Tuesday November 25,2014 : DEVELOPING SOFTWARE TO FLAG PROBLEM GAMBLERS
The Bwin.Party and Harvard Medical School partnership could be about to deliver a valuable aid for internet gambling operators.
The imperative for online gambling operators to guard against problem gambling could be enhanced by a revolutionary software currently being developed by the successful and decade-long anti-gambling addiction partnership of Bwin.Party and the Harvard Medical School.
In Britain, less than 1 percent of punters are problem gamblers, but the social and media implications, and the consciences of operators, keep responsible gambling strategies high on the list of industry priorities.
The joint project at Harvard has seen five scientists devoting time, skill and energy to create an algorithm capable of identifying gambling addictive behaviour, with a view to addressing customer issues before they become too entrenched.
Using information from a vast databank of win-loss responses to average stakes, total spending and gambling frequency, Bwin has conducted trials of the algorithm on one of its websites since September 2015.
"The research has identified the behaviours associated with gambling problems and then identified what the predictors are," Howard Shaffer, addiction division director and Psychiatry Professor at Harvard Medical School, told the Reuters news agency this week.
By flagging changes in the indicators, the software can alert casino staff and trigger interventions ranging from generic warning messages to contact from teams trained to discuss behaviour and possible remedies. These include restrictions on play or, in more acute cases, account closures and referrals to counselling bodies.
Shaffer, who has been associated with the program for over a decade, says that it's still too early to fully evaluate the software, but that the trial has involved 3,000 users and prompted a number of valid interventions.
The partnership hopes to roll out a fully evaluated and stringently tested product next year.
Reuters claims that other major UK gambling houses William Hill and Ladbrokes are also experimenting with similar algorithm strategies, while the latter plans to link executive pay to targets on responsible gambling.
GamCare's Dirk Hansen has applauded the projects, but cautions that these might not address the most serious cases.
"People at the hard end of addiction are probably going to opt out of these measures," he said.