Online Gambling – Avoiding the Dark Side of the Force

/ 24 February 2020

As a supplier of software into the igaming sector, it would be naïve of us to try to distance ourselves from the negative image the sector often suffers from. After all, our platform can be and is used by operators to attract and retain players, generate loyalty, stickiness, dwell time and, ultimately increase wagering revenue, specifically an individual operator’s share of the player’s wallet. And that’s a good thing, right? We sell the idea of ‘engaging audiences’ but the end-game is commercial – acquire more players, retain them better, make more money out of them. Profits. Share prices. Stakeholder value. And so the world, like a wheel of fortune, keeps spinning.

But no Jedi is immune to the lure of the dark side of The Force. Online gambling is an entertaining hobby for some; an affliction for others. The industry is frequently accused of exploiting the vulnerable, whether that’s adults who’ve got hooked and are trying to gamble their way out of debt or young kids who’ve been seduced by online gambling sites, in-app and luck box purchases and targeted ads. According to UKGC, there are hundreds of thousands of problem gamblers in the UK, 55,000 of whom are children.

So, is it true that the industry is exploiting these people? Well, it depends how you define ‘exploitation’. There are some pretty unacceptable practices out there; Kenny Alexander has spoken about labelling problem gamblers as ‘VIPs’, implicitly encouraging them to gamble more and considering them to be of considerable value, maybe hence GVC’s ‘Changing for the Bettor’ campaign, which is putting significant resource behind understanding and remedying problem gambling.

I got called out on LinkedIn recently for saying ‘and rightly so’ when pointing to the negative image the igaming industry sometimes has, because 3radical’s software is helping with player retention and increased wagering. And this is where we need to look at the Dark and Light sides of The Force, and explore where there might be ‘win-win’ scenarios.

The Gambling Commission is urging gaming operators to ‘know’ the people playing on their platforms. As a starting point, how about not allowing them to bet unless you have personal data about them beyond the purely KYC, ID verification stuff. The Dark Side says “great, now I have them on the database I can market to them, increase wagering and tie them in for the long-term.”  I doubt anyone who knows me has ever accused me of Jedi-like tendencies, but my thinking here is “once you start collecting broader data on each player, you can manage their journey based on what you’re seeing.” This data goes beyond the purely transactional and includes sentiment, intent and emotional, earned data, data a player has given you.  Of their own free will.  So, if you see signs of problem gambling, move them into a track that manages their activities, limits their spending, and helps them see what’s going on. Other players, following a different journey (again, based on data) can enjoy a wealth of entertainment over time – building loyalty and ‘worthy VIP’ status – while exchanging value ‘in the moment’ with the operator using a platform like 3radical Voco.

Ultimately, my point here is that good practice and bad practice – while a million miles from each other from an ethical standpoint – are, in reality and like my hair, shades of grey. The same technology that makes a game attractive, and brings in revenue, can be used to acquire (earn?) data that facilitates a customised, personalised approach to the relationship between player and operator, identifying those who are or may be becoming problem gamblers and ensuring they are taken on a path that helps them stop as well as providing great entertainment for those who do not fall into this group.

Yes, 3radical is used to improve player retention but it also helps build longer-term trusted two-way relationships, and therein lies A New Hope for the future reputation of this industry.

For more information on how 3radical improves player retention through interactive, rewarding experiences please visit

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