Collection, Protection Of Consumer Data Key For U.S. Gaming Industry

November 27, 2023
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The U.S. gaming industry collects massive amounts of customer data for marketing free play at slot machines or for mobile sports-betting bonus offers, but researchers also want to use that data to classify those with gambling problems.
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The U.S. gaming industry collects massive amounts of customer data for marketing free play at slot machines or for mobile sports-betting bonus offers, but researchers also want to use that data to classify those with gambling problems.

“We can get them to issue that data with the PGSI (Problem Gambling Severity Index) tied to it. Maybe we could get a little bit,” said Kasra Ghaharian, senior research fellow at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas' (UNLV) International Gaming Institute.

Ghaharian told Vixio GamblingCompliance that one stream of research that academics are seeing in the “medical realm” is the idea of synthetic data. Synthetic data generated from computer simulations or algorithms provides an inexpensive alternative to real-world data that is increasingly used to create accurate artificial intelligence (AI) models.

It may be artificial, but synthetic data reflects real-world data, mathematically or statistically.

“So, where there is data on a disease that is really hard to collect … they are starting to create these synthetic data sets based on a small amount, so you can do these large analyses and more powerful analyses with them,” he said.

Ghaharian said researchers are hoping to do the same thing with some of the gaming industry player data, with PGSI tied to it.

“We can get a small set of objective data with the PGSI or some clinical diagnosis and start to create a synthetic data set that could be a bit more powerful,” Ghaharian said.

As customer data continues to be collected unabated by casinos and resorts, another area of focus is consumer rights over the data and use by artificial intelligence.

Nasim Binesh, assistant professor with the Department of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management at the University of Florida, said as far a consumer rights or consent goes, as with anything related to AI, that is still in its infancy.

“It’s developing,” Binesh said.  “They should know what data is being collected and (how) it is being used. Also, giving consumers back the autonomy of making decisions when that data is being used for certain things.”

Binesh suggested players should know how various suggestions for games they should play have been generated when they are on online gaming sites.

“Is it based on their past gambling behaviour, or is it just because the algorithm has found these new games that could be intriguing based on demographic data?”

Another issue, Binesh told Vixio is that consumers are typically unaware of what happens when they download an app or sign up for a gambling account.

“Every single time I’m downloading something, I just scroll down through all of the consumer regulations,” Binesh admitted. “I just accept it without actually reading it because it is so long. So that’s why we see the situation that happened with Facebook where they were misusing consumer data.”

On October 10, U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco granted final approval of Facebook’s $725m data privacy settlement. Facebook users who were active on the platform from 2007 to 2022 were eligible to submit claims.

Claimants do not need to prove that their data was obtained by a third party. According to the Associated Press, the lawsuit stems from the discovery in April 2018 that data firm Cambridge Analytica paid a Facebook developer to gain access to 87m Facebook users’ personal data.

Binesh said the misuse of consumer data “could happen in the gaming industry”.

“As for data breaches, all of my information has been leaked out,” she added. “I should know what type of mechanisms are in place to protect my data."

When asked about potential industry opposition to sharing data with consumers, Ghaharian suggested that regulators could start trying to enforce data privacy by making consumers aware that they have to decide how their data is used.

“When Netflix records all the movies on my homepage, there should be a massive button that these have been based on your data and what we know about you. 'Click here to get the default recommendations',” Ghaharian said. “Maybe that could be something that helps.”

Still, Ghaharian admitted that when it comes to the use of their data by the gaming industry, or by any industry, consumers mainly just want convenience.

“We love having decisions kind of made easy,” he said. “On gambling sites, you run out of money, and you usually deposit $50. It tells you, click the button here if you want to deposit $50.”

Ghaharian told Vixio said that comes, in part, from persuasive techniques developed so successfully by social media companies.

“We don’t even know how it has impacted the way we made decisions in our life over the past 15 years,” Ghaharian said. “It has massively influenced how we make decisions and I think because there was not really any guidance for social media, they were able to just go ahead and do stuff for the last 15 to 20 years at this point.”

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