Analysis: Could Artificial Intelligence be the answer to help tackle problem gambling?

By Iqbal Johal

In the current market, there are plenty of tools available to help the player control their gambling. Whether it’s loss or deposit limits, time-outs, self-exclusion, markers of harm, or the new UK credit card ban, all these tools are designed to protect the player. But whether or not these tools are working to the desired effect is another question; figures from the Gambling Commission in 2019 suggest the number of gamblers in the UK who are labelled with at least a low risk of problem gambling is two million.

If the industry needs a new way to deal with problem gambling, and ensure methods are effective, artificial intelligence could play a part. That’s where Mindway AI comes in. Set up in 2018 by Danish professor Kim Mouridsen, the responsible gambling solution uses artificial intelligence and neuroscience to analyse player data and identify the issues found before providing a solution. As Mouridsen tells Gambling Insider, it’s using professionals such as psychologists and researchers, with the idea to “use artificial intelligence to learn from experts.”

Earlier this month, Mindway AI released two tools – GameScanner and Gamalyze – as a demo for operators to use. Gamescanner identifies problem gamblers with the same performance as expert psychologists in the field and explains why a gambler is rated at a certain risk level. Gamalyze is a self-testing online card game, where the technology behind the game analyses decision-making behavior and advice is given to the gambler.

Mouridsen said: “Operators need a way of communicating with customers so usually they use a blackbox machine which would come up with a score relating to the changing of behaviour through monitoring and it will spit out a risk score but it’s not really telling you why it’s doing this.

“If a player has a high probability of being addicted, the operator needs to communicate that to the customer, which is difficult because you want to keep the customer but also protect them.”

Instead of coming up with a probability of how at risk someone is of problem gambling, Mindway AI provides expert feedback to the customer, as these tools can work out what is good and bad behaviour.

According to Mouridsen, currently the only tool available for operators to deal with a change in gambling behaviour is to close an account, which is just a half stop because the player is either gambling or not gambling at all. He quotes figures suggesting only 20% of self-defined problem gamblers use self-exclusion. 

That reinforces the need for a “soft-landing” half-way solution, which Mindway is aiming for with its new tool, GameChanger.

GameChanger is a training game that consists of a sequence of gambling and non-gambling images, with the purpose to only click on the non-gambling picture, which players get rewarded for. “This will help control impulsivity and decrease to give people a split second to work out if they want to do the next gamble or not”, Mouridsen explains.

“We know from other substance abuse like alcohol or drug abuse, this is something that can actually change people’s behaviour. We hope this can stop people from becoming addicted without telling them to stop gambling altogether.”

The current climate, with the coronavirus lockdown causing a spike in online gambling, calls for the use of new technology to tackle problem gambling more than ever, which Mouridsen accepts.

“We know from a lot of research that the brain can become more sensitive to quick fixes. When the brain becomes stressed, some changes can motivate the behaviour where it’s looking for artificial rewards and gambling can be one of them.

"And for the mere fact people are getting bored so are seeking out gambling; but this can be more serious as gambling can then become a self-medication if the stress becomes more severe. We like to believe our technology then becomes more important and in the long run I think especially getting information that was currently unavailable.”

So with the use of neuroscience, artificial intelligence and expert advice, we could finally have a tool that can decrease someone’s risk of gambling.

When this technology becomes implemented, it will be interesting to see the impact and how likely it is for addiction to be stopped this way, rather than being forced to stop gambling completely. Will this tool calm the urge to over-gamble or is it just a temporary measure before someone loses control? Only time will tell on that question.

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