Speaking during the Gambling Commission’s own Raising Standards conference held in Birmingham in early November last year, chief executive Sarah Harrison took up a theme from the Conservative Party conference that took place in the same city the previous month.
The government of Prime Minister Theresa May had, Harrison suggested, laid emphasis on how industry needed to be mindful of its commitment to the consumer. Citing how companies in financial services were encouraging initiatives aimed at providing help to the wider community – such as the programme to help people get online run by Barclays Bank – Harrison said that across the economy “institutions are becoming increasingly focused on their wider responsibilities to their customer and regulators are helping to shape this.”
“Don’t wait for a crisis to happen that shakes the very foundation of customers’ trust in your industry,” Harrison warned. “Act now and demonstrate to consumers that your interest in their needs is genuine.”
The Commission believes operators can do more to, as Harrison stated it, “put consumers at the heart of everything (they) do,” and one area where they have focused is in the application of big data.
Specifically, the Commission feels the industry should be putting as much effort in utilising the latest data analytics techniques in understanding issues around the detection of problem gambling as it does in terms of marketing its products.
“It’s in important issue for the sector,” says Nathan Rothschild, co-founder and partner at sports data and information provider iSport Genius who spoke on the subject of data and problem gambling at the IAGR conference in Singapore. He points out he was invited to speak by Nick Tofiluk, the director of regulatory operations at the Commission who, according to Rothschild, made it clear the regulator was “very interested in seeing how big data offerings could mitigate against harmful behaviour.”
“With our product, we are giving bettors more information – we call it data nuggets – to help guide them. It’s a commercial proposition, obviously, but what I think the Commission has picked-up on is that via our data feeds, the consumer is making a more informed and considered decision.”
An important element of the iSport Genius proposition is that it is a nuanced product that, via layering and tiering, can provide an extra layer of personalisation and Rothschild suggests this is also a major area of regulatory interest.
“Personalisation is a hot topic for regulators,” he suggests. “From the conversations I have had with them, they are looking at how data products can help in the understanding of player behaviour. This is right down to an individual level.”
The potential is there via the application of big data techniques for operators to not only identify individuals that exhibit problem gambling traits – or show they have a susceptibility – but to see problems developing in real-time, and automatically react.
Such is what real-time data personalisation provider deltaDNA believes. The company provides services that, in a marketing sense, can help operators know how to better engage with gaming customers when they are on the site. But Mark Robinson, chief executive, points out that there are other uses for this type of real-time tracking.
“The potential the regulators can see, is that there are some very defined behaviours you might have if you have a gambling problem,” he says. These include never leaving any credits in the account; making riskier decisions when losing; and paying no regard to the amount you can bet comfortably.
“They are all easily identifiable through behavioural data,” says Robinson. “You know how much someone has bet. You know how much they leave with at the end of the day. You can identify what is within normal parameters – there are studies on this. You can actually very easily look at the 2 percent or 3 percent likely to have a problem, who most frequently exhibit these behaviours, and then you can engage with them to mitigate their in-gameplay.”
A NOSES for trouble
As it stands, the blunt instrument being used to deal with problem gambling is self-exclusion. The Commission recognised it as such in its draft paper in 2015 on the potential for the crafting of a national self-exclusion scheme (NOSES) when it said self-exclusion was “to some extent a last resort.”
The numbers that have taken this last resort appear to be climbing, though the evidence is limited. The data from the Commission annual figures for the year to March 2016 show that a total of 611,531 self-exclusions took place over the period of the 12 months across all operators. This compares with 180,166 over the five-month period between November 2014 and March 2015.
Due to the issue of multiple accounts, we have no idea how many actual people are involved here. However, taking the absolute number and using that as a percentage of the similarly multiple-account affected overall accounts number, we can see that it does indeed correlate with Robinson’s 2-3 percent level.
The NOSES paper said the Commission was keen on laying just as much emphasis on “upstream” harm minimisation efforts, including the “improved provision of information to players”, gambling management tools made available to players and “effective customer interaction to identify players who are experiencing or are at risk of harm.”
John Hagan, gambling law expert at Harris Hagan, has been in charge of the gambling industry’s efforts with regard to NOSES as chairman of the Industry Group for Responsible Gaming (IGRG) and he says that there is a lot more going on with regard to responsible gambling than the industry is often given credit for.
He adds, though, that engagement and participation is critical. “Industry participation is vital to obtaining information on current activities, establishing a vision for the future, testing messaging options, developing outcomes that are practical and workable and, crucially, implementing them.”
He adds that just in terms of player messaging, there is scope to improve the effectiveness of in-gaming information which is bespoke to the player’s own gambling behaviour. Robinson agrees. “Real-time marketing can identify those most at risk. You can see the behaviours. You can send out warnings. You can build safeguards within the game that encourage problem gamblers to have a healthier approach to their gambling and that also protects them.
“Operators can get behind that and regulators are attracted to this approach. It’s about encouraging a healthier long-term relationship with these players against really just passing them over to someone else.”
Rothschild suggests that when it comes to big data and its potential utilisation in the gambling sector that we are “only seeing the tip of the iceberg.” “Look at how the advertising industry is employing retargeting, I think it gives us just a hint about how your past online activity will determine in future what front-end you will see,” he says. “It’s about clarity of offer, not just cramming information onto a screen. I know that is what the regulators are keen on.”
If you liked this article, you should read ‘Mind the data gap: Making real-time CRM a reality in gambling’.