In addressing artificial intelligence (AI), one of the most-discussed concepts in the world right now, Gambling Insider almost asked ChatGPT to write this article for us. Now, while that’s only a joke, its message presents a concept that mirrors the issues wider society is facing today. Are students getting lazier, when ChatGPT can get them through their college assignments? Are content producers getting worse, because they are letting Grammarly do their job every day? Are humans, overall, evolving through AI, or are they becoming deskilled – because new software can do so many of their daily tasks for them?
These are some of the primary considerations we’re undertaking in this cover feature of the May/June edition of Gambling Insider magazine. While ChatGPT did not write this article, we have no shame in admitting we used transcription software in helping produce the piece. Even if that software is, at this stage at least, incomplete. Were humans not on hand to double check its output, the following pages would be littered with errors. An unerring example? “Hi there, Tim Poole here” is regularly transcribed by AI as “Hi there, Temple here.” In the wider context of AI, beyond the mere writing of this article, there is of course an infinite list of benefits that have been brought to gambling companies; benefits that would have been unimaginable as recently as 10-15 years ago. Both sportsbooks and casinos – online and offline – can now use AI in sophisticated new ways that do not replace humans yet make their jobs easier, creating the potential for huge financial efficiencies.
But, if that potential is to be realised in the long term, what happens to companies and their human employees along the way? Across the world, there is also the potential for decline. Before AI can realise its true potential for gambling (and other) companies, could simple laziness and human nature cause problems for organisations looking to fast forward into the future? Speaking to OPTX, which specialises in using AI to enhance land-based casinos, and Sportradar, which specialises primarily in online sports betting and data, we explore the phenomenon in-depth and ask: AI – is it truly evolving business technology, or simply deskilling those within it?
The Godfather of AI
We’ve all seen the movies over the years. AI has been a contentious topic since the likes of The Terminator hit cinema screens in 1984, The Matrix in 1999, I, Robot in 2004 (and many other, even earlier examples). However, there has been a spout of AI – and particularly ChatGPT – related headlines of late. Not least was news that broke at the very time of writing this article. In early May, Geoffrey Hinton, known colloquially as the ‘Godfather of AI,’ left Google and told the New York Times of his regret at pioneering work that paved the way for systems just like ChatGPT. He is quoted as saying: “I console myself with the normal excuse: If I hadn’t done it, somebody else would have;” and “I don’t think they should scale this up more until they have understood whether they can control it.”
This could happen to a point where you’re in this brave new world-type scenario where nobody’s intellectually engaged with anything. I think that’s probably pessimistic. But certainly some portion of humanity will take that route of not engaging intellectually
Indeed, were we to dig deeper into the morals involved here, we could still be writing come the May/June issue of 2024. But when it comes to the business case of AI, the gambling industry certainly offers a useful case study. First off, we spoke to Steve Bright, VP of Data Science at OPTX, to pitch our initial thesis: that, before we can ultimately see the utmost of AI’s vast benefits, its advancements may end up having an adverse effect on the very human labour force it is designed to enhance. While Gambling Insider is fully aware one or two examples cannot represent the planet’s eight or so billion people, we present Bright with a recent case: candidates for writer roles scored poorly on a proofing test went on to openly say they thought this was acceptable because Grammarly or ChatGPT would find the mistakes for them if they got the job. “Wow,” Bright replies.“Yeah, that’s funny that these are folks with English degrees or some sort of humanities background want to a living dealing with the written word. And yet that’s fascinating.”
He continues: “Theoretical physicists and mathematicians are using computers a lot, so the interaction between the person and the machine will fundamentally change in that, rather than you doing these things manually, like multiplying 7-12 digit numbers together with a pen and paper, that is no longer a skill you need. The computer just does that for you; perhaps basic structural grammar is also going to go that way? Then the value add of an editor or a writer is trying to understand how to connect emotionally with the audience or the reader. Is that a different skill set? I would think of this less as deskilling and more as different skilling.
“Could AI ever get to a stage where it’s doing more artistic things, like playing a musical instrument? I would want to see AI do certain things, like if you can train ChatGPT to write jokes. Let’s see an AI be consistently funny and try to create a funny story. Are we close to having AI completing end-to-end content? You can imagine a world where all of your entertainment content is written by AI, so the question is how good does AI have to be before it displaces all other entertainment? And that’s probably hard to do. It’s probably not going to happen any time soon. It’s also possible that AI-generated information and entertainment eventually dulls the senses of humanity.
