP customers are by definition high-staking, it is important for bookmakers to keep a close eye on said customers. This in turn will ensure bookmakers stay in line with often strictly enforced social responsibility licensing requirements, breaches of which can often result in heavy fines, as in the UK.

In a separate panel discussion later on the day, Tyjondah Kerr, Director of Programme Development and Delivery at the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), observed that the “industry is evolving’ and ‘society is evolving’.

The evolution Kerr was referring to chiefly related to betting industry practices, with the industry much more mindful of RG requirements than ever before. Similar sentiments were echoed on the opening panel of the event’s second day. 

Pat Davis, President and CEO of the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC), Jean-François Bergeron, President and CEO of Loto-Québec, and Patrick Daigle, President and CEO of the Atlantic Lottery, all observed how social responsibility, in particular player protection, is an area of increased focus for operators.

Referring back to Keer’s comments, Payment Expert adds its own spin on the idea that society is evolving. In a broader sense, society is evolving in terms of its attitude towards emerging technology and data, the latter playing a key role in how people consume and interact with businesses.

Speaking on the same panel as Kerr, Dave Sproson, Head of Safer Gambling at EPIC Global Solutions, a gambling harm minimisation and prevention consultancy, emphasised how crucial data can be to companies’ safer gambling policies and practices.

“The huge benefit or bonus that you have is the data you have backed up, which you want to discuss with them,” he said. 

“You can have the interaction based on the data you’ve got, but it’s only useful up to a point. Until you’ve had that interaction you don’t know how deep it could go.”

As noted above, AI could play a key role in analysing and leveraging this data to detect problematic behaviour among bettors. Subsequent industry interest in the sector would further drive its development.

AI has become a magnet for investors in recent years, both at the forefront of the minds of the UK, US and Canadian administrations, and private in the cases of numerous hedge funds and investment banks. The AI sector has fast become a leading destination for fintech funding.

This relates to Payments Expert’s analysis on another key talking point relating to how gambling interacts with the finance and tech sectors. To utilise the data which Optimove’s Laniado and EPIC’s Sponson highlighted the crucial nature of, operators could benefit from looking at counterparts in the finance and fintech sector.

This is hardly a new suggestion for the betting industry. In the UK, the country’s Gambling Commission (UKGC) often called on bookmakers to look at how the finance sector shares data, and how doing so in the gaming space could lead to the creation of a Single Customer View (SCV).

Open Banking, which utilises open sharing of customer data via a verified third party as its core means of functioning, could also be useful here. This is something various operators have already recognised the potential of, with the likes of William Hill and Betfred embarking on Open Banking partnerships.

When it comes to the overriding issue of player protection, and most importantly of preventing harmful and addictive gambling behaviour, Payment Expert stresses that the industry should not become over reliant on technology, whether this be AI or Open Banking, or dependent on data and data sharing.

Treating harmful gambling will always require a human element, with the ultimate form of this being an operator-customer interaction. As Lorelle Muller Lumsden, Director of PlaySmart Centres at the Responsible Gambling Council (RGC), an industry research and treatment body, said at CGS, these interactions are all about “getting the right message with the right approach to the right person at the right time”.

Technology, including financial technology, can play a critical role in underpinning these interactions and informing operators as to who most requires one, in Payment Expert’s view. Firms should also ensure, however, that technology does not cloud their vision.