Gambleaware punts new software to combat problem gambling

The problem gambling charity Gambleaware has invested GBP 100,000 in a research study which indicates that player data collected by operators could be used to more accurately identify and flag punters in danger of becoming problem gamblers.

Software developed using this sort of detailed information on playing patterns could become a valuable tool for operators, enabling them to warn players showing signs of compulsive betting.

The research study will form the basis of a new push to create complex algorithms which identify “risky” behaviour and prompt intervention by the UK’s 1,074 licensed operators, the Herald Scotland newspaper reported over the weekend.

Iain Corby, the charity's deputy chief executive, told the newspaper:

“Around 40 percent of gambling is now done online and of course 80 percent of the population now have smart phones so, they are carrying around a casino in their pockets. Clearly, all forms of gambling are risky but the real challenge with online gambling is there is nobody physically supervising you. There is nobody watching your reactions or monitoring your emotions. So, detecting when somebody is getting into trouble is a lot more difficult.

“We’ve been doing a lot of research which we’ll be publishing this week looking at whether the data that gambling companies already hold about their customers in terms of how they play online – their play data – can give us any clues to help spot people before they get into trouble.

“Companies do have a lot of data about how and when people are betting and how they react to wins and losses which will give a really good idea if there should be concern about someone. Then they could do something for those customers such as send them a message or give them a call to make sure they don’t drift towards a gambling addiction.

“We’ve spent several hundreds of thousands of pounds on that research which will be a foundation of knowledge on which operators will be able to build systems to detect when people are getting into trouble.”

Clive Hawkswood, CEO of the trade body Remote Gaming Association, said the Gambleaware research will illustrate the most reliable markers for gambling harm, enabling the Association to communicate with its members and recommend its inclusion in their responsible gambling strategies and facilities.

“That will get everyone up to the same standard of the analytics of trying to spot indications of harmful play,” he said.

Gambleaware's Corby said that a younger demographic between the ages of 18 and 35 was emerging in calls to the charity, disclosing that 49 percent of their gambling had taken place online – more than retail betting shops at 37 percent. He said this raised concerns that young people who may never go to bookmakers are becoming compulsive online betting punters.

“We are seeing a new generation growing up quite used to playing games on their phones and tablets but a lot of these games have very similar characteristics to gambling,” Corby observed. “What we don’t have the evidence for at the moment is whether this is actually going to create a bigger problem in the future. We’re in fact going to devote our annual conference this year to the question of young people and gambling.”

The Remote Gaming Association and the UK Gambling Commission have collaborated on a national UK self-exclusion scheme for online gamblers that is set for implementation in January next year, when it will become a licensing condition for any operator in the UK market.

Punters will be able to exclude from all UK licensed gambling sites using a single entry on one website, with all licensed operators linked to the self-exclusion website.

This website will also signpost to specialist support and advice services to assist those people trying to manage their gambling, a Commission spokesperson said.

RGA chief Hawkswood said the scheme should be highly effective, but expressed his concern that the facility deals with a problem after it has actually occurred. This illustrated why the Gambleaware research and the possibility of early warning software was so important, he said.

“If we can stop as many of these people as possible before they develop the problem, then have the self-exclusion as a safety net, that would be a much better way of doing it,” he opined.

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