RGC on Linked in @RGCouncil RGCouncilCanada
Open Mobile Nav Open Mobile Search

Who is RGC?

The Responsible Gambling Council (RGC) is an independent non-profit organization dedicated to problem gambling prevention.

more about us...

Is Play Monitoring Just an Inevitable Step in the Evolution of Big Data?

by Responsible Gambling Council | Apr 04, 2014 12:44 PM

Newscan (Vol. 16, Issue 13)

Discovery 2014 will, among other topics, raise the dilemma of player protection schemes as either an example of oversight gone too far (the “nanny state” at work) or an example of sensible and socially responsible safety measures. We will explore the principles of player tracking and some of the various forms of interventions in place around the world. We will ask: how far should we go in protecting people from themselves?

Behaviour Tracking Is Just About Everywhere

There were several articles in the news this week about something called ‘usage-based insurance’—an approach that tries to match insurance rates to individual driving behaviours. At the heart of this shift is the installation of a device that monitors you while you drive and reports your behaviour to a central database. The device will observe your speeds, distance travelled, braking and other activities. Drivers will be able to log onto a website and see their own data profiles.

So, is this not ‘big brother’ at work? For some, yes. Others worry about privacy issues. Undoubtedly, there will be worry about what other types of data could be collected, and how it could be used. But, overall, these devices seem to be acceptable to consumers—probably because they envision that they will get a reduction in rates for careful driving. (We are all excellent drivers, right?)

If It Works There, Why Not Here?

There are many parallels to the evolution of play tracking in the gaming industry. There are now technological tools to allow patrons to set limits before they play, to get risk warnings and, potentially to be cut off from play if they exceed their limits. There are also technological tools to monitor behaviour, identify risks/red flags and inform patrons.

And, there are also many concerns about these tools and capabilities—worries related to privacy, customer acceptance and the other uses for the information collected.

It’s the (Little) Differences that Count

While there are many parallels there are also many differences between the insurance model and play monitoring in gambling. And the differences may be critical. First, protective analytics in the gaming industry have, so far, not found viable ways to sell customers on the benefits they will get from the technologies. The prospect of reduced insurance premiums, on the other hand, is relatively easy to sell to customers.

Also, in gambling the information collectors are governments. There seems to be a deep-seated suspicion that governments will use the information they collect in ways that are detrimental to the perceived interests of the individuals—the so-called “slippery slope” of government control. We often hear , for example, from gamblers who believe that information collected about their gambling might end up in the hands of tax departments or spouses.

What Do You Think?

Is play monitoring going too far? Does your opinion depend on your own personal ideology? Does it depend on how the information is used? Is it all about how the process is managed? Or is it mostly about how it’s communicated to people? Is it just a matter of time before the Big Data machine knows everything about us anyway?

It’s time to discuss not just the technical capabilities of monitoring play but also its social implications. It’s time to talk about some of the big questions, too. Join us at Discovery 2014 in Toronto as we dig into play controls and much more.