Regtech and problem gambling: putting tech to work responsibly

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Recent pronouncements from the UK Gambling Commission on issues around problem gambling and how the watchdog expects operators to act in accordance with its licensing objectives have made it abundantly clear that operators are expected to apply just as much capability and creativity to the area of responsible gambling as with the revenue-generating side of their businesses.

Speaking earlier this year at ICE, Sarah Harrison, the chief executive of the Gambling Commission, said the Commission’s approach to protecting vulnerable consumers was to create a framework via its Licensing Conditions and Codes of Practice (LCCP), which “puts responsibility firmly with the operators to minimise gambling-related harm.”

Harrison spoke about the signs of progress the Commission had seen to date. She told the audience at the World Regulatory Briefing element of the show at ExCel in London in February: “Operators, both online and land-based, are stepping up their use of data and predictive analytics, and behavioural science to identify patterns of play which might present risk, and applying player protections and interventions which can help consumers stay in control.”

Buddy up
One company which is certainly playing its part in enabling the gambling industry to step up in this respect is BetBuddy which in collaboration with the machine-learning faculty at City University in London has developed a behavioural-identification and modification platform that provides responsible-gaming features to commercial gambling operators and lotteries.

BetBuddy recently announced a three-way tie up with City and Kindred Group which will see the trio explore how AI can help with money-laundering decision processes. It will also see Kindred funding a PHD post at City in machine learning and AI development as it pertains to AML issues.

George Debrincat, money-laundering reporting officer at Kindred, said the company had already identified how the use of AI and big data was vital in ensuring a “safe and secure gambling environment for our customers.”

Speaking to GamCrowd, Simo Dragicevic, founder and chief executive behind BetBuddy, says he believes technology will continue to play a vital part as the industry seeks to maintain the highest standards for responsible gambling. Moreover, he adds that the regulatory push is towards ever more investment in, and exploration of, how to truly leverage technological advances in order to better promote increased responsible gambling oversight.

“Regulators want to see the industry investing in and improving all aspects of RG programmes,” he says.

It means integrating all aspects of responsible gambling policy throughout an organisation, not just in the compliance department, ensuring that responsible gambling is an engrained element of the company’s structure and ethos and that it plays a part in every day-to-day operations.

“Regulators will expect operator executive teams, including the chief executive, to ensure this happens,” Dragicevic adds. “This applies to all areas, including the staff training of not just the responsible gambling and compliance teams, but also the VIP and customer service teams. Technology is a fundamental lever as most operators’ business processes are now enabled by technology.”

Other technology providers are working in the same space; Featurespace, for instance, which takes an adaptive behavioural analytics approach to the gaming space with a responsible gambling product that monitors all player data in real-time across multiple channels to spot the markers of harm that indicate an at-risk consumer. It is a product which has been applied by a number of operators including the UK’s National Lottery.

Laura da Silva, director at corporate and social responsibility consultancy and provider Silverfish, points out, though, that technology doesn’t provide all the answers and that though it can certainly help, operators will also need to be seen addressing the root causes of problem gambling.

“Of course, regulators will want companies to use tech for protection in the same way they use it for marketing purposes or other purposes,” she says. “But tech alone isn't the solution. Focusing on the symptoms of problem gambling rather than a holistic solution is what will be more effective and useful to society and businesses (and the regulators).”

Harrison from the Commission said in February that it is “still easy for progress to be undermined by culture and practices in some businesses which puts commercial gain over compliance.”

In comparison, she was full of praise for operators that had reengineered their compliance function and culture and had put social responsibility at the core of their business. “There are others who are providing products which limit spend and loss, or alongside which third-party affordability checks will be made,” she said. “These are examples of operators designing-in practices which can help minimise gambling-related harm and the risks of crime – these are examples of leadership.”