“In the near future responsible gaming will be integrated into all business sides,” asserted Motti Colman, Senior Director of Sales at Optimove, but, he continued, doing so at scale poses challenges that AI solutions can step in to address

The comments come as Colman speaks to CasinoBeats amid the ongoing National Council on Problem Gambling-led Problem Gambling Awareness Month in the US.

In addition to addressing if operators currently do enough when it comes to problem gaming, insights are offered on mitigating problematic behaviours and cultivating healthier practices.

The key, the company says, is to develop personalised and responsible marketing strategies that differentiate between players, and segment them into different groups based on their risk level.

CasinoBeats: March is NCPG-led Problem Gambling Awareness Month. What does this mean for Optimove? And what does the company do with regards to mitigating such issues?

Motti Colman: We have a deep understanding how a gambling problem can affect people’s life, and everyone around them. We’re all for fun, but sometimes the fun stops and turns into a problem and that is the last thing we want to see. We want to help operators facilitate better CRM marketing, and as far as we’re concerned, proper RG preventive strategy goes hand in hand with that. 

That is why we create tools to help operators improve their RG practices and even predict at-risk customers so that they can take pre-emptive action instead of reactive ones.

The awareness month is a great thing, it’s an opportunity to raise awareness towards the critical role advanced and automated tools play in RG. 

“AI-based algorithms should be playing a central role in CRM marketing”

For example, AI-based algorithms should be playing a central role in CRM marketing – as, in this context, such algorithm would be immeasurably more accurate and scalable at detecting at-risk players than any human-based mechanism, hopefully stopping unhealthy behaviours before they occur.

We keep developing our ML-based model and advocating for its adoption throughout the industry. We also offer tools to help marketers better communicate with their players. 

Everything from automatically excluding players who reached their self-set limits or have self-excluded from communications, to automatically prioritising informational messages over promotional ones for those who are at-risk.

But the algorithm is just one part of it all. Plenty of orchestration is being done behind the scenes, which means redirecting the right message to the right customer. In this context, taking them out of promotional journeys and into informational ones, and even reminding them to set their daily/monthly limits foments a healthier environment.

CB:  Do you believe that operators currently do enough when it comes to responsible gaming?

MC: I think there has been a clear move in the UK by the main operators towards a mass market/recreational customer. We have seen average player values drop accordingly and VIP programs have basically come to an end. 

This has been driven by the concerns around problem gambling and the big overlap between what was previously described as a VIP and what is now understood to be problem gambling issues.

I still tend to see that companies have two separate departments, CRM and RG, and the reality is that the result of this operational setup and the contradictions between definitions of success in each field, means that the company is not driving in the same direction when it comes to player care.

This is very different when you look at lottery operators who tend to think of CRM and RG as one and the same thing.

“In the modern gaming world … brands don’t have to choose between revenue and social responsibility”

CB: What would you say are the key factors when it comes to mitigating problematic behaviours and cultivating healthier gaming practices?

MC: Optimove has a different approach to helping operators tackle responsible gaming and recognises three maturity levels of an operator regarding responsible gaming:

  • Basic – Providing players the ability to self-exclude at any time. This is typically also the most rudimentary requirement of most regulated regions.
  • Competitive – Exploring the various attributes that players demonstrate before they self-exclude. By creating a segment of customers who self-excluded, operators can identify suspicious attributes to try and mitigate them and reduce the number of players who become at-risk players (which isn’t good for anyone).
  • Advanced – Implementing a machine learning algorithm that helps operators predict which players are likely to become at-risk ahead of time. Such algorithm also allows operators to differentiate between at-risk and VIP players, who often share a few similar attributes.

CB: Would you say there’s a way that operators could reduce risk for players and not hurt their bottom line?

MC: In the modern gaming world, which includes land-based casinos, sports betting, digital, and all gaming forms, brands don’t have to choose between revenue and social responsibility.

The companies that tend to be the most profitable and the market leaders are the ones that take responsibility seriously for a number of reasons: 

  1. If you’re irresponsible, you’re leaving your customers dry. You want the customer to afford what they are spending. That’s the heart of responsible gaming. 
  2. If you want the public’s trust and to be recognised as one that can be trusted with their money, RG has to be front and centre in your business practices. If not, you’re not going to be a market leader.
  3. If you don’t take responsibility seriously, regulators will prevent your brand from renewing your licence.

In addition, operators can now ditch the guessing game, trying to differentiate at-risk players and VIPs, thanks to our AI algorithm which will do that for them, and then orchestrate the following preventive measures. 

CB: What is the future of responsible gaming in the industry?

MC: On the predictive side I believe there is a huge amount more that operators can be doing to identify behavioural issues at a much earlier point in the customer journey.  

Once these models are in place, operators do not need to take a binary decision about the customer (cut them off or leave them alone), but can start to take the customer through a RG journey that may first provide content around the issue. If the behaviour doesn’t change, then limits can be brought in before finally cutting the customer off.

In the near future responsible gaming will be integrated into all business sides and won’t be a siloed responsibility of a few. For this every department within an operator or platform must be guided by RG principles. For example, in CRM, it means CRM teams have:

  1. A clear understanding of what RG principles need to be followed.
  2. These principles will be converted to customer attributes that are easily trackable and monitorable.
  3. There will be programs in place to foment healthy gaming behaviour.
  4. There are marketing tools that autonomously redirect customers to those programs when needed (to prevent and amend situations).

Doing this at scale however is challenging which is the place for AI to step in and take the lead in predicting, identifying and managing at-risk players. 

Once a player is identified as being at-risk, the AI algorithm will autonomously reassign them to the appropriate segment, where the messages are less salesy, focusing more on adjusting the behaviour, understanding the problem better and taking a step back if needed.