“This could happen to a point where you’re in this brave new world-type scenario where nobody’s intellectually engaged with anything. I think that’s probably pessimistic. But certainly some portion of humanity will take that route of not engaging intellectually, though most people, or at least enough people, will still want to retain some kind of intellectual engagement with the world just because it’s enjoyable. You can easily imagine a dystopian AI-curated future where people have their basic needs met. But I think it’s gonna depend on people, right? Some people will just sit in their apartments and watch the AI-generated ‘RoboKardashians,’ and some will write poetry, paint pictures and volunteer to help kids in their community learn to read.”
Very difficult, very valuable
Delving into some recent ChatGPT-related headlines with Bright, there are real extremes on either side of the scale. In Italy, for example, the AI program was banned due to privacy concerns. And, yet, on 28 March, live event and virtual production studio Mobeon appointed a Chat GPT-based AI as its CEO, while around the same the first fully AI-driven podcast was launched. On the Italy news, Bright rightly points out that the likes of the UK or US are nowhere near to banning ChatGPT. And, on the CEO news, the OPTX executive says it’s “definitely worth a try” for a firm, although the real tricky job – in Bright’s opinion – is that of who would carry out that AI CEO’s wishes. It’s a “fascinating” consideration for the exec.
Back to his thesis on “different skilling,” Bright is keen to emphasise why AI does not necessarily “deskill” a worker, applying it specifically to the casino floor – where OPTX plies its trade. He tells Gambling Insider: “Certainly, the ability to effectively interact with an AI and use it is probably going to be more important than primary skills for some things in the future. At OPTX, our concern is in the domain of: if you have a slot machine on the floor, I want to know what will happen if I move this machine over to this location or if I change this machine from game theme A to game theme B. Via AI, that certainly is a huge value add to the industry, and it’s something that doesn’t really exist in the industry now. So we’re quite proud of it. But it’s not in the same realm as ChatGPT or anything like that.
“What we’re working on at OPTX is really more of the co-pilot rather than the autopilot, in the sense of it’s trying to automate a lot of the boring math and data, and present you with some recommendations and predictions. They’re not going to be right all the time because the underlying data is not going be completely right with things like ChatGPT, either. It’s based on text that’s on the internet. Well, that’s easy – you just throw the entire internet at it. That’s your training set and it’s the same for something like a casino operation. The source data is not clean, and it’s not complete, and the biggest value add that OPTX brings again is not really the AI part. What we bring is taking data that’s in this different format from all these disparate sources, and putting them in a unified format, which then allows you to do some of this cool AI stuff. The AI is incredibly nuanced and very, very difficult, but also very, very valuable.
Once more, there is no evidence here of AI taking jobs or deskilling with the above practice. It is the operator that still sets the odds at the end of the day. And, as we return to Small for a final word on this, AI helps provide a litany of micro jobs on a macro level
Don’t get left behind
On the sports betting side of our industry, provider Sportradar recently published a White Paper titled ‘Don’t get left behind: How AI-powered sportsbooks are shaping the sports betting industry.’ The evidence and projections put forward in this paper were, equally, consistent with the words of the company’s SVP of Managed Trading Services, Darren Small, who recently appeared on the GI Huddle. During that video interview, he echoed some of Bright’s sentiments, suggesting the role of the sports betting trader is now very different – but very enhanced due to AI. The human trader, he concluded, is still very much in demand, just in a different capacity.
In Sportradar’s White Paper, it references the “breakneck speed” with which AI is growing, suggesting AI technology is poised to become an “integral part” of a sports betting operator’s playbook. According to a Sportradar survey of global bookmakers, as many as 71% of operators believe AI and machine learning technologies will be “game changers” for the betting industry. In April 2022, Sportradar put its money where its mouth is regarding AI (so to speak), acquiring AI company Vaix. Naturally, Vaix played a key role in its White Paper, with COO Jay Kanabar outlining where AI works best for the industry – notably in the area of personalisation.
