Examining actual online gambling behaviour: Interview with Professor Mark Griffiths and Maris Catania

Mon, 25 Oct, 2021

For several years, Kindred has been working with leading researchers to develop an approach that can accurately identify markers of gambling harm. Maris Catania and Professor Mark Griffiths published a peer-reviewed research paper in the Journal of Gambling Studies. Maris is Head of Responsible Gaming and Research at Kindred Group, while Prof. Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Distinguished Professor of Behavioural Addiction at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. Their paper looks at how signs of problem gambling can be identified online through behavioural tracking.

On 11 October, they published a peer-reviewed research paper that examines the application of DSM-5 criteria for gambling disorder to actual online gambling behaviour. This notion and approach are the basis for the ideology behind Kindred’s behavioural monitoring system. You can read the study 'Applying the DSM‑5 Criteria for Gambling Disorder to Online Gambling Account‑Based Tracking Data: An Empirical Study Utilizing Cluster Analysis' here.

We asked Professor Griffiths and Maris a couple of questions in order to explain a bit more about why this research is so important.Maris, let us start with the question why did you decide to look into this area? 
The intention behind looking at the DSM-5 and how it can be applied to online markers of harm was mainly motivated by my wanting to bridge the research-based area with an operational perspective together. Also, I wanted to observe all the gamblers and not just the ones that self-exclude, as it would offer a better indication of what is going on.

What are the implications of such a study for the industry? 
More than implications, I would say what are the benefits for the industry. I meet a lot of Responsible Gambling managers who are lost in what to look for, or they think they can use an indicator but are challenged on its reliability. Hopefully, through this research, they can employ what is mentioned in the paper and improve on these markers of harm.

"Operators can use this research to implement initiatives in their own company to minimise gambling issues, by looking at these markers of harm." - Maris Catania

Professor Griffiths, together with Maris, you have recently published a study where you applied the nine DSM-5 criteria to actual gambling data from Kindred. How can your findings in this study be used by operators?

Each DSM-5 criterion for gambling disorder can be viewed as a marker of harm. Our research tried to operationalise as many of the nine criteria using actual gambling behaviour rather than the consequences of it. Most responsible online gaming operators have been trying to identify problem gamblers online using their account-based tracking data and our paper provides many different examples of how many of these markers of harm could be operationalised for use by online gaming operators to help identify problematic gambling online.

Once again, Kindred has reported on their progress towards zero per cent revenue from harmful gambling. How can the findings from this study help limit harmful gambling?

To limit harmful gambling, the behaviour has to be identified in the first place. Our research provides Kindred with actual examples of the types of behaviour engaged in by problem gamblers. This could be used by the player protection team to identify potential markers of harm.

Maris, will the results of the study change the way Kindred work with PS-EDS and DSM-5? 

The idea of translating DSM-5 criteria into markers of harm that can be used online was something that inspired the rollout of the new PSEDS version at the beginning of 2021. PSEDS stands for Player Safety Early Detection System and is our in-house built monitoring system based on research and DSM-5. The next step for Kindred is to learn more

about what the best interventions are, to assist people from developing gambling harm.

Maris, what do you believe Kindred learn from this? 

I think this paper is a great testament to how anonymised data can be used to bridge the gap, not only from a research perspective but also from research to operational reality.  

And what is your recommendation to other operators?

I think the fact that the research is public and available to all to read is great, as operators can use this research to implement initiatives in their own company to minimise gambling issues by looking at these markers of harm. We are always happy to assist, and other operators are free to contact me if they have any questions 

So Maris, one last question. What are the next steps for Kindred

I think the sky is the limit when it comes to the next steps. Ideally, I would like to work further on publishing research on what it means to use these markers of harm (as in Kindred we apply them through our proprietary system PSEDS). I would also like to collaborate with more experts by experience to identify which interventions actually work and how we could help in harm minimisation.