UK gambling firms introduce AI-based ‘cooling off’ technology in betting shops

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K betting firms are installing Artificial Intelligence (AI) on all gaming machines which spots addictive behaviour and switches them off to stop punters playing.

The Anonymous Player Awareness System (APAS) tracks a player’s behaviour second by second looking for evidence of them chasing losses, playing erratically, speeding up or spending too long on the machine.

If the real-time algorithm finds the player is taking risks, they are locked out of it for a “cooling off period” of at least 30 seconds while managers are alerted, allowing for a Responsible Gambling Interaction (RGI) where appropriate. Safer gambling warnings are immediately displayed on the machine’s screen to the customer.

The technology has been introduced by the newly-formed Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) as part of Responsible Gambling Week, in an attempt to head off mounting concerns over the growing number of addicts including thousands of children and the prospect of tougher legislation.

It is initially being introduced on all gaming machines in Britain’s 8.500 betting shops including William Hill, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power but is seen as a potential model for gaming or gambling machines across the industry, according to The Telegraph.

Betting firms are also introducing a separate mandatory automatic alert which triggers when any player has spent 20 minutes on a machine forcing them to take a shorter 20 second “cooling off” period with staff also alerted.

BGC Chairman Brigid Simmonds said: “The Betting and Gaming Council has as its mission statement raising standards and this technology will create an environment that promotes safer play.”

Wes Himes, BGC interim chief executive, commented: “I see this as an opportunity to champion the highest standards and share best practice on safe betting and gaming and we hope these measures are a sign of intent. I’m convinced that this approach can help restore public trust and I look forward to working on further betting and gaming initiatives across the industry.”

“‘Even if the responsibility were put solely on the punter, a subsequent impact will certainly be felt in the lives of over-stretched, and often poorly paid, staff in bookies. The violence associated with these machines is a worrying trend and I hope this will not lead to a degradation in worker’s experiences who often pay the price for decisions made in boardrooms,” Himes added.

A spokesman for BGC, which represents 90 percent of the betting and gaming market, said: “The algorithm tracks a range of factors to determine when an individual is at risk of harm. This includes erratic play, chasing losses, speed of play and time spent on the machine, therefore the alert and ‘cooling off’ period could be triggered at almost any time during play. It is specific to the individual playing the machine.”

The new APAS system will form part of the delivery of the ‘protecting and empowering customers’ work in the Safer Gambling Commitments announced by the Betting and Gaming Council earlier this month.

The BGC also announced this month that £10m of funding would be provided for a national education program designed and delivered by the charities GamCare and YGam for children and young people over the next four years.

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