“We’ve classified personalisation as the sexy product because no one’s really doing it, but everyone’s been doing marketing or CRM since day one,” Kanabar explained. “I often say the quick wins are optimising your marketing budget or retention strategy, which is where customers often overlook what they’ve been doing and don’t change things.” AI-driven personalisation models work by detecting patterns in player behavior and using that information to target messages, bonuses and bets more effectively. Bet recommendation models become key here and certainly allow for a more tailored sports betting experience. “The more interesting content you see, the likelier you come back,” added Kanabar. “If you see college football, you might bet twice a week rather than once a week on NFL. And that’s how it increases retention – by showing you content you want to see before you even know it existed.”
Micro on a macro level
Again, what’s important to highlight is the above application of AI does not necessarily impinge on any human labour. Traders can choose to use this technology to their advantage – but they cannot simply stop trading. Similarly, Sportradar puts risk management and the ability to profile players at the forefront of the benefits AI offers sportsbooks. Its White Paper states: “These technologies allow operators to create sharper, more accurate odds in real time. Self-learning AI analyses historical data using sophisticated algorithms, thus giving sportsbooks a better sense of how likely an event is to occur. In turn, operators can set odds accordingly and reduce their exposure to risk. Not only does this help bettors and operators win more often, but it also increases betting activity overall. As a result, the operator can offer better pricing to its customers and maximise its margins.”
Once more, there is no evidence here of AI taking jobs or deskilling with the above practice. It is the operator that still sets the odds at the end of the day. And, as we return to Small for a final word on this, AI helps provide a litany of micro jobs on a macro level. He comments: “If you have more than 12 million active accounts a month that you have to manage, it would be near impossible to profile all of those accounts in a real-time environment and do that process manually. You’ll be more exposed to risk and volatility and you’d be less efficient in your transaction handling and how much profit you take out of each transaction.”
Again, what’s important to highlight is the above application of AI does not necessarily impinge on any human labour. Traders can choose to use this technology to their advantage – but they cannot simply stop trading. Similarly, Sportradar puts risk management and the ability to profile players at the forefront of the benefits AI offers sportsbooks
A human conclusion
Based on both Optx and Sportradar’s observations, it is interesting to see the consistency of a “different skilling” idea from two very different sides of the industry. On this basis, Gambling Insider is prepared to conclude that AI is not necessarily “deskilling” gambling’s labour force. We have attempted to throw an AI-powered cat among the pigeons with our thesis and the consensus would appear that AI is not hurting anyone’s ability to do their jobs – nor is it necessarily yet hurting their chances of getting a job and instead being replaced by an AI.
Yet AI is moving certain aspects of the industry forward at cutthroat speed and one unconditional requirement this does create is the need for adaptation. Traders, content creators and games designers may see their goalposts shift over the next few years – with AI able to do the most basic parts of their job, perhaps quicker and more effectively than them. But that ability to connect emotionally with an audience? The ability that really drives sales, brings people to an online sportsbook or casino floor – that’s the real moneymaker and something AI can’t yet do. It’s simply there to help. People must remain as sharp as ever, refusing to overtly game the system by utilising that help, or perhaps that’s when AI will start to be used more with a view to replacing them…
Steve Bright bio:
Steve Bright will lead OPTX’s Data Science team, which designs, develops, tests, and monitors new Artificial Intelligence (AI) features for OPTX’s data modules. The data intelligence used by OPTX creates actionable recommendations for casino operators, provides real-time individualised insights to ensure that no actionable player is missed, and empowers teams to spend less time compiling the data and more time implementing strategies that increase guest visitation, revenue and profitability.
Prior to joining OPTX, Steve Bright worked as a Data Scientist in many different industries, and has over 30 published papers in fields ranging from Experimental High Energy Physics to Pharmacovigilance (Drug Safety). He also has several years of experience applying Data Science to problems in the Gaming Industry, including Machine Learning (ML) algorithms to forecast and optimise slot floor performance. Steve holds a B.S. in Physics from the Georgia Institute of Technology and earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago. Steve is also a recreational poker player, gambler and an avid runner. Steve is a long-time resident of Las Vegas where he lives with his girlfriend Julie and two German Shorthaired Pointers, Vonnegut and Joey, who are often running together in training for the next half marathon.