When it comes to safer gambling, technology is our friend
The Gambling Review is underway, with the call for evidence now closed and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport analysing data and insights from across the industry and beyond.
This will rightly modernise the UK’s betting and gaming laws, making them fit for an industry that is increasingly defined by technology. The technology that powers online and digital betting products has come a long way since the original Gambling Act in 2005.
Continued advances in technology provide an exciting opportunity to make gambling safer and more entertaining - providing operators with the ability to build an online entertainment experience with in-built player protection software, offering intelligent personalised player journeys.
Playtech, as the leading technology supplier to the sector, has worked closely with the leading operators to develop this software. However, we also recognise that more needs to be done to further raise standards, and that continued advances in technology provide an exciting opportunity to make betting safer and more enjoyable.
That is why over the last year we have worked with academics, charities and thought leaders both inside and outside of the sector to build a detailed picture of what else we can do to promote safer gambling. The result, our Sustainable Success Strategy, is a roadmap for how we are going to use our experience, expertise, and data capabilities to build a sustainable, safer betting and gaming industry.
Core to this strategy is our investment in three key areas and beliefs. Firstly, that personalisation of the player experience is central to developing player protection software; second, that safer gambling can be delivered through safer game design; and thirdly, that technology can be a force for industry-wide collaboration.
Historically, one of the biggest challenges for operators has been the ability to pinpoint the specific marker of harm that is driving risk for players and being able to use that data to effectively interact on a more personalised basis. In 2020, we launched Playtech Protect to help our customers by equipping them with the tools they need to make their betting experience safer. A core part of Playtech Protect is BetBuddy, our Artificial Intelligence software that quickly analyses vast amounts of data and detects patterns of play that represent risk.
We know that this is more effective than relying purely on threshold-based approaches, such as interventions only when customers spend a certain amount. Instead, AI can model complex, non-linear behaviours, which can identify the pathways that could lead towards gambling-related harm. BetBuddy then creates a single account overview providing operators with the capability and flexibility to engage with players who may be at risk. These tools offer a vital way to proactively address player risk, helping to build a safer environment for all.
The combination of technology and improved customer service processes has increased the ability for operators to interact and communicate with their customers. Operators can message all customers while they are logged into their accounts or actively gambling. This is a significant improvement on blanket, generic communications solely via email or text messages, which are less well targeted and therefore have less impact. Our own research has shown that real-time personalised safer gambling communications can be over 20 times more effective than email campaigns. Software created by Playtech allows licensees to send these real-time messages to their customers during live gambling sessions, and they can even be triggered automatically to avoid human mistakes.
These technological advances are why online betting operators can more effectively monitor and intervene at the first indication of risk. Limits are also monitored and can be controlled by customers, giving them the ability to make more informed decisions about how much they are spending and giving them the tools to personalise, control and manage their experience.
The data and intelligence that operators gather can be used to build an evidence base and drive continuous improvements. Playtech are uniquely positioned to champion innovation in product safety and game design. We have invested in a programme of research and pilots on safer product and game design, and we were pleased to have co-led efforts to develop the industry’s first code of conduct on game design and invest in new initiatives exploring how product labelling can help consumers make more informed choices.
We also believe that technology can offer unique opportunities to collaborate and bring the best solutions and services from other leading sectors such as e-commerce. That is why last year we announced a new partnership with TruNarrative, which brings together age and identity verification, fraud detection and anti-money laundering compliance. In November, we announced the integration of Affordability UK into its technology platform. This software can identify customers whose betting spend may be unsustainable. This will allow operators to write bespoke rules and build thresholds around a player’s affordability data, transactions and behaviour. This technology will empower operators to meet the changing regulatory landscape and protect their players – without the need for blanket affordability checks on everyone who has a bet.
Our ability to partner with software leaders from outside the industry has allowed us to better respond to the most pressing concerns around betting, including affordability, age verification and safer gambling interventions. However, to continue accelerating innovation and the uptake of new safer gambling technologies, we need new models of collaboration, which create a sustainable sector.
A safer environment cannot be achieved by the actions of only one party in the ecosystem. The betting and gaming industry is beginning to recognise this and is investing a significant amount to tackle the issues. Operators know that there is much more to do to ensure that we are minimising harm and making betting as safe as possible. Playtech will continue to rise to this challenge and develop software that meets the standards that both our customers, and policymakers, expect.
Mor Weizer is chief executive of Playtech