‘Early warning system’ devised for problem gambling

‘Early warning system’ devised for problem gambling

Wednesday, October 28, 2015 Totally Gaming
UK university hails accuracy of system

A UK university has devised an ‘early warning’ system that it claims can inform gamblers as soon as their behaviour shows signs of turning into an addition.

Dr Artur Garcez, a reader in Neural-Symbolic Computation in the Department of Computer Science at City University in London, teamed up with software analytics firm BetBuddy to create the system.

The innovation will identify whether a player’s gambling patterns show signs of risk and start to match those of previous players who adopted a ‘self-exclusion’ approach by asking online gambling websites to block them for a fixed period.

Dr Garcez and BetBuddy claim to have enhanced the accuracy of the computer models underpinning the system according to the latest understanding of the psychological pathways to gambling addiction.

The research has been funded by Innovate UK and supported by contributions from the RCUK Digital Economy Theme, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.

“All UK gambling providers are legally obliged to offer customers a self-exclusion option,” Dr Garcez said.

“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. This enables customers to use online gambling platforms more securely and responsibly.”

Dr Garcez’s team found that by harnessing a machine learning method known as ‘random forests’ and applying it to a real-world online gambling dataset, the system could achieve 87-per-cent accuracy in predicting playing patterns which were likely to become unhealthy.

“Although systems of this kind are already in use, none are believed to have published peer-reviewed research that evidences the same levels of accuracy and reliability as the BetBuddy system,” Dr Garcez added.

“Early detection and prevention of problem gambling is not only in the interest of those who engage in online gambling – it can also help deliver a more stable and growing market place for online gambling providers.”

BetBuddy chief executive Simo Dragicevic added: “City University London has enabled us to build more robust and accurate prediction models and apply new, creative algorithms to gambling data.

“By applying their expertise in knowledge extraction techniques to 'black box' prediction models, clinicians, regulators, and industry can better understand how these models can predict behaviour and better protect consumers at risk of harm.”

According to Britain’s National Health Service, there are 593,000 problem gamblers in the country today.

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