It’s no secret that artificial intelligence (AI) is casting waves of disruption through a variety of industries and sectors. Businesses are scrambling to understand what AI is and how it can best be used, especially those with tech components. But they aren’t the only ones.
Online casinos and the gambling industry at large are in the thick of the AI transformation. In fact, the intersection of AI and game playing was cemented more than 20 years ago when IBM’s Deep Blue computer defeated renowned chess master Garry Kasparov 3.5 – 2.5 in a six-game match.
The sheer power of AI in the gambling arena so far was perhaps best showcased in January 2017, with Carnegie Mellon’s Libratus AI winning thousands of poker hands over top-rated players in Heads-Up No-Limit Hold ‘em.
But this is only the beginning of AI’s influence on gambling and the way casinos operate.
Dizzying New Heights of UX
The gambling industry, in the traditional form of land-based brick-and-mortar casinos, has long been at the vanguard of analyzing player behavior. Using data collection methods like player’s club cards and loyalty programs, casinos employ sophisticated systems aimed at understanding why players chose specific games, stop playing, or switch games.
As trends develop in the data, casinos can identify factors such as what elements of a game make it more popular than others or how the physical arrangement of games on the floor impacts player selection. Gathering and sifting through all this data produces benefits for both casinos and players. Gambling operators use the data to deploy resources, retain players and maximize profits while players enjoy personally tailored gaming experiences and generous promotional offers.
The opportunities to collect and leverage player data explodes in the online casino world. Instead of tracking a percentage of total players—the individuals who have opted-in to a player’s club—online casinos may track the activity of all players based on their user accounts.
These valuable insights combined with AI allow for an even more heightened user experience (UX). As an online gambler, you can step virtually into a casino built just for you! The system knows your favorite games, and they’re accessible with a single click when you log in.
Sure beats trudging through a packed casino floor to find your lucky slot next to the drafty exit door.
AI is also radically improving UX at customer service touchpoints. The impersonal, often frustrating customer service “bots”—the non-human agents that are supposed to recognize your voice commands but rarely do—are being replaced by a new breed of intelligent concierge.
Armed with deep knowledge of your preferences and habits, these AI-driven agents provide more personalized information while delivering faster, customer-focused resolutions to issues. We’re finally entering the era of friendly, relevant and responsive automated systems.
Building a Wall Before the Slippery Slope
The battle against gambling addiction is fought daily by the casino industry and advocacy groups. Overall, casinos do a commendable job in promoting responsible gaming and providing resources to players who may have a gambling problem. But what if more can be done sooner to thwart gambling addiction?
Thanks to AI, early detection and prevention are possible. By analyzing player data for problematic behavior, AI can flag individuals with concerning patterns and notify online casino operators. The identified account can be suspended while the player is offered help before he or she spirals out of control into gambling addiction.
BetBuddy, a patent-pending analytics platform from the gaming and financial services tech firm Playtech, is one example of technology applying AI to capture a player’s digital footprints, enhance UX and identify problem gamblers. This solution relies on random forest algorithms, neural networks and other methods to spot irresponsible gambling behavior in real time. BetBuddy then delivers personalized communications regarding the detected behavior to both the player and operator.
Cheat Proofing and Leveling the Playing Field
Just as players need to be offered protection and be informed about gambling addiction, online casinos need to be safeguarded from unscrupulous players. The same insightful data analysis and machine learning capabilities AI uses to reward and protect can be engaged to root out cheating players.
Online casinos are at a disadvantage compared to their land-based peers when it comes to monitoring players in action. The nests of CCTV cameras and eagle-eyed security staff ubiquitous with land-based operations aren’t around to surveil online players in their homes or on the go. This creates a blind spot in which online players can reference probability programs or employ their own AI bots to gain an unfair advantage over the house.
All well-intentioned players benefit when AI quickly identifies and eradicates a cheating scheme. However, the challenge will be for the casino’s manipulation-busting AI to outpace the fraudulent AI of cheaters. Expect to see something similar to the cybersecurity cat and mouse game that’s been afoot for decades between hackers and those charged with keeping the nefarious attackers out.
The casino industry has an impressive track record of quickly embracing interactive technology. Compare the 16-bit feel of yesteryear’s online poker games to the live dealer video poker of today, and it’s evident that online casinos have made quantum leaps to engage and appease players. If anyone stands a chance to prevail in the “good vs. evil” AI war against cheaters, it’s current online casino operators.
We’re still in the early stages AI adoption by the casino industry. While the fields of UX, responsible gambling and fraud prevention present breakout use cases, more AI applications to the industry will continue to develop. As players, we should look forward to this promise of personalized, safe and fair gambling.