Focus on GLI: The convergence of AI and gaming

June 9, 2023 8:00 AM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • John G. Brokopp, CDC Gaming Reports
June 9, 2023 8:00 AM
  • John G. Brokopp, CDC Gaming Reports

The rapid emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and its myriad of applications is like having “a tiger by the tail” if you’re a gaming industry operator or supplier wishing to keep up with the competition and successfully react to evolving consumer behavior.

Salim L. Adatia

Salim L. Adatia, the Vice-President of Client Services in North America for Gaming Laboratories International (GLI), possesses the knowledge and insight necessary to tame the AI tiger and articulate precisely how it has and will continue to provide benefits for gaming.

Valuable data is like money in the bank for suppliers and operators. Leveraging customer data to establish and grow better relationships, provide greater value, and generate positive financial returns is a priority.

“If you think of repetitive tasks a person can do in terms of a process, this is where AI has a huge advantage,” Adatia said. “If programmed correctly, it can do what a person is attempting to do, but arguably much faster and more efficiently and accurately. A person is still necessary, however, to extrapolate the results from mounds of data points, analyze them, confirm accuracy, and make conclusions.”

The gaming industry is tailor-made for AI. It has the ability to maximize efficiency and revenue, speed up repetitive (some may say mundane) processes, while at the same time freeing up valuable personnel and resources to enhance customer service and player recognition, and personalize data and player experiences.

AI also has the ability to provide analysis of the physical gaming floor, optimize gaming product locations such as slot machines and table games, and identify trends and demands.

Discussions around sports betting applications, and undoubtedly AI, will be included in topics at the upcoming Canadian Gaming Summit (CGS), June 13 – 15, in Toronto, Canada, where Adatia will moderate a panel discussion on “Sports Betting Across Canada: Navigating the Patchwork of a Provincial Rollout.”

At the same time, there are also caution flags that must be observed with the emergence of AI, including the need for transparency, fraud detection, unintended biases, increased speed at which wagers can be placed, and the question of just how much do you want to optimize the gambling experience for the player potentially making play more enticing than otherwise might be without AI technology being implemented. On this last note, from a player and regulatory perspective, the importance of harm minimization as it applies to responsible gaming can also factor into the impact from emergence of AI. Adatia recognizes that the speed at which a person can wager could possibly raise responsible gaming concerns, saying, “If you have AI integrated into products, consideration should be given to the enhanced ability to target consumers, or if the AI capabilities in a product are more efficiently able to influence or facilitate wagers, thus accelerating confidence and play.”

On the flipside, from a positive harm minimization perspective, he further explained that when a system integrating AI is better able to pick up on patterns, in as close to real time as possible, it can better identify and report on potential problematic player behavior. It paves the way for engaging the player and bringing to their attention the increased number of hours they have played, or amount they have wagered, won, or lost, over a select period of time.

“Integration of AI will require stakeholders to evolve with the advancements and enhancements to the software,” Adatia said. “Players will have to wrap their head around when and how AI is being integrated into their player journeys. At the same time, operators and suppliers doing the AI integrating themselves are going to have to train and adapt their staff, and develop products responding to continuously evolving player behavior.

“Remember that AI is in its infancy now. Imagine we are having this conversation five or 10 years from now when many more people will be well versed in artificial intelligence, perhaps to the point of even having the ability to generate and leverage their own tools on their home computers to give them some form of benefit or advantage over the house.”

Adatia cautioned that operators, suppliers, and regulators are going to have to “pivot” with this reality, and attempt to adapt to the evolving behaviors on an ongoing basis to ensure that not only what they are offering is the best entertainment experience, but also that they’re safeguarding their brands, jurisdictions, and revenue channels for the jurisdiction.

“And making sure that other players who may be on site are not being adversely affected by any of the players who are using artificial intelligence,” he added.

AI, as it applies to fraud detection, according to Adatia, has the potential to improve upon the state-of-the-art detection technology that is already in the field (in both land-based and online gaming) through pure processing power. In lieu of needing full-time intrusion detection resources to comb through 24, 48, or 72 hour old network logs for potential penetration attempts made on your network, fraud detection or collusion teams to investigate nefarious play at a poker table, AI could identify patterns almost in real time because the processing power is so fast. Also, you’re not depending on humans to retrieve and analyze the data. AI applications can be faster, more efficient, and less prone to human error. It basically enhances existing detection methodologies, practices and technology, not necessarily replacing what’s already there.”

Returning to the player experience, Adatia revealed that if AI is somehow leveraged in software to improve odds in the house’s favor or tip the odds in favor of a player by improving odds through AI analysis, it can affect randomness of outcomes and create the potential for bias. “It’s an opportunity to improve odds analysis but it is also an issue for unintended bias resulting in a lack of transparency,” he noted.

“Moving forward, if an operator is presented with a product from a supplier or manufacturer which states they are using AI in some form or fashion, it behooves important questions to be asked: ‘How are you using AI? Is it somehow going to benefit you as the supplier, and if so how? Is it going to benefit the operator, and if so how? Does it still mean the gaming experience will be fair and random for all the other players? Is it still going to give the intended and approved odds and chance of winning or is there potential for unintended biases?”

Adatia acknowledges that regulators too will have to take a good look at AI applications in order to ensure they have adequate technical standards and requirements surrounding acceptable use cases for AI.

“Labs such as GLI will need to have robust testing methodologies and best practices for how we would evaluate the integration of AI into the products submitted for evaluation,” he said. “Moreover, players will need to know if and when AI is being used, and ensure full disclosure that will permit the player to make their own decision on whether or not they choose to participate with those products.”

Adatia observed that there is some controversy in the tech space surrounding how fast or how slow people should be investigating and implementing AI. Just how soon a fully tested gaming product with a true and impactful AI component is introduced in a regulated market will be fascinating to see but it will likely take time.

“We are just scraping the surface in terms of AI implementation in gaming,” he said. “It’s being researched and experimented on. While I am personally not aware of a full-fledged AI-based wagering software or operation being permitted to go live in a regulated market yet, I have no doubt suppliers are always looking for better ways to expand their product lines to better support players looking for better entertainment and gaming experiences.

“What I can say for sure, though, is that wherever AI goes, GLI will be there to help our clients navigate the future and illuminate their path for AI in gaming as a whole.”