Big Data in Gambling: How a 360-Degree View of Customers Helps Spot Gambling Addiction

Big Data and advanced analytics can give us insight into almost anything, but one of the top use cases today focuses on better understanding customers in order to identify new opportunities as well as potential problems. One of the leading money gaming companies in Europe is using big data analytics to create a 360-degree view of customers, which, among other things helps to identify those customers who show signs of gambling addiction.

Veikkaus is the largest gaming agency in Finland where gambling is nationalized and all proceeds go into social infrastructure such as arts, science, youth work and promoting everyman sports and fitness. In January 2017, Veikkaus will complete a merger with two other state-owned agencies – Fintoto (horse racing) and Ray (slots and casinos) – to become one of the largest gaming organizations in Europe.

To build this 360-degree picture, Veikkaus needed to pull in huge amounts of real time data from both digital and offline betting channels. They created a modern data architecture, based on open standards using Pentaho to manage, prepare, and integrate data running through their environment which includes Cloudera’s Enterprise Apache Hadoop distribution, Flume, Kafka, and HP Vertica.

CIO Reni Waegelein told me “We process gaming transactions to the tune of 2 million messages per day which can be equivalent to what a stock exchange handles but we take it one step further by creating customer profiles to track behavior.”

Now, says Waegelein, “In two to 10 minutes, the data is useable and in our defined data format with all the structure and customer information, so we can act on that data. We can now offer a much better, reliable view of the business to different users. So it’s much easier to give answers about specific questions that previously couldn’t be addressed.”

One area of particular interest to the organization is identifying individuals who show signs of gambling addiction. While problematic gambling isn’t any worse in Finland than in the rest of the continent; Veikkaus can now use the data they are capturing to take proper action.

Waegelein told me “We want to use the data responsibly which means analyze behavior from millions of identified and unidentified players to identify patterns which could suggest where gambling addiction is likely to occur.”

Veikkaus is able to identify a large proportion of its customers by their user ID when they are logged into a digital channel or through a loyalty card program.  Currently, Veikkaus says it is able to classify 1.9 million of Finland’s total population of 5.5 million as identified customers. 

Currently, the company can make educated guesses about where problematic gambling is likely to arise based on patterns that have emerged through research into those who seek help for their behavior.

“So now our data platform provides a much better and more accurate view of who might be a problematic gambler and based on that data can make a much better decision about what kind of activities we should do or stop doing – like marketing,” says Waegelein.

Currently remedial action is limited to immediately ceasing all marketing activity towards that person. But there are talks about more direct intervention in the near future. One option would be to contact them directly to provide help or advice.

Furthermore, there are plans to further enhance its 360-degree view of the customer by including a more diverse data set from which to draw insights. Customer service emails will be scanned using sentiment analysis technology to determine whether they are positive, negative or neutral in tone. Meteorological data will soon be included in the mix, as gambling activities have been shown to be highly influenced by weather. And social media data will soon be analyzed too, to assess how the public sentiment could affect setting the odds.

Veikkaus’s transformation into a data-driven organization is in line with changes taking place across every industry. It’s particularly encouraging to see a proactive approach to using technology to tackle a very real social issue.

Veikkaus is just one example of how businesses today are leveraging a 360-degree analytic view. Across healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and many other industries, businesses are increasingly invested in developing holistic views of their patients, products, and customers in order to improve service, drive business, and operate more efficiently.  To learn more about what’s needed to make customer 360 work, join my webinar in January as I discuss how companies including Veikkaus are best implementing, creatively leveraging, and evaluating the success of Customer 360 initiatives.

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Bernard Marr