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The Role of A.I. in Gambling?

  • Written By Kevin Parker
  • Edited
  • Reading 6 minutes

We live in a world of dramatic changes, from climate to technology, to food supply, to space exploration. While many of us try to navigate disruption and embrace a doctrine of life-long learning, technology has been pushing its way into every aspect of our life. And so, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has actually made it to the casino parlors, both online and offline.

Today, casinos deploy complex algorithms to manage anything from security to the fairness of their games. In Macau, casinos have banned off-duty workers from entering the casino floor, but all properties use video surveillance and facial recognition to enforce the rule. AI is not just some oppressive tech that is designed to usher in a dystopia, though, and the benefits for both consumers and business are significant.

Deploying AI to Fight Gambling Addiction

To err is to be human, but for the state-of-the-art algorithms used by Featurespace, the future belongs to the machines. The University of Cambridge spin-off company has developed a powerful AI capable of identifying individuals who show signs of behavior consistent with problem gambling.

Featurespace is just one of the cutting-edge technologies promising to look at the underbelly of gambling industry and help it clear its act. The company even started as a consultancy designed to catch ‘fraud’ perpetrated by casino players, but Featurespace soon realized that it would do people much good if it simply focused on helping identify erratic gaming behavior.

Besides, there is an actual business case for tackling gambling addiction. While players and people critical of the gambling business equate gaming establishments to vulture preying on the week, tough regulation has curbed any shady practices.

Casinos are subject to heavy taxes that bite into the bottom line, and hence, the push to deploy artificial intelligence to tackle addiction ills has been intensifying. AI is hardly constrained to online venues, however.

Fighting back against gambling addiction is already taking off in places such as the United Kingdom. The Anonymous Player Awareness System (APAS) has pushed for a software installed directly on gaming machines in gaming shops owned by popular brands, such as William Hill, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power.

And to make sure the measures actually work out in favor of players, APAS has encouraged training of human staff who can read AI cues and assist in cases where players are clearly overspending or exhibiting other erratic behavior.

Big AI Watches: The Fine Line Between Security and Surveillance

While AI can be immensely helpful in identifying individuals on the cusp of spending above their means, or even sliding into gambling addiction, the technology has its dark side. Of course, you can always argue that AI is a tool – and that it is, but in places like China, facial recognition can be used to spot people prone to losing a lot.

To put simply, this is terrifying for at least several reasons. First, it’s a blatant invasion of our privacy. To make things worse, it exploits a known weakness, which could have potentially life-long consequences, and to top it all off – the practice is deeply unethical.

AI in Gambling Security
Would you trust your security to an AI?

Yet, there is a silver lining. While a few opportunistic casinos will surely try to prey on the weak while regulators are still playing catch-up, the technology to read addiction in one’s eyes, as it were, would help prevent a lot of cases.

It can be argued that facial recognition powered by AI would ultimately work better than analyzing gambling patterns. Put another way, the solutions proposed by APAS and Featurespace rely on players turning a loss to spot the problem.

Facial recognition is not constrained by any of that. The software could look at you and size you up quicker than any gambling counsel could. Yet, just like in the case of APAS, humans will still play a crucial role in providing assistance and helping individuals push past a state of addiction.

You see, machines can crunch numbers and reduce big data to practical solutions. Yet, algorithms struggle to quantify emotions and emotional intelligence, even though they can use changes in your bodily temperature, perspiration and blood pressure to determine whether you are more likely to give in to emotion and use a small fortune at the baccarat tables.

Facial Recognition

Facial recognition can do a lot for the iGaming industry. In Macau, off-duty workers are barred from entering the casinos lest they use insider knowledge to win. Yet, the only way to actually enforce a ban like that is to leverage advanced technology.

Enter facial recognition, as it is. Extrapolating from hunting down rogue employees to spotting individuals who pose danger to the casino and its patrons. Locating rowdy customers or people who damage casino property could save everyone a lot of trouble.

For example, cases where patrons are blamed for having damaged casino property could be settled with an advanced analysis of video footage instead of trusting a human analyst. More importantly, criminals or card counters can be kept off limits.

AI in Gambling Head Scan
Facial recognition is the future to helping problem gamblers.

But far more importantly, individuals who have been showing signs of addiction can be assisted on the spot. Of course, it would ultimately up to the casinos if they want to guide risk-prone gamblers out of the casino facilities or at least to a part of the casino where the potential for a life-destroying loss is limited.

Casinos too are facing an ethical dilemma. On the one hand, the advancement in technology such as AI allows them to create reliable prediction patterns – about your behavior and propensity for spending.

Yet, acting on this information could be seen as unethical as it basically exploits a known human deficiency to cajole a player into playing. With AI advancing in the gambling industry, the argument that “it was a player’s decision to act a certain way” seems to no longer hold any water.

If a casino knows for a fact a patron is going to respond in a certain way given specific stimuli, then how can companies use AI to help them make ethical business decisions?

Perhaps in the future an AI will be assigned to making these decisions for us.

Kevin was raised on sports since a young teen and following a (fortunate) injury pursued new hobbies in table games such as Blackjack and Poker. Since 2009 Kevin has been writing for casino sites for various big names in the industry and CasinoSites.us is but one of his latest passion projects.