The latest EGBA reports have indicated that not only are members sending more safer gambling messages than ever before, but also that these messages are becoming increasingly personalised. How important do you think it is for gambling companies to keep looking at the topic of safer gambling/harm prevention and finding more tailored ways to reach their at-risk customers?
Oliver Niner (ON): PandaScore is on the supplier side of the industry, but responsible gambling is very important to the business and everyone who works for it. We go to great lengths to ensure that the data that we provide to our operator partners allows them to do the best job they can of looking after their players, that their activity can be monitored and that any potential problem gambling issues can be picked up early. It’s not our responsibility to protect players, but we do everything we can to facilitate safe gaming. This includes ensuring that all participants in the esports matches that we provide data and odds for are over the age of 18 and we also have a blacklist of matches and tournaments where the likelihood of collusion and other issues are high. This means that we only provide data and odds for matches that are fair and where all players are over the age of 18. Personalisation is a must for operators across all areas of their business, and responsible gambling is no different. If you really want to engage a customer, you need to connect with them on a personal level.
Alex Iaroshenko (AI): Having a solid policy in place for safer gambling/harm prevention and paying close attention to related technology such as Fraud Detection Systems (FDS) are two of the most important things an iGaming business needs to do. When they can prove to the industry that they’re focused on these matters and are committed to developing more sophisticated ways of dealing with at-risk players, their business obviously becomes a lot more trustworthy and they’re likely to attract greater cooperation from companies on the B2B side in future. From the B2C side, speaking openly about safer gambling and how you intend to protect your players also improves your standing in the eyes of bettors as it reassures them they’re playing in an environment where their best interests are being looked after.
What is it about personalised messaging that you think makes it more impactful with customers? Does following betting behaviour closely and responding to events in real time potentially enable gambling operators to intervene at the exact moment where customers are most at risk?
ON: So this isn’t really in PandaScore’s wheelhouse but I am a firm believer that personalised messaging and closely monitoring betting behaviour are highly effective when it comes to improving responsible gambling. There are powerful technologies in the market that allow for real-time monitoring of player behaviour, with the first sign of problem play flagged, often automatically. So long as the operator has the right processes in place, individual players can then be engaged and supported before it becomes a major issue for them. As a provider, we do everything we can to support our operator partners in their efforts to protect players – as mentioned above, this includes providing them with the best data only from tournaments and matches where players are over the age of 18. Ultimately, responsible gambling requires commitment from all stakeholders and as a supplier of data and odds, we are doing everything we can to contribute to this effort.
AI: Absolutely. By closely following a customer’s betting activity and responding to certain “red flag” behaviours in real time, gambling operators can potentially intervene at the precise moment where their messaging will be at its most impactful. This is often referred to as responsible gambling or harm minimisation and has become a key part of overall safer gambling strategy, with many gambling regulatory authorities now requiring operators to issue these personalised interventions and use other RG measures to protect vulnerable customers. Generally speaking, a personalised message is always going to be more likely to get a customer’s attention than a generic one, and while this can be beneficial for safer gambling purposes, operators should ensure these tailored communications are used responsibly elsewhere and aren’t encouraging users to engage in harmful gambling behaviour.
In light of the above, how big of a role do you think AI has to play in improving the protection that’s offered to at-risk players? Presumably if gambling operators are able to monitor betting activity and issue appropriate safter gambling messaging automatically, it will eliminate human error and ensure that no players fall through the cracks when they’re at their most vulnerable?
ON: PandaScore is a big proponent of AI – so long as it is used in the right way – and we have embraced this technology and used it extensively when building our product offering. AI can absolutely be used to improve responsible gambling, especially when it comes to monitoring player behaviour and patterns to identify potentially at-risk players early. That said, AI needs to be combined with human oversight in order for it to be deployed responsibly and for operators to be able to leverage the full potential of the technology, especially when it comes to safe gaming. By combining humans and AI, the technology can be further developed and refined specifically for the purpose of safe gaming so that it keeps getting better at identifying potentially at-risk players and then delivering the right messaging at the right time.
AI: While AI can significantly enhance responsible gambling measures, it’s important to note that it should always be used in conjunction with human oversight and viewed through a lens that also takes ethical considerations into account. At this precise moment in time, human expertise remains crucial in interpreting AI-generated insights and using them to make decisions that balance player protection with a positive user experience. All AI systems must therefore be designed with transparency, fairness and privacy in mind to ensure they are used responsibly and ethically. Essentially, a good AI system should act as a reliable co-pilot that can track, inform and make recommendations when there’s a safer gambling issue, but it’s down to staff to interpret this data and decide the best course of action.
In terms of safer gambling, one of the most encouraging signs for the industry is that in addition to operators, the players themselves are also becoming more engaged with responsible gambling, with 30% voluntarily using safety tools like time outs, bet limits and self-exclusion. Do you think this shows operators are doing a good job in promoting these tools and making them easy to use?
