Dr Michael Auer: Neccton is here to integrate safe play into the player’s experience…

Dr Michael Auer: Neccton is here to integrate safe play into the player’s experience…

2023 saw OpenBet acquire customer protection specialist Neccton, which is considered a key pillar for the tech giant in building its new compliance unit to support the operations of Tier-1 clients.

Neccton co-founder Dr Michael Auer, a pioneer in player protection, explains to SBC why Neccton is challenging standardized player protection frameworks. These frameworks have a low adoption rate of responsible gaming tools among customers and often exclude research and machine learning advancements

SBC: Hi Michael, thanks for this interview. Why do you see player protection and compliance as the biggest opportunity for industry stakeholders? 

Dr Michael Auer: As the global betting and gaming industry grows and increasing numbers of markets are choosing to regulate, or tighten existing regulatory frameworks, improving player protection and compliance capabilities is key. It is important to showcase to regulators that we can secure a sustainable landscape for all stakeholders.

Findings through our own academic research have shown that players who choose to set limits are proven to be more loyal, as opposed to those who do not set limits who may find themselves with a ban or choosing to self-exclude. It is important for operators to see that problem behaviours should never cross the threshold where there is no return. These behaviours can be identified at the beginning of the player’s gaming journey to prevent harm further down the line, and in the process, protect the revenue they bring.

SBC: 2023 was a transformative year for Neccton, as its business was acquired by OpenBet. Where do both parties see Neccton fit in OpenBet’s vast supply chain of technology and systems for igaming operators. 

DMA: Neccton’s technology complements OpenBet’s modular product suite to supply operators with enhanced player protection capabilities. At the moment, it sits within the ‘Protect pillar’, and seamlessly combines with OpenBet’s cutting-edge sports betting technology to protect players and operators.

Our product monitors players and the AI-based solution analyses their behaviour in real time. The product also facilitates automated player interactions which is the preventative aspect of the technology. It enables operators to significantly increase the accuracy of their player monitoring, and reduce the cost of AML, fraud detection and responsible gaming activities.

SBC: Neccton is focused on bolstering player protections and minimising the threats of AML and Fraud. Are these not three distinctive areas to cover as a business solution?

DMA: All three areas are strongly data-driven aspects of compliance and that is why we are covering responsible gaming, anti-money laundering and fraud together. OpenBet’s Neccton offers a one-stop shop solution for player protection, with only one integration needed to cover all three aspects.

SBC: As an expert in gambling compliance, what are the current blind spots impacting operators from spotting operating deficiencies? 

DMA: At the moment, operators should be looking to better integrate responsible gaming tools into the player experience and secure a sustainable future of the industry. We have seen that in the US in particular, many operators are still relying on players to opt-in to player protection tools, which based on recent stats, they are not doing.

Reports show that responsible gaming tools are not integrated into many gambling operators’ sites, leaving them hard to find. As a result, there is low usage. Applying technology like nudging can significantly uplift the interaction with responsible gaming tools.

Furthermore, a lot of operators are still relying on in-house developments which means they are slow to develop and evolve. They don’t benefit from research and machine learning based on a wider pool of players.

SBC: What are the shortcomings of the industry’s current debate on compliance and player protections? 

DMA: As above, operators can increase player opt-in rates with features such as reality checks, personalised messaging and nudges. Our research has found that 38% of those who were nudged with a direct link to a cashout page did withdraw their money. It is easy to encourage responsible gaming and make them more visible.

As the industry has been slow to adopt recent research, regulators have moved towards mandatory maximum spend limits in many jurisdictions and a lot of jurisdictions are currently considering these. They are a one-size-fits-all solution and don’t take into account individual differences in gambling patterns and sources of wealth. The industry must be more proactive and go beyond regulatory requirements.

SBC: Year-on-year we are witnessing a higher expenditure reported by gambling PLCs on compliance adjustments for regulated markets – is this trend sustainable and what can be done to reduce costs. 

DMA: In-house developments can be more costly and less effective. Harmonised approaches and specialised tools, such as OpenBet’s Neccton, can reduce the cost to operators.

Responsible gaming tools should not present a new additional cost for operators, they should be already working seamlessly within their offering. Player protection should not be seen as a separate cost but be weaved into the DNA of a company’s offering.

SBC: Can machine learning and AI intelligence be used effectively to identify customer harm in a real gambling environment – or is a solution more nuanced? 

DMA: Machine learning and AI intelligence are extremely powerful at identifying customers at risk of harm. Neccton’s AI-powered technology is fed in real-time by real operators’ player data, meaning it is constantly learning how to improve player protection.

Automated processes alone cannot deter problem gambling at its source. Our technology sends personalised messages which are proven to be more effective, however we know not all players will read them or follow our suggestions.

This is where the human touch will always be important. On occasion, a trained professional may then need to email or call a gambler who is deemed at-risk and ask them to self-assess their behaviour to see if they can accurately recall it. Research has repeatedly shown that players routinely overestimate their winnings and underestimate their losses. Based on this self-assessment, they may decide to ban the player from its platform or a specific betting product.

SBC: Any closing remarks for SBC audiences? 

DMA: We believe that an independent approach to player protection is essential as the reality is that it is more affordable and future-proofed.  Larger operators often use their own solutions that are concealed and non-transparent.

Neccton follows an academically sound approach that is founded on the most up-to-date peer-reviewed research. This serves to foster more trust within the regulatory community and benefit all stakeholders.

Source: SBC NEWS

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