Is A.I. In Casinos The Next Solution For Problem Gambling?

Artificial intelligence has the potential to address a variety of life's problems, including helping doctors diagnose tricky health conditions and aiding scientists in sorting through troves of raw data. Gambling addiction is another issue A.I. may help humans tackle — though it can't necessarily stop someone from engaging in risky gambling habits, it may prove useful for identifying when someone is at risk so they can get the help they need.

That's according to a report from The New York Times, which details a company called Mindway AI. Using a combination of psychologists and research from Aarhus University, the institute from which it originates, Mindway AI aims to leverage machine learning and science to spot problem gambling based on data related to multiple risk factors. Could an impersonal AI prove more effective than humans at identifying gamblers who have developed a problem and need help overcoming it? It seems the answer isn't so straightforward.

Assessing risk with data points

Mindway AI's system is, put simply, a way to assess whether someone is exhibiting signs indicative of problematic gambling. Results are presented as green, yellow, and red, with the latter of the three indicating intervention is necessary. Beyond that, artificial intelligence may be able to spot gamblers who are showing signs that they're at risk of developing problematic behaviors before they cross all the way over into the danger zone. This could, ideally, result in someone getting help before they spend all of their money or resort to extreme measures to continue gambling.

The system has found use in both casinos and with online gambling companies, though the NYT reports that online platforms are the biggest customer at this time. Mindway AI's website lists multiple products rooted in its science, including the self-assessment "Gamalyze," the "GameChanger" resource for people who are experiencing problem gambling behaviors, and "GameScanner," which analyzes a company's customers to identify who may be problem gamblers. The company's site claims GameScanner was able to identify 98% of the problem gamblers who were manually found by human experts, offering an "overall consistency" between man and machine of 93%.

Spotting problem gamblers is only half the battle

The idea of using A.I. to proactively detect problem gamblers and intervene before it's too late is intriguing, but that's only half the battle. In the report, the team behind Mindway AI discusses some of the potential problems related to this kind of system, namely the best way to alert gamblers when they are showing signs of issues and how to get them to actually heed the warning to seek help. Some of the company's clients are said to use emails, text messages, and pop-ups to alert their customers, though it's suggested that a direct phone call may be a better way to communicate the message.

Even if a company does come up with an effective way to alert users on its platform, getting those individuals to listen, stop, and seek help is a different beast entirely. A company could choose to cut off a player who is exhibiting these problematic behaviors, but that won't stop them from simply packing up and switching to a different casino or online betting app. It's suggested the best way to communicate these messages may, in part, involve tailoring the approach based on the level of risk identified by the A.I. system, but we're still far from a perfect solution.