Artificial intelligence (AI), the use of computer systems to do work normally performed by humans, is evolving from a frontier into an expectation in the gaming industry, but whether AI products should be or can be regulated remains a perplexing question.
“There are so many things that you can call AI,” said Anastasia “Stasi” Baran, chief operating officer of nQube, a data science company in Winnipeg, Canada.
“I think it would be very difficult to add licensing around this concept because it’s just so broad,” Baran said.
AI also is burdened with somewhat of an intimidating reputation after the 1984 launch of the Terminator movie series, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and featuring the sinister albeit fictional AI empire of Skynet.
Baran, who has been a consultant for gaming companies in North America for about eight years, said she has been surprised by the fear some gaming executives still harbor for AI.
“Within the gaming industry, there are a lot of people who have a negative view of where AI could potentially take us,” she said.
“But I am totally on the flip side of that.”
The fuel that drives AI are massive amounts of data which are just too much for mere humans to manage.
Casinos and other gambling operations produce mountains of information which can be gleaned to combat the two biggest threats to the industry: addiction and scandal.
For example, data collected by AI can reveal unusual gambling patterns by a customer in a brick-and-mortar casino or online.
With that information, gambling operators can alert the customer and intervene to prevent the situation from getting worse.
The unprecedented growth of sports betting has been accompanied by almost an infinite amount of data which can unveil game-fixing and other illegal activity.
“You really need AI technology to comb through those data sets and be able to detect the anomalies that are happening,” Baran said.
AI products also can help casinos hone their marketing techniques to appeal to the customers they wish to attract.
Although Baran describes the pandemic years of 2021 and 2022 as “a blur” she says AI still helped casinos make progress in appealing to millennials, customers in the coveted age range of 26 to 41.
During the height of the pandemic when so many restaurants, clubs and movie theaters remained closed, millennials gravitated toward casinos for entertainment and left behind valuable marketing data.
Before the pandemic, casinos were reluctant to remove slot machines from their floors even though there was a growing concern that there were too many.
Social distancing forced casinos to begin removing slot machines, and profits remained “reasonable,” according to Baran.
But perhaps more importantly, AI revealed the most popular slot machines are not necessarily the most profitable.
“If a popular machine is taken off the floor, a customer who played that machine might spend more money at other machines,” Baran said.
Baran urges gambling operators to embrace AI, but she also cautions them to do their homework before hiring AI contractors and buying their products.
The principle of caveat emptor, or buyer beware, definitely applies.
“The challenge is sifting through all the noise about AI and finding out what the actual value of AI is for your company,” she said.
Baran is a first-generation Canadian. Her family comes from Ukraine, and she talked to VIXIO GamblingCompliance on the day Russia invaded.
“It’s been a bit of a day,” she said.