Online Slot Harm Report Shocks Researchers

November 9, 2021
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​​​​​​​Researchers in the UK have said they were shocked to find no significant correlation between behavioural markers of harm and the volatility, return to player or hit rate of online slot games.

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Researchers in the UK have said they were shocked to find no significant correlation between behavioural markers of harm and the volatility, return to player (RTP) or hit rate of online slot games.

Data science firm Future Anthem’s “Safer Play” machine learning models used 36m of Gamesys’ player sessions for its research analysing markers of harm related to types of online slots.

Researchers were also surprised to find no evidence that specific risk indicators, such as “staking up”, were linked to any specific type of games within the online slot category.

To simplify its research, data scientists at Future Anthem decided to hone in on volatility, RTP and hit rate, as opposed to specific game features.

The research results also found overnight play between 12am and 6am was 36 percent riskier than other times of the day.

At the end of October 2021, the Gambling Commission introduced an outright ban of four key online slots game features, including auto-play and slot spins faster than 2.5 seconds.

The Gambling Commission made the changes following an extensive consultation aimed at making online casino games less intensive, safer by design and to hand players more control over their gambling, the regulator said.

Trade group the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC) also introduced a new code of conduct for the design of online games in September 2020, slowing down spin speeds, ending turbo play and scrapping multi-slot play.

“We will carefully consider any gambling-related research and any associated actions will be taken through the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms,” the Gambling Commission said, when asked by VIXIO about the Future Anthem research.

The researchers caveated that their evidence was based on slots from Gamesys’ relatively small, largely in-house developed online game portfolio, meaning the results may not necessarily be representative of the UK industry as a whole.

The researchers want to encourage operators to explore how the game features tie into markers of harms exhibited by their players, Chris Conroy, Future Anthem’s chief data officer, said during a data science webinar on slots and harmful play last week.

“A number of game features have recently been removed either by the industry's own self-regulation or regulations imposed on it. However, there is not a massive amount of research in this area, so as an industry we need to delve into a lot more,” Conroy said.

The research does not mean there are not elements of game design that can increase risk, just not through the prism of volatility, according to Conroy.

Future Anthem is now inviting other operators to send it their data sets to expand on its findings.

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