December 2010 – Early detection of gambling problems based on customer communication

By Joerg Haefeli, Suzanne Lischer and Juerg Schwarz, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts


Aims and Scope

In the context of effective player-protection measures, early identification of problem gambling is a necessary building block for the prevention of addiction. While indicators based on gambling behaviour are more accessible on the Internet, it is assumed that in the land-based sector indicators based on the customer communication are more readily available due to the physical proximity of the gambler.The aims of the study were:

  • to analyze the feasibility of player protection measures in an offline and online gambling environment
  • to identify communication-based indicators in online gambling for the early-prediction of future gambling issues
  • Feasibility of player protection measures and responsible gambling tools in the online and offline setting were analyzed and compared
  • Interviews with senior employees, handling responsible gambling communication, were conducted in order to generate hypotheses about potential risk-indicators
  • Based on the complete communication of a random sample of 300 gamblers, a multivariate log-linear regression model was calculated, yielding a risk assessment based on communication behaviour
 Key Findings
  • The feasibility of player protection measures and responsible gambling tools in the Internet is very good. All measures, typically provided in land-based gambling, are common practice in online gambling as well. Other additional means of effective prevention, like the limitation of gambling expenses, are only possible in the Internet.
  • Even though there is no direct contact between gambler and operator, there is a large quantity of communication that can be used to identify indicators of risk. Roughly 150,000 customer services contacts per month per operator were reported.
  • The analysis of customer communication is possible for online gambling too. It provides powerful indicators for at-risk gambling, which are – as typical for the Internet – easily accessible for a rule-based and objective evaluation. The results underline the importance of having dedicated, well-trained staff in customer services, handling suspicious communication. Standardised protocols should be established, that allow assessing and processing communication-based risk indicators.
  • The model applied in the  study will be able to identify roughly one third of all potential problem gamblers solely based on the analysis of their correspondence. The impact of moderate gamblers falsely assumed to be at-risk is minimal – 93.2% of all customers would be classified correctly.
  • The communication behaviour should not be the sole source of information, but instead be combined with other objective methods of behavioral analysis. The tracking of gambling and payment behaviour could be able to identify further subgroups of at-risk gamblers.

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To read the full study, please click here