Predictive Software Zones in on Online Gambling Addicts

By John Lavitt 12/22/15

A new early warning system on gambling websites can help detect patterns of addictive behavior.

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BetBuddy predictive software is being installed on internet gambling sites to analyze the behavior of users and help predict online gambling problems. By providing an "early warning" notification to users who show signs of addiction, the software is intended to prevent a bevy of financial disasters that have plagued problem gamblers.

Developed by teams at City University London and gambling analytics startup BetBuddy, the software tracks the gambling habits of users, then compares the patterns to a database of records collected from previous addicts. The baseline individuals were chosen because they had personally asked to be blocked from online gambling sites.

Online gambling has contributed to a growing number of problem gamblers worldwide, with an estimated 593,000 located in the UK. The software has the potential to have a profound impact on a serious issue. “This project is an example of how artificial intelligence and machine learning methods can be used to address an important social problem," said Professor Philip Nelson, CEO of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (ESRC).

The underpinning computer models were developed according to the latest findings from psychological pathway studies into gambling addictions. A machine learning technique called "random forests" was applied to the dataset, where it could achieve 87% accuracy in predicting gambling patterns likely to grow into a serious problem. The system further allows providers to decide whether or not to send users marketing materials, or whether to suggest self-exclusion to the player.

“Our aim has been to help BetBuddy test and refine their system so that it gives providers an effective way of predicting at an earlier stage self-exclusion as well as other signals or events that indicate harm in gambling," said Dr. Artur Garcez, a professor at City University. This enables customers to use online gambling platforms more securely and responsibly.”

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles with his beautiful wife, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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