Midway AI has developed artificial intelligence that can predict which players are at risk of developing a gambling addiction.
Artificial intelligence could play a crucial role in the fight against gambling addiction — and casinos could only gain.
A company has developed a tool that can predict which gamblers are at risk of developing a gambling addiction, enabling action to be taken before symptoms become too severe.
The AI in question, developed by a company called Midway AI, is already being used in testing by some major online gambling giants.
Casinos have every interest in defeating gambling addiction
Let’s cut the bull’s head straight away: why on earth should a casino care about gambling addiction? Intuitively, one would think that gambling houses only have to gain from the addiction of their customers, a bit like it is true for the tobacco industry and, in general, for those who sell extremely addictive products. It is not so.
” Casinos need economically independent customers,” Alan Feldman, manager of the MGM Resort casino chain, explained to the NY Times. “The only way to achieve this is to have customers who are in perfect health, who can pay their bills and then return to responsible gambling next time. Problem gamblers all end up the same way: they lose all their money.
Hence the rush to develop tools that can help gamblers with addiction problems, if possible before the problem becomes serious or even irremediable.
AI can predict gambling addiction before it occurs
The algorithms designed by Midway AI try to respond exactly to this need. The startup was founded by some researchers from Aarhus University, a Danish university. Their artificial intelligence does not limit itself to signaling problem gamblers, but on the contrary tries to predict gambling addiction before it occurs, by monitoring various parameters.
“The problem is that there is no single indicator that can reveal whether or not a person will become a problem gambler,” Rasmus Kjærgaard, CEO of Midway AI, told the NY Times. “Many casinos already try to do what we want to do, but focus on too few factors: for example, the number of hours spent at the tables, or the money spent.” Is not sufficient.
Midway’s AI monitors 14 different risk factors
Midway’s AI monitors 14 different risk factors. Not only the money and time spent gambling, but also the number of canceled transfers, or the change in the player’s habits: generally if a person normally plays only in the evening, but then starts playing even during the lunch break and then, still, it connects again to play poker or slots in the morning, well, there starts to be a huge problem.
The Midway AI software assigns each factor a score ranging from 0 to 100 and based on these scores it assigns each player a risk factor. The model underlying the AI is constantly updated to obtain even more precise results.
A traffic light system then intervenes according to the score: green light, the player is in perfect health; yellow light, the player is not yet addicted but is on the wrong track; red light, the player already suffers from gambling addiction and is addicted to gambling.
Intervening before the player becomes addicted is not easy
It’s easier said than done. To begin with, how do you communicate with a player who is starting to have gambling addiction problems? “It’s very simple if my algorithm flags someone and I think they’re a problem gambler I can’t just send them a note saying: ‘Hey, great news: you are potentially a gambling addict’,” Kjærgaard sarcastically explains. “There is only one possible response to such a message: raise your middle finger.”
How do you explain this to a person who has a gambling problem?
The biggest challenge is this: how do you communicate this information to a player? The goal is to help him, not blame him. Many casinos have solved the problem quickly using a pop-up-based system, still, others send SMS or emails. Probably none of these resources are adequate for the purpose.
According to Kjærgaard, the intervention should be as personal as possible. Casinos should use their available data to reach the customer directly by telephone, explaining the situation in the most precise, transparent, and empathic way possible. Only in this way can truly appreciable results be produced – which we remember to be not only an interest of the community but also of the gaming industry itself.
Today, companies like Midway AI work in a largely unregulated environment. There are enormous unknowns – even as regards privacy – and above all there are no external and independent authorities that can evaluate the effectiveness of the tools used to combat gambling addiction, possibly intervening in the event of errors. “Today we have no legal requirements, nor any state-imposed goals to achieve,” commented Kjærgaard. “It’s a huge paradox, I hope it will be resolved very soon.”