ON: I think the majority of players are self-aware and understand the need to stay in control of their play. This is certainly the case with esports players and bettors, and if this continues to filter down into the wider gambling world then that’s absolutely a good thing. Of course, there is always more that can be done, and operators should be more proactive when it comes to responsible gambling. The market leaders are doing well in this regard and are setting a solid standard for others to follow. There is a lot that can be learned from the esports space, too. It is very much community-driven with players connecting via platforms such as Discord where they openly talk about their gaming activity in what they consider to be a safe environment. This will hopefully trickle down into traditional sports betting, providing operators with an opportunity to better engage players in an authentic way and share messages around safe gaming rather than pushing them at players, which is the case now.
AI: Ultimately, responsible gambling is a shared responsibility between operators and players. The former have an important role to play in providing necessary tools and resources to their customers, but the latter must then take the responsibility to use them wisely and seek help when they feel it’s necessary. As such, a collaborative process between the industry and its customers is key to fostering a safer and more responsible gambling environment; and the stats we’re seeing indicate this approach is starting to take root. So yes, operators should be given credit for promoting these tools and making them easy to use, but we must also praise customers for being responsible and taking control of their situations.
One of the many services available at BETBAZAR is KYC, which obviously assists clients in ensuring their depositors are of age and able to gamble responsibly. How important are services like KYC in helping operators quickly/reliably verify their customers so they can better protect them?
AI: KYC services are essential tools for operators in the gambling industry that allow them to verify the identity of their customers, prevent fraud, comply with regulations and promote responsible gambling. By implementing KYC processes, operators can better protect their customers, uphold the integrity of their platform and – in some cases – even prevent harmful gambling behaviour before it happens. The key to a good KYC process is having a system in place that enables the operator to get all of the data that they need approved and verified quickly, while not making things complicated for the user and discouraging them from completing their sign-up process. The tools that we provide at BETBAZAR certainly do just that, ensuring a seamless process for both the client and their customers
While safer gambling/harm prevention measures are obviously very important, do you think there needs to be a balance struck between protecting players and ensuring they’re not too restricted? It seems that if you impose too many checks, verification processes or controls on players gambling, you run the risk of driving them directly to unsafe sites with fewer regulations…
ON: There does need to be a balance. One way this can be achieved is to make improvements to the user experience and incorporate responsible gambling tools into that. The front-end experience has changed very little over the past five years or more, and there is space for operators and suppliers to pioneer new approaches here. Onboarding needs to be fast and frictionless, but with smart design, this can be achieved while bringing responsible gambling to the forefront. The underlying technology required for this is readily available, but most operators have focused their use of this on ensuring payments are rapid and bonuses personalised, rather than how to better integrate safe gaming into the overall player experience. A change in tack here could have a profound impact on safe gaming.
AI: Having overly stringent safer gambling/harm prevention measures can indeed drive players to unregulated or unsafe gambling sites, which can pose an even greater risk to their well-being than if the site they originally wanted to play at was a little more relaxed in the first place. As such, both regulators and operators must work together to ensure a suitable balance is struck between protecting players and maintaining a positive user experience. As mentioned above, KYC checks are essential but should be designed to be as seamless and non-intrusive as possible. Then, rather than solely relying on restrictions, operators should invest in educating players about responsible gambling practices and empower them to make their own decisions. To complement this, operators may also consider using a tiered system where customers choose the level of protection that best suits them.
Finally, is there anything that you think the online gambling industry in general should be doing differently when it comes to promoting safer gambling and harm prevention? Should there be a more open dialogue between regulators and operators when it comes to deciding policy/strategy?
ON: There should always be an open dialogue between regulators, operators and other stakeholders. Collaboration is key to progress, and this must come from the top down. Operators know they must protect players and are doing this, but there is always room for improvement. Esports is all about community and I think the wider gambling industry would do well to look to come up with community-led initiatives that bring players together and allow them to engage with them in a more authentic environment. They should also look to redeploy their technical capabilities into responsible gambling – they can profile players and segment them on a granular level for the purpose of marketing and bonusing, but are they really using these capabilities to be more benevolent and take player protection to the next level?
AI: As we’ve outlined above, there are several areas in which the online gambling industry could improve its approach to promoting safer gambling and harm prevention. These include increased transparency, enhanced education for players, greater collaboration with regulators – including research and data sharing – technological innovation and having regular audits and assessments of safer gambling practices to establish what’s working and what isn’t. At the end of the day, promoting safer gambling is a shared responsibility between operators, regulators and players, so by fostering an open dialogue, sharing data and insights and working together, the industry can create a safer, more responsible gambling environment that protects players’ well-being while preserving the integrity of the industry