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Know When to Fold ’Em

Lose too much money at Texas hold ’em, and you may get an AI-generated warning.
What’s new: Casinos and gaming websites are using machine learning to flag gamblers who show signs of addictive behavior, The New York Times reported.
How it works: Gambling businesses risk losing their licenses if they facilitate ruinous behavior. Moreover, they make more money on gamblers who pace themselves than those who lose their shirts. Denmark-based Mindway AI mitigates these risks by flagging worrisome behavior on the part of their customers. The system is mainly employed by online betting platforms, including Flutter Entertainment and Entain, but  brick-and-mortar casinos have adopted the system as well.

  • The company trains a custom model for each client.
  • As a baseline, psychologists who have expertise in compulsive gambling score a portion of the client’s existing customers according to 14 risk factors such as betting amounts, times of day spent playing, and bank withdrawals. They label each player according to three risk levels and train the model to match the labels.
  • At inference, the system monitors each player’s behavior and generates a risk level.
  • The casino or website can warn customers of the automated risk assessments at their discretion, potentially warning players of a worrisome trend in their behavior before they get into trouble. While Mindway CEO Rasmus Kjærgaard recommends that his clients deal with potential issues by phone, many of them send email or a pop-up notification.

Yes, but: Gambling addicts may not respond well to receiving automated messages telling them they have a problem, Brett Abarbanel, a gambling researcher at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, told The New York Times.
Behind the news: Face recognition also plays a role in identifying problem gamblers. For instance, casinos in Macau have used the technology to identify high rollers and offer them perks. The city’s gambling authority stated that these systems were used only for security.
Why it matters: As many as 10 million people suffer from compulsive gambling in the U.S. alone. Identifying problem gamblers helps combat the spiral of debt, substance abuse, and mental health issues that often follow. Of course, casinos benefit, too, if their patrons can remain solvent enough to keep pumping money back into the house.
We’re thinking: For decades, the gambling industry has used data science to help casino operators. It’s heartening to see it applying AI to help its customers.

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