We continue this week with the second part of our interview with John O’Malia, the founder of Gamebookers, once chief operating office at PartyGaming, board member of Betclic and now the founder of an innovative AI-based startup called VAIX.ai. We start by asking him about what reaction his chat-bot product ideas have received within the sector and move on to what his views are for the future of AI in online gambling. John will be speaking at GamCrowd’s upcoming Tech Week event taking place in London between the 12th-16th of June where he will be talking more about the opportunities offered by AI and other aspects of today’s tech landscape.
GamCrowd: What has been the market’s reaction to your AI-based chat product?
John O’Malia: It is very current. Our timing is good. The awareness is very strong right now and that plays right into what we are doing. With AI we are at the early part of the curve. But the main insight that operators get in our first conversation with them is how deep it goes and how extraordinarily well it suits gaming. How deeply we can personalize, and how much better we can make your interaction with the player.
GamCrowd: What about the potential data protection issues that arise from this type of customer profiling and interaction?
John O’Malia: Most of the data that we are looking to capitalise on is player interactions with products, rather than players’ personal data. When we look at personalisation, our approach is about knowing what the player is looking for, rather than trying to connect the dots about their identity. There have been articles recently about personal profiling and the collection of data across platforms to form a complete picture of people. But that sort of behavioural mapping needs to have constraints. That’s not the space we are in. Our main focus is how do you use the players’ historical patterns to provide a better service to players – and also to protect the operator. For fraud and downside risk mitigation, incorporating some personal data markers is important. And for tracking potential sharp money; syndicate money. Those factors are important, as part of being a gaming operator is playing defence. But apart from that, in terms of improving the players’ life at the operator you can safely leave personal data to one side. Where it is tricky is if people start blending personal data with data from other personal or social sources. I can see where there will need to be limits on that. The industry needs to respect that there are lines that can be drawn into the sand. I can personalise without getting personal.
GamCrowd: What is the near future here?
John O’Malia: When you look at the full stack; what operators want to be doing is thinking in a modular way; replacing the one-size-fits-all betting platform. Same with casinos. If you know about a certain segment that they will have an aversion to certain games, then to send them an email about a slots tournament incorporating that game is the same as saying, ‘please sign up with our competitors’. This goes through the full stack. Look at every touch point, from the first interaction, you should be looking to improve at every step. The right games, the right bet, the right promo about the right game. Your whole stack has to change. It doesn’t have to look dramatically different to the player but every interaction should have relevance to him or her. It may sound trivial but it is actually fundamental. From the moment I open an app, if in 30 seconds I have already made the five bets I want to do, I still have time and curiosity to offer great entertainment or bet propositions. That feels very different to the player and it will look dramatically better in terms of operator revenues.
GamCrowd: And presumably this means that the customer doesn’t feel like they are getting messages and communications they do not want?
John O’Malia: Yes, when communicating with the player, one must do it in a non-spammy way. It is very different when every communication they receive from you has content that is interesting to them personally. To transform from someone who is always trying to sell something, to someone who is providing exciting content that is relevant to the player and is likely to lead to action, becomes a very different proposition. We all hate spam, but if someone is sending us valuable, relevant content we appreciate the message.
GamCrowd: Where do you think things like virtual assistants and voice-activated search services play into this?
John O’Malia: I think voice will be transformational in sports-betting in certain sectors. But there are a lot of situations where players don’t want to be betting with voice. It brings up a lot of privacy issues. It’s an enhancement that works in certain spaces. But in certain situations, one can look for these types of enhancements.
GamCrowd: And whereas else in terms of online gambling operations do you think AI will have a big impact?
John O’Malia: AI will play a big role in the evolution towards new ways of presenting odds. The way that AR and VR are coming along. There will be some hugely compelling approaches there. There is a reason people bet the way they do. But we need to look for the ways things are changing, and that means land-based as well. Millennials are betting differently and land-based operators don’t know how to capture their attention. Now there is a space opening up between slots and personalisation. That could be a compelling space. That’s perhaps less AI-based, though some is relevant. You can use AI-style transfer. Things that are almost inconceivably effective. Art style-transfer platforms for instance. Look at the graphical polish games providers put into their games and then think about being able to style transfer that. Give people dynamics and interactive modes that suit them. You can change a slot fundamentally using AI tools that let the player take the game into their space. That is very interesting. People will look at content creation very differently in the future. You are looking for a personal connection with that player and they will be so excited to give them the game they have created. Give them this power. If they are used to customising every photo on their phone, allow them to do that with the slot. If they want to interact and tinker, let them tinker. This is looking very differently at things. The number of casino games being created every year is now overwhelming, and you have to look at things differently. And the algorithms are now up to the task. This space is very powerful. Personalisation is deep. Snapchat is a $20bn company because it’s about really personalising stuff and exchanging it with people. Why not gaming? Now, gaming is not social; it is perhaps in many ways even the opposite of social. But it is a personal, intensive activity and will respond to the dynamics which have swept through social.