What does the future of safer gambling look like?

Posted on: June 06, 2023 22:25 PDT

There’s a bit of a renaissance underway with the research and development of tools aimed at reducing the risks of gambling-related harm.

Increased regulatory scrutiny and heightened public awareness has exposed some shortcomings in the existing framework, and researchers and engineers are working hard to plug the gaps. Safer gambling involves not just mitigating the inherent risks but also embracing innovation to create a healthier, more sustainable experience.

So where are things headed? What can we expect the future of safer gambling to look like?

Technology’s role in the future of safer gambling

Advancements in technology will no doubt play a fundamental role in the future of safer gambling. They already are, for that matter.

Modern computers produce and analyze data related to gambling patterns, financial history, and other behaviors with unprecedented scope and precision. The rise of machine learning has meanwhile facilitated the creation of new tools and algorithms that are better at identifying the signs of disordered gambling in a set of raw data. These markers of harm are the subject of significant ongoing research.

As the industry continues to improve its detection mechanisms, it should get better at preventing gambling-related harm before it can occur.

Behavioral studies aside, genetic research could also help reveal any chemical markers of harm or hereditary predisposition to disordered gambling. This is another facet in which the current pace of scientific advancement continues to open up new angles for potential research. Combining the scientific method with personalized data analysis could lead to treatment plans and intervention systems that are better tailored to address an individual gambler’s unique risk factors.

Artificial intelligence will continue to aid the research process, but it could play a customer-facing role in the future of safer gambling too. Operators are already developing and testing AI-powered intervention systems that can provide personalized support and treatment suggestions in real time. In time, chatbots and virtual assistants with natural-language capabilities may ultimately prove to be more effective communicators than their human counterparts.

These advancements in research and technology are already beginning to revolutionize the way the industry approaches gambling-related harm. And these cutting-edge tools and methods are creating a deeper understanding of player behaviors and risk factors, allowing the industry to identify the signs of disordered gambling earlier and more effectively than ever before.

Increased regulatory oversight; enhanced penalties for bad actors

Policymakers will also play a key role in the future of safer gambling. Experts on gambling policy broadly note an ongoing increase in the level of regulatory oversight and scrutiny across a number of jurisdictions, and that trend seems very likely to continue.

Bad press is partially at the root of this shift. A number of well-publicized cases of acute gambling-related harm have increased awareness of the problem and spawned substantial pushback from the general public. Those who make and enforce the rules have been forced to take a heavier hand toward operators who fail to protect their customers. Public trust is of the utmost importance.

The underlying laws and regulations have therefore gotten tighter in recent years. Gambling officials are expanding their purview beyond overt criminal activity and starting to crack down on things like deceptive advertising and over-bonusing that pose a broader risk to players. Much of this type of intervention stems from research that continues to uncover connections between operator behavior and consumer wellbeing.

Officials in some locales have already taken rigorous steps to curtail advertising, and it’s possible that stricter limits or even full-scale bans continue to take root. Think of the way alcohol is advertised today versus the way cigarettes are -- or, more commonly, are not. It seems likely the future of gambling advertisements could start to look more like cigarettes than alcohol as we move forward.

Where these efforts end is still undetermined, but there does seem to be a growing probability of drastic regulatory action. Some countries, for instance, are already considering the implementation of universal deposit, session, or stake limits to try to prevent overspending. The aforementioned advertising bans are becoming more widespread and more sweeping in nature.

Regulators meanwhile seem to be imposing increasingly severe consequences for operator misbehavior. Agencies like the UK Gambling Commission and some local regulators in the United States have demonstrated a newfound eagerness to impose fines and license penalties on operators who fail to protect their customers in one manner or another.

A collaborative approach to safer gambling

While the relationship between regulators and operators can appear adversarial at times, creating a safer gambling environment truly requires a collaborative effort with the input of direct stakeholders and independent researchers alike. The rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence has brought software engineers into the conversation too.

Policymakers and industry leaders play the most pivotal role in establishing and enforcing responsible gambling practices. Stricter regulations coupled with enhanced penalties for non-compliance will help reinforce the public trust by holding operators accountable for their ethical standards.

Some self-policing is certainly in order too. If operators can’t put forth a more concerted effort to protect their customers from gambling-related harm, regulators will take steps to do so on their own. And any such regulatory intervention figures to be far more severe than a self-correction would be.

Continued efforts to raise public awareness about the risks of problem gambling and available resources will remain crucial. Education campaigns can help reduce stigma, encourage early intervention, and promote responsible gambling behaviors. Public health initiatives might increasingly focus on improving financial literacy, teaching coping skills, and fostering a supportive environment for those seeking help.

This type of collaboration between operators, regulators, and the general public will fundamentally frame the future of the global gambling industry and the long-term health of those who participate in it. By embracing innovation, collaboration, and a collective commitment to protecting customers, the industry can create a safer future for gambling that strikes a better balance between entertainment and societal wellbeing.

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