Poker chips on table

Yes, blockchain can help operators and players—even with responsible gaming

The iGaming industry was worth just shy of $60 billion in 2020, and is projected to grow by a further 11.5% by 2027. As more people gain access to mobile phones and other connected devices, the global market is expected to continue to surge, bringing new waves of players into contention.

However, despite the commercial successes of iGaming, the industry is not without its problems. Harms from gambling are very real, and for some people, lead to significant ill-effect. Problem gamblers are six times more likely to have suicidal thoughts, and some 19% have considered suicide within the past year—as compared to just 4.1% of the general population.

As the numbers taking part in iGaming globally continue to rise, it is foreseeable that the scale of these problems will get worse before it gets better. To compound the problem further, current responsible gaming strategies and practices are simply ineffective in actually addressing these harms.

In the U.K. alone, problem gambling is thought to cost the taxpayer between £260 million and £1.2 billion per year. While the country’s top operators have pledged £100 million to tackle the problem over the next three years, it is a drop in the ocean in terms of what is actually required to stem the problem.

As with so many other sectors, blockchain technology is providing a solution to these challenges, helping both operators and players deliver more responsible gaming experiences.

With regulators under increasing pressure to tackle the problems of responsible gambling, the compliance requirements on operators continue to ratchet up further. Operator fines for compliance breaches peaked at £44 million in 2020, and already the first quarter of 2021 has seen £24.2 million levied out. Aside from their social responsibility to their customers and communities, operators are now finding this is an increasingly expensive problem.

For players, having access to new tools that help them with their gambling behaviour means it’s becoming ever easier to implement self-controls, and to benefit from a more customised experience based on their own gambling behaviours.

So how does blockchain help here, and how can both operators and players alike benefit from improving technologies?

Charting the player journey

No two players are the same, and what might constitute regular betting patterns for one player could signal problems for another. The burden lies with the operators to identify these problematic behaviours and to stop problem gambling from taking hold where they can—and regulators are increasingly showing their teeth to make that a reality.

With remote gaming servers, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, player journey mapping and protection tools, operators can build up dynamic player profiles, giving them a much better idea of what each player is like, in terms of how they interact with the operator. With the help of blockchain tech, a traffic light system can be easily implemented behind the scenes, scoring player behaviour against certain personal established benchmarks to automatically determine those who may be developing or exhibiting problem gambling behaviours.

A sudden change in behaviour could move a player from a green light to amber, warranting an intervention from the operator. Or in extreme cases, to red, resulting in immediate action. Furthermore, because these results are recorded on the blockchain ledger, they can be easily shared with and inspected by regulators at will, providing crucial evidence of compliance for operators in reducing their liability to fines.

This is not without its perks for players, either. With more data collection and analysis powered by blockchain, players can be delivered more targeted incentives, such as bonuses and loyalty rewards, based on their own playing preferences. The process can be entirely automated based on their data profile, delivering a more customized gaming experience for all players. In that sense, blockchain systems like these benefit both operators and players, through presenting a more transparent, dynamic offering for both sides.

Moving towards responsible, sustainable gaming

The iGaming industry is unmistakably hurdling towards a new reality that puts responsible, sustainable gaming at the head of the table. Both regulators and operators are now expected to be much more proactive in their efforts to address and prevent problem gambling from taking hold. Yet at the moment, data across the sector—the best weapon for meeting these challenges—remains disjointed.

There is no central register of self exclusion, and no way for players to carry over their gambling history from one operator to another. This can result in unintentional breaches and slips, both for operator and player, which can lead to problem gambling behaviours or penalty fines. Again, blockchain solves these problems to a large extent, allowing players to record, monitor and control their own gambling data. This can even be monetized—it’s up to the individual. The result is an industry that benefits from more player data sharing, as well as players who benefit from a more tailored experience.

How blockchain delivers

Blockchain tech provides the ideal environment for an evolution of the conversation around responsible gaming. No longer is there the need for a distributed, chaotic trust-based system—with trusted, verifiable and auditable data written on-chain, regulators can get direct access to the information they need. With the added benefit of smart contracts, operators can plug in their default response to gambling behaviours that could indicate emerging problem gambling behaviours. The net result is a safer, more compliant gaming environment that tackles the problems of responsible gambling head on.

Watch: Nick Hill’s CoinGeek Zurich panel, Casino & iGaming on Blockchain

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