Focus on Yfageo: Slot maker Yfageo aspires to use AI to target problem gambling

March 12, 2024 8:00 AM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
March 12, 2024 8:00 AM
  • Mark Gruetze, CDC Gaming Reports
  • United States

Slot machines can be capable of entertaining players while also helping at-risk customers gamble responsibly, the head of Yfageo Technologies says.

“There are a lot of telltale responses you can look at and say, ‘maybe it’s time for us to intervene,’” Yfageo founder Justin Georgilas said. “Let’s try to reconfigure the game to adapt, to have an adjustment to their play without violating player privacy.”

The National Council on Problem Gambling says about 2 million U.S. adults, or 1 percent, are estimated to meet the criteria for a severe gambling problem in a given year, while another 4 million to 6 million would be considered to have mild or moderate gambling problems. Gambling disorder is the only behavioral addiction recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.

“There’s a lot of knowledge that can be utilized within our industry to make better, more responsible devices,” Georgilas said. “It is not long-term beneficial for any industry to burn its customers.” Current Responsible Gaming techniques include limits on the speed and amount of play, and the option for players to exclude themselves. “I feel we can do better, or at least try, by utilizing new techniques.”

Las Vegas-based Yfageo, pronounced Ah-FAJ-e-o and derived from the names of its mentors, evolved from a half-century of gaming experience and a decade as a company that designed custom-made games, servers, and systems. Now rebranded and product refocused, Yfageo Technologies is a full-service gaming machine provider, manufacturing Class II and Class III games running on its Yellowstone operating system and housed in its Avrio cabinet.

Georgilas said the company’s display at the Indian Gaming Tradeshow and Convention in April will feature some of the innovations incorporated in its games. Yfageo slots already use a unique feature that restricts losing streaks, and the company is developing a new platform that will use artificial intelligence facilitating neuroscience laboratory findings to “de-escalate” the brain activity that can trigger problem gambling in some players.

People susceptible to problem-gambling behaviors frequently have an impairment in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, an area near the forehead that controls emotions, decision making, judging risk vs. reward, and adapting to changes. Scientists have associated impairments in that area with tendencies to make impulsive decisions and engage in problem gambling.

“Some people don’t have an impulse control or have some pattern where they start off normal and (stress) too quickly escalates,” Georgilas explained. “AI could analyze data and trends as they unfold. When this escalation occurs, we could make interventions to help mitigate these stress cycles and reduce this prefrontal cortex impairment. Our objective is to allow their prefrontal cortex to regain from this impairment and bring pathological-behavior players back into a normal state as the game is being played.”

The company is not yet releasing details about its possible interventions. Regulators and certification laboratories will have to examine and approve any adjustments Yfageo’s platform intends to make in game play, Georgilas said.

He added that several recent neuroscience studies have generated new information about what contributes to problem gambling. “There’s a lot of knowledge out there that can be utilized within our industry,” he added. Numerous manufacturers have applied psychological principles in game design to keep players engaged and try to ensure the basically healthy experiences crucial to player engagement and retention, Georgilas said. He is not sure if other gaming companies are seeking to address the RG issue in the way Yfageo Technologies is.

“We’re a company with lots of experience and a plethora of fresh ideas,” he said. “We’re trying to have fun, be innovative, set new horizons in the gaming industry, engage our players through enjoyable surprises, captivate them with mesmerizing graphics and sounds, and allure them into pleasure.”