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Profits over people as the gambling industry embraces AI

7 March 2024
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The gambling industry's integration of AI is raising concerns over its impact on addiction.

Danny Cheetham, 34, who fell into debt due to gambling, warns AI "has the potential to deepen addiction. The ethical dilemma here is whether the pursuit of profit is being prioritised over the welfare of individuals prone to addiction," he says.

Cheetham started visiting local bookies aged 18, gambling on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs), and later moving to online games. "The ease of access and the solitary nature of online gambling exacerbated my habits," he says.

Scrutiny into the ethical use of AI is ramping up from critics as online gambling becomes more popular.

The most recent Gambling Commission figures show that in the last four weeks of March 2023, 26% of the UK public had gambled online, up from 20% in March 2019.

The fastest growing area of gambling is live betting, or in-play betting with 51% of in-play bets placed during football games.

Scotty McKeever of EquinEdge supports AI for its data analysis on information such as horse performance, and track conditions.

"AI has made it easier than ever before to offer consumers the kind of data and analysis that used to be the province of pros," says McKeever.

He claims that AI does not affect problem gambling, "it's a disease no different than any other addiction.

“Those who suffer from it aren't going to be helped by making gambling more boring or challenging, nor will they be harmed by making gambling less boring or challenging."

Similarly, Danil Emelyanov Head of AI at Betby believes in AI's potential to personalise betting experiences while also identifying problematic gambling behaviours such as repeated losses, or loss chasing, impulsive behaviours and overall spending.

Cheetham champions this approach saying if used in this way, AI could be a “ray of hope” for problem gamblers. He says, "if employed ethically and effectively, this technology could indeed be a critical step in combating gambling addiction."

Charles Ritchie from Gambling with Lives argues that AI's potential to mitigate harm is overstated, "Any claim that AI could be used by the gambling industry to reduce harm is just a smokescreen. We've clear evidence from many of the bereaved families we support that the AI algorithms are simply not acted on."

Zoë Osmond of GambleAware echoes this sentiment and calls for careful management of AI to ensure it serves as a “force for good”.

Whilst, Kasra Ghaharian, a researcher at the University of Nevada, stresses player safety must be a foundational aspect of gambling businesses' AI strategies.

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