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Artificial Stupidity

The most powerful tool casinos have is building relationships. Let’s maintain the human touch.

Artificial Stupidity

Of course we all by now have heard of artificial intelligence (AI) and all the amazing things that it’s going to do for our civilization, not to mention the gaming industry. “Machine learning” and “neural network algorithms” are the terms that they use to explain how AI works.

They tell us that AI will not make any human mistakes if programmed properly. In Las Vegas, the Switch facility is a series of super-computers that span several of the very long Vegas blocks, which stores and analyzes billions of data points in seconds.

AI is touted as an almost perfect model that can’t make mistakes, saving time and resources that often are hampered by human error. It can help executives make quick decisions in difficult situations because it can examine all the ramifications of any outcome that could result from each decision. AI draws all its information from the “big data” pool so the chances it will be wrong are minimized. AI has applications in almost all areas of life—medical, manufacturing, service, transportation, entertainment and much more.

AI will be able to track down anyone in the world for any reason at all by using algorithms that reveal all. For gaming, AI will identify your potential best customer and tell you how to approach that person for the best results. AI will tell you how to make the most profit on any customer while keeping them happy.

AI can direct robots to clean hotel rooms, mix drinks and deliver them to their destination, and understand the weaknesses of any system. AI can field complaints and respond in real time, eliminating the need to use humans to solve customer service problems. And AI is available 24 hours a day, and is sharp as a tack every second of that time.

So why am I so worried?

Well, as mentioned, AI can eliminate many of the jobs that today are done by humans in the casino industry. We already see mechanical dealers and the robot mixologists. It’s a short leap to robot housekeepers, valet parking attendants and even front desk clerks. But we all are human, and if you take that element out of our service industry, where does that leave us? The most powerful tool casinos have is building relationships, and that can’t be done if one side is run by AI. Gaming is a person-to-person business and AI only makes it impersonal.

Like your privacy? Well, that may be compromised as AI learns everything about you. Remember when you talked to your wife about taking a trip to Las Vegas and suddenly travel deals to Vegas started popping up on your computer or smart phone? Yes, that is AI, and it’s one of the reasons Alexa or Siri don’t live in my house or my office.

And AI doesn’t know if it’s acting on bad data until someone tells it that it’s bad. So humans don’t really know if the decisions that are suggested by AI are rational or not. The dangers of relying on AI for major decisions is clear.

We’ve seen the chaos created with the hackers. The MGM and Caesars hacks of last year were just the latest, and most highly publicized, cyberattacks on casinos. Almost every casino has had to fend off these attacks. AI just gives hackers another tool to target casinos, online or off. If you’ve automated any of your systems so that humans don’t have a role in their implementation, you leave yourself wide open to hackers.

I remember hearing the brilliant Andrew Cardno tell an audience at an Indian gaming conference that if you’ve opened any of your systems to the cloud or any outside source, you are going to be hacked. Obviously it’s not possible to run a business without connecting to some outside systems, so how do you deal with it?

One of the risks of AI, of course, is there is a very real potential that AI will become smarter than humans—that it will somehow turn on humanity. Remember Hal the computer in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey? Imagine trying to access the gaming history of one of your best players and Hal tells you to back off, that he knows better. While this is something of a reach, this could happen.

So let’s not allow AI to rule our world in gaming. Yes, there are some applications that may be advantageous, but let’s maintain the human touch with our shareholders, our employees and our customers.

Roger Gros is publisher of Global Gaming Business, the industry's leading gaming trade publication, and all its related publications. Prior to joining Global Gaming Business, Gros was president of Inlet Communications, an independent consulting firm. He was vice president of Casino Journal Publishing Group from 1984-2000, and held virtually every editorial title during his tenure. Gros was editor of Casino Journal, the National Gaming Summary and the Atlantic City Insider, and was the founding editor of Casino Player magazine. He was a co-founder of the American Gaming Summit and the Southern Gaming Summit conferences and trade shows. He is the author of the best-selling book, How to Win at Casino Gambling (Carlton Books, 1995), now in its fourth edition. Gros was named "Businessman of the Year" for 1998 by the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Gaming Association in 2012.

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