“We don’t want problem gamblers playing our games,” says Paul Pellizzari, OLG’s director of policy and social responsibility. “What we want is a sustainable player base. We don’t want a narrow base of players. That’s not good from a public-health or social-responsibility standpoint, and it’s not good for a business either.”
Technology allows the OLG to keep a bird’s-eye view of its players. In 2010, OLG gaming facilities around the province integrated facial-recognition technology to better enable security staff recognize gamblers who had enrolled in the OLG’s voluntary Self-Exclusion program. In coming years, more technologies will revolutionize the approach to RG in Ontario.
The OLG funds research into new technologies indirectly. A percentage of slot winnings pass through the Ontario Government to the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre (OPGRC), which in turn funds researchers like Carleton University’s Michael Wohl. Wohl and his team are researching the effectiveness of time and effectiveness of money limits on Internet and slot games.
“These are prevention tools, not intervention tools,” Wohl explains, noting too that people who have developed problem gambling should seek professional help. “These tools are for recreational gamblers, so they don’t become problem gamblers.”
The approach of direct messaging and limits is exciting to Pellizzari, especially when coupled with data analytics.
“Technology can’t diagnose gambling problems, but it can be used to detect red-flag signs — chasing losses [being] a key one,” notes Pellizzari. With new RG technology, OLG will be able to send messages to players who are exhibiting red-flag signs and encourage them to take breaks, allowing them to opt out of play at any time.