Co-Opting Online Slots to Combat Gambling Addiction

We’ve been on a bit of a slots kick lately here at the Online Casino Sites blog – and I promise we’ll move to other topics soon – but today’s article has more to do with science and gambling addiction than actually playing slots. This one makes for an interesting read and it goes to show how we can use technology to make gambling safer for everyone.

A study published by researchers in the International Gambling Studies journal found a novel way to co-opt online slots for use in identifying problem gamblers. In it, researchers with the University of Brescia in Italy conducted a study to see if they could identity a method to detect potential at-risk gamblers by looking at their betting patterns when playing online slots.

Researchers were given access to data from gambling provider related to players who closed their accounts for financial reasons. The researchers combed through the data, compared it with non-problem gamblers and came to a very interesting conclusion.

They found that problem gamblers were likely to slowly increase their bets over time before suddenly dropping the sizes of their bets dramatically. Their bets would remain at a low level for some time and then slowly ramp up in size once again to repeat the cycle. When plotted on a graph, these wagers created a distinct “sawtooth” pattern that researchers propose could be used to spot at-risk gamblers.

Researchers hypothesize that problems gamblers are more likely to increase their bet sizes over time either as an escalation of “chasing the high” or as an attempt to recoup past losses. Eventually, the gamblers run out of money, and bet sizes return to a low level for a while. Once the gamblers recover financially, their bet sizes start to trend upwards once again.

Armed with this information, Dr. Howard Shaffer with the Harvard Medical School conducted a follow-up study to see if it would be possible to detect at-risk gamblers before serious problems develop. Dr. Shaffer concluded that this data could be used by online casino sites to spot at-risk gamblers.

Dr. Shaffer and his team have since began developing algorithms that could be used by online casinos to identify at-risk gamblers. He suggests casino sites could then display messages to at-risk gamblers suggesting that they reflect on their gambling habits and possibly take a break or give it up entirely.

Yes, online casino websites do have an altruistic side. Gambling addiction is a nasty disorder. Plus, gambling operators can generate goodwill among customers by taking proactive steps to combat problem gambling. This information could also come in handy for regulators who would like to address the risks associated with internet gambling.

Furthermore, gambling stakeholders can point to studies such as these and propose anti-gambling addiction features to ease the minds of legislators who are reluctant to legalize and regulate online gambling.

This type of information would have been virtually impossible to collect back in the days of actual mechanical slots. Online slots have made gambling more convenient and accessible to players of all types, but the technology does have its positives.

It is studies such as these that will go a long way towards normalizing online gambling and making it more palatable to everyone. The industry should not and does not need to bury its head in the sand when it comes to problem gambling. Facing these issues head-on is good for the industry itself as well as for those impacted by gambling addiction.

It is nice to imagine a day in which online casinos and regulators take a more proactive approach that goes beyond merely responding to problems and more towards preventing serious problems before they even develop in the first place.