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Technology paves the way for responsible gambling

Technology paves the way for responsible

123RF.COM PHOTO Advances in RG technology will help to detect red-flag signs of problem gambling, for example, chasing losses.

Through sheer computing power, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) is aiming to ensure that all of its players are gambling responsibly.

As part of its modernization, OLG will play a major role in the oversight and implementation of technology to advance responsible gambling (RG).

“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.

In tests, Wohl has found that a reminder that players have approached their set money limit increases the odds that they will walk away from the losses instead of chasing them.

“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.”

According to Wohl, some of the technology might involve direct messaging that would break what’s called the dissociation of gambling (when players lose track of time and winnings or losses).

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.

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