AI Needs to be Used “Ethically and Effectively” to Tackle Gambling Addiction

  • Former gambling addict told BBC that AI could “deepen addiction” if it’s not applied “effectively”
  • Concerned critics think the use of AI in gambling to “reduce harm is just a smokescreen”
  • AI needs to be a “force for good in spotting the signs and preventing gambling harm”
AI could potentially “deepen addiction” if it is not applied “ethically and effectively,” according to a former gambling addict who spoke with the BBC. [Image:]

Potential to “deepen addiction”

Problem gamblers are concerned that the use of AI in the gambling industry could “deepen addiction.”

Danny Cheetham was 18 when he started gambling on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs). Waiting for payday to gamble, Cheetham, now 34, told the BBC that he would spend all his earnings by 8am, requiring him to look for loans until his following payday.

it also has the potential to deepen addiction”

Speaking on the matter of AI, Cheetham said: “While this technology undeniably enhances user engagement, it also has the potential to deepen addiction.” He also questioned whether gambling profits were more important than the wellbeing of those gambling.

At the same time, though, Cheetham, who is studying for a Masters in AI, believes that if the technology is used “ethically and effectively,” it could be an important tool in tackling gambling addiction.

Growing concern

While Cheetham is swayed by AI’s use in gambling, others are less sure about its potential.

This includes Charles Ritchie, co-chair of the charity Gambling with Lives. He told the BBC that he believes the use of AI to “reduce harm is just a smokescreen,” adding that there is “clear evidence…that the AI algorithms are simply not acted on.”

needs to be “carefully managed”

Zoë Osmond, chief executive of GambleAware, is another figure who has her reservations about the technology. She believes that if gambling firms are using AI to improve customer experiences, it needs to be “carefully managed,” making sure it’s a “force for good in spotting the signs and preventing gambling harm.”

One person the BBC spoke with who doesn’t believe AI will cause further harm is Scotty McKeever, founder of EquinEdge, a horse racing site that uses AI to analyze data on every horse in North America. Using this information, AI produces a probability of whether a horse will win. According to McKeever, AI has made it easier for consumers to access the data and analyze how they think a horse will run.

In his view, AI won’t make a difference in problem gambling, saying: “it’s a disease no different than any other addiction.”

Game-changer for match-fixing

While there are people for and against AI in gambling, when it comes to its use in match-fixing, it’s helping to detect suspicious betting activities.

A report from Sportradar Integrity Services found that the company actively monitored approximately 850,000 events in 2023, covering 70 sports. Sportradar used AI to flag 73% of the suspicious events, a significant increase compared to 2022 figures.

Of the highlighted events, a majority involved male participants, with just 34 of the 1,295 flagged contests featuring females. Europe topped the list for the most incidents with 667, followed by Asia with 302 and South America with 217. North America accounted for just 35 of the matches.

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