First of all, could you introduce yourself ?
Michael Auer: I am a psychologist and a statistician which is the ideal combination for my work in the area of gambling. I am employed by neccton Ltd, an Austrian data mining company.
Mark Griffiths: I am a psychologist and have spent the last 30 years researching in the gambling studies field. I am currently Distinguished Professor of Behavioural Addiction at Nottingham Trent University in the UK.
What is the key topic for this research?
Mark Griffiths: The key topic in the research with Kindred is the evaluation of responsible gambling tools and policies that Kindred has embedded into its day-to-day practices. It’s great that Kindred takes responsible gambling seriously but we need to evaluate the extent to which responsible gambling initiatives actually work and to look at specific types of player to see whether they could benefit from more tailored help rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. New methodological techniques incorporating ‘big data’ analysis means that researchers can now evaluate the behaviours of real gamblers, in real time, in real gambling environments – something that we just couldn’t do until relatively recently.
Why do you think research into Responsible Gambling is important?
Mark Griffiths: Research into responsible gambling is critical in the current gambling climate. Research has consistently shown that a small minority of gamblers suffer problems as a result of their gambling and that the gambling industry has a duty of care to look after their clientele and operate their day-to-day business in a socially responsible manner. Responsible gambling and social responsibility have become major issues for gambling operators over the last decade particularly because many operators cannot obtain licenses to run their businesses unless they can demonstrate to regulators what they are doing in terms of player protection. Research is especially important because embedding responsible gambling practices into gaming can be very expensive and operators need to know that the money invested is working optimally and that what they are doing actually works and benefits both players and the operator.
How will you conduct the research?
Michael Auer: One crucial aspect of our research is that it is data driven. Only objective data using behavioural tracking data that players automatically generate in online environments can provide a sufficient understanding of a player’s real gambling habits. It is also important to look at longer windows to determine whether interventions are potentially effective. However, variables such as the amount of money bet or the types of games played do not tell us anything about a player’s motivation to play. For that reason, it is important to simultaneously conduct surveys which will provide a deeper understanding of reasons for play alongside the objective data. All in all, we want to a picture that is complete as possible in understanding the psychology of the gambler.
What do you hope to learn from this research?
Michael Auer: Our previous research has shown that responsible gaming features are potentially useful to some players. However, we have also learned that empirical studies with real world gamblers can ultimately result in different results than laboratory studies. We also noted that players’ interactions with responsible gambling features and the effects of feedback strongly depend on individual factors such as playing patterns, gender, and age. We want to gain a deeper understanding into which player protection tools work best for specific players.
How can this research benefit people who gamble online?
Michael Auer: We want our research to be as practical as possible. One example are voluntary limits, which will be one the focuses of our research. It would be great if our findings assist in developing a recommendation system that assists each player in finding their ideal spending limits in terms of both time and money.
The areas covered in this research project are quite unique and pioneering. Why do you think that is?
Michael Auer: This question is easily answered. Very few operators are as forward looking and innovative as Kindred. In order to conduct meaningful research, it is important that operators cooperate with researchers and then apply the findings. Our early onset in the behavioural analytics of gambling and especially in marketing-oriented analysis also helped us to gain a very deep understanding of player behaviour as well as the product. Many researchers often omit the importance of the games’ structural characteristics. We found a way to include some of these characteristics into our analysis and I think that has been a major aspect of our success.