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Meeting of the Minds

This month in our nod to Responsible Gaming Month, we offer several articles about problem gaming.

Meeting of the Minds

March is Responsible Gaming Month as recognized by many organizations around the world, particularly the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG). We know this is a crucial issue to the gaming industry. On the surface, it’s a perception issue that has caused problems in many countries like Australia, Canada and the U.K. But drilling deeper, it’s the commitment of the gaming industry into discovering the reasons why our product is so harmful to a very small minority of people, but most others can use it safely with few consequences.

And to be clear, there have been multiple independent studies done that prove that less than 1 percent of any population is at risk from severe problem gambling, 1 percent to 2 percent at risk from moderate problem gambling and 2 percent to 4 percent that have a slight problem with gambling. While that’s not a lot of people in the scheme of things, I’ve always believed if there’s even one person that is harmed by our products, that’s one too many and we need to find a way to prevent that harm.

This month in our nod to Responsible Gaming Month, we offer several articles about problem gaming. Dave Waddell and his team at RMC provide an overview of where we are today with responsible gaming (RG), including the recently announced “Effectiveness Principles.” Noted Australian RG researcher Sally Gainsbury and two of her colleagues discuss how subtle changes can reduce harm for potential problem gamblers.

And did you know there is a growing toolbox of RG technology designed to identify and help those afflicted with the illness? I didn’t, so our Technology Department this month reviews some of the latest products that are beginning to make a difference.

Yes, I know RG isn’t the sexiest topic to cover, but I do believe it is one of the most important. So expect to see GGB focus on RG throughout the year, not just in the month of March.

As our companion special section this month, we focus on Security & Surveillance. I’ve always said my friend Willy Allison’s event, the World Gaming Protection Conference, is one of the most interesting in gaming because it focuses on things you usually don’t see or even think about. WGPC is being held March 23-26 in Las Vegas, and always concentrates on issues that are equally important to gaming—customer and employee safety, game protection and data security.

And speaking of conferences, I didn’t realize how closely related security & surveillance and RG were until I went to a conference in January at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).

The session, “Artificial Intelligence, Biometrics and Big Data: An Analysis of Privacy Protections and Public Policy and Its Impact on Regulations,” was put together by gaming attorney and professor Anthony Cabot and his colleagues at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law. The intent was to focus on new technology and how it applies to the gaming industry in many ways—marketing, security, privacy and responsible gaming.

One of the speakers that day was Alan Feldman. Full disclosure, Alan and I go way back to the early Mirage days when he was first hired by Steve Wynn and I had previously worked for Wynn. After his long tenure at MGM as the public affairs spokesman, Alan has transformed himself as the industry sage on the most important issue facing the future of the industry, responsible gaming.

But when it comes to big data and AI, Alan only had questions, which we are far from answering. All his questions were relevant in light of RG. Certainly, technology can provide insights into player behavior.

But can it reveal the Holy Grail: every player, every bet, every time? And can technology predict player behavior? Can technology predict problem gaming? Can technology determine diagnosis? Does this technology violate data protection laws? Is this technology an invasion of privacy? And what are the unintended consequences? Because that’s the elephant in the room. What action creates an unintended reaction? Who knows?

So as we approach an industry-wide effort to somehow make it easier to deposit or withdraw via app, e-wallet or even a simple credit or debit card, how can we make sure this technology is safe and easy to navigate for our players who enjoy gaming, but gives us an early warning when a player seems to veer off the tracks, headed to devastating results?

Like Alan Feldman, I have these same questions and trepidations. So let’s figure it out so big data and AI can help to protect those at risk, and help the rest of us get the most out of our casino experience.

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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