Simo Dragicevic, founder and CEO of safer gambling specialists BetBuddy, on embracing data and real-time engagement in light of new guidelines from the Betting & Gaming Council during a unique time for the industry
The social distancing measures introduced in the UK and many other key markets in February and March 2020 has created a landscape unlike any seen before. With millions suddenly restricted to their homes for the majority of the time, players suddenly have more time and opportunity to gamble than ever.
Players potentially at risk are no longer spending their money on pubs, restaurants, cinemas and the theatre, and as such may find themselves with more disposable income.
On 30 March, the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) announced a 10-point pledge action plan to protect vulnerable players in this unprecedented situation, with new standards to come into immediate force. Key pledges on which BGC members will be expected to take action include:
1. Increase safer gambling messages across all sites and direct to all customers
2. Step up interventions if customers increase time and spend beyond normal pre-crisis patterns
3. Actively promote deposit limits
How does an operator fulfil their responsibilities to players with so little precedent to guide them? While site messaging on safer gambling may be relatively easy to add, knowing when and how to intervene effectively is the real challenge. So how do we effectively identify and communicate with players whose circumstances and behaviour patterns change to indicate a greater potential risk of harm? More pertinently, what happens when every player’s circumstances may have changed since their risk level was previously assessed?
The powerful risk data and play pattern monitoring capabilities delivered by Playtech’s AI-driven BetBuddy safer gambling platform allow for a highly detailed level of player profiling, giving operators the power to act at key intervention points based on the most relevant data. For instance, BetBuddy calculates and analyses player session times, allowing operators to intervene should average session times exceed a particularly high threshold, or are on an increasing trend; for example, through a pause in play and a message suggesting a break. At a time when people are likely to be spending more time online than usual, this can be a very useful form of intervention; particularly in markets where time breaks are not mandatory.
As well as calculating average session times and session time increases, BetBuddy monitors ongoing behaviour, tracking statistical trends showing the likelihood of players continuing to increase their sessions. At a deeper level, data such as night play ratio – the proportion of session time spanning the early hours of the morning – is also calculated. This is a perfect example of how patterns of play – in this case, high levels of play during unsociable hours – can reveal significantly more about a player’s risk profile than pure session time or bet amount data alone.
Smart Player Journey use cases: helping operators manage compliance in a player-friendly way
As the industry is compelled to interact more often with players to ensure sustainable play, engagement strategies are also starting to evolve, with even greater consideration being given to the strategic benefits of getting to know customers in more depth. For those operators who can engage in real-time using personalised communications, a major compliance challenge can be addressed in a player-friendly way. This is especially powerful when integrating player risk data from BetBuddy into Playtech’s Player Journey tool to guide specific Responsible Gambling goals.
Part of Playtech’s Engagement Centre, Player Journey enables operators to engage with players at critical points and guide players towards specific goals in real-time. Whilst the marketing benefits of such technology are obvious, Player Journey also gives operators the power to build journeys with the goal of encouraging safer gambling.
Evidence suggests that the earlier a customer engages with a difficult situation, the easier it will be to find a solution. Encouraging earlier customer engagement has been shown to have benefits in sectors other than gambling; for example, lending in financial services. Given the banking sector’s experience in improving financial well-being, with strategies to reduce credit card debt via messages that embrace “nudge” theories, there is clear potential for the gambling industry to take a similar approach to applying interventions to change player behaviour.
For example, let’s take the challenge of helping players to set the right deposit limits for their circumstances. Playtech’s Player Journey can be used to segment those players who are not using deposit limits and direct them on a path towards engagement and usage. A Responsible Gambling journey could start with communicating to those players who are not using limits via engaging messages. Player Journey enables you to communicate either in real time or offline, across multiple channels, and using a variety of multimedia formats, including video, leveraging operator assets such as brand ambassadors.
Playtech’s experienced Responsible Gambling team helps operators with developing smart content that integrates behavioural economics and nudge best practices. For example, it is known that players want to be more in control of their play. Messages could be designed to reinforce this desire and motivate behaviour, making access to Responsible Tools more frictionless.
As players progress through the journey, those that didn’t engage with generic messaging could be targeted with a more direct real-time message. A real-time message suggesting players set their own deposit limits, for example, triggered once he or she has made their first deposit, could encourage players to consider the benefits of controlling their deposit levels, whilst not discouraging them from engaging in the first place.
Integrating BetBuddy insights can also help drive greater personalisation for those showing greater signs of risk. Player Journey can define interaction points for players who meet specific conditions and will require more targeted interventions; for example, sending the player to the customer service desk for a proactive contact call. Conditions that could drive such an intervention include selecting players who do not use deposit limits, who have a high BetBuddy risk rating, and who have continued to increase their deposits in their most recent active gambling period. Likewise, any players whose early deposits exceed significant thresholds, such as several hundreds of pounds over the course of hours, can be targeted with a real-time Responsible Gambling message.
As well as interventions, such as suggestions of a break or setting deposit limits, Player Journey also enables operators to gamify interactions, rewarding players further down the journey as players reach milestones. For example, a player staying within his or her deposit limit on a daily basis could be rewarded with entry to a prize draw for a non-gambling related prize, with the journey tailored to enable further rewards for milestones further down the line, such as over a six-week period.
All these examples demonstrate how Player Journey can help build relevant and targeted campaigns, enhancing the long-term customer entertainment value of gambling whilst also meeting regulatory requirements.
Automatically enabling evaluation via A/B testing
Player Journey also enables operators to automatically set-up A/B tests to assess the effectiveness of journeys; for example, deploying real-time messages to samples of players and assessing impacts prior to a wider deployment. This is critical, as it gives operators data and feedback on engagement strategies, enabling them to refine and optimise said strategies.
Just as importantly, regulators are demanding that operators show evidence that Responsible Gambling interactions have been effective. Previously it would have been enough for an operator to state it has communicated a deposit limit campaign to its players via email. Today, operators are expected to show how many players are completing these journeys and actually setting deposit limits, as well as measuring if they stick to affordable limits. By evaluating the effectiveness of a campaign, improvements can be made to drive greater uptake and reduce risk.
About Simo Dragicevic
Simo Dragicevic is the founder and CEO of BetBuddy – an industry-leading specialist safer gambling platform, built on behavioural identification and modification principles, acquired by and integrated into Playtech in 2017. A veteran of the financial services industry with roles at Barclays and Accenture, Simo is also an External Supervisor at City, University of London’s Research Centre for Machine Learning Ph.D programme. As of June 2019, he also serves as a board member of the Responsible Gambling Council.