Friday, 29 October 2010

It’s hard to know when to stop – especially on Everest!

The Bet Buddy homepage uses my own images from an expedition climbing Lobouche East in Khumbu region in Nepal. The analogy of mountaineering and gambling may not be obvious. Mountaineering gives me an edge, a feeling of excitement, frustration, achievement and is quite addictive once you get into it. It’s the same kind of feeling my brother Rad gets with gambling (he is a horse racing fanatic!). But knowing when to stop, rather than pushing yourself all the way, is important in mountaineering, gambling and many other aspects of life.
In 2007 I remember sitting down and taking a breather at 4am in the morning just below the 2nd Step on Everest’s North East ridge at around 8,600m. I desperately wanted to carry on that extra 250m and stand on top of the world but alas, it wasn’t meant to be for me that day (it would take way too long to explain why!). I was fortunate to have Sherpa Sonham with me to help me take the right decision. Looking back, although I remain frustrated at falling short of the summit that morning, I’m quite relieved I stopped and am here to tell the tale. You can see a short slide show on the expedition with some interesting facts and figures on Everest and mountaineering if you are interested (if you are interested in things like ‘death to summit ratios’ and the costs to climb Everest then you should read it). We are all human and occasionally we all need some advice, a tap on the shoulder, or a helping hand when things get a little too much for us...

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The FarmVille Slot Machine - A Billion Dollar Game?

Keeping on the social media, gaming and gambling theme from my previous blog I wanted to highlight a video on TED that gives us a perspective on the future impact of technology and games on us. It’s given by Jesse Schell, a game designer who has worked at Disney and who teaches at Carnegie Mellon. He is quite an energetic and entertaining speaker, although be warned, this TED talk lasts nearly 30 mins... In his talk he makes some interesting predictions about how technology and games will influence and affect us in the future. They will become even more authentic and real and will reward people with points for good behaviour because tracking all of our behaviours will become ubiquitous e.g. taking your medicine on time and walking rather than driving (which will be tracked by the ‘digital shoes’ you will be wearing) will in turn reduce your health insurance. This will come for sure he says!

He also makes a point (which is really a joke...) to Brian Reynolds, Zynga’s Chief Game Designer, telling him he is stupid if he doesn’t develop a ‘FarmVille Slot Game’, where whilst you lose your virtual currency (remember you paid for this in legal currency), it pays out in real money. This, says Schell, will make Reynolds the richest man in the world! OK, so I’m not saying it will happen now but what’s the difference with 'FarmVille Slots' and buying virtual chips and playing poker if the player places equal value to legal and virtual currency? This area will surely get more attention from regulators and academics in the future.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Is playing with virtual currency gambling? Zynga and virtual currency.

An interesting article in TechCrunch on a move by Zynga to patent virtual currency.  Whilst the question of virtual currency and whether it can be patented in an interesting one, I was more interested in a couple of quotes within the patent application.   Zynga state that “in some cases, players want to play gambling-style games, but without the regulated gambling aspects” and that “one advantage of the approach described herein is that virtual currency can be used to purchase virtual items, but neither the virtual currency nor the virtual items can be transferred or redeemed in such a way that would be considered gambling proceeds.”  So purchasing $100 of virtual poker chips with legal currency and winning $200 of virtual currency isn’t considered gambling.  The first thought that sprung to mind was if such gambling and casino style games were designed in such a way that they payout in virtual currency more frequently and thus make the game more fun, then could this lead to more people moving to regulated gambling sites to try their luck?

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Responsible Gaming is now on Wikipedia!

I've added a new entry for Responsible Gaming on Wikipedia.  It's not easy writing these articles, however there comes a time when you need to get these things out there and start getting the crowd to review and update articles.  So please take a look and get editing!

Friday, 15 October 2010

How Player Limits Boost Operator Profits

I was talking to an executive at the one of the leading online operators who explained to me why offering players responsible gaming features is good for business. Operators are very focused on reducing player churn during key phases of the customer lifecycle, such as in the initial month after customer acquisition when operators typically lose new players. For those who survive the first month, on average 35% of players remain with their operator after 3 months and this typically reduces to 15% after 12 months.

The executive explained to me that when players set limits (Player B), they are more likely to bet more often within their limits and are therefore less likely to become one of those players that the operator typically loses after the first month (Player A).

Quite a nice example of how responsible gaming and sustainable profits go hand-in-hand. The link between player protection and profits has received little or no research and is something that I’ll be focusing on from an analytical research perspective in the future.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

EGBA Responsible Gaming Day – Thoughts from today’s conference at the European Parliament

I attended the EGBA Responsible Gaming Day today and I wanted to share some snippits and thoughts from the day. MEP Timothy Kirkhope set the scene by sharing his thoughts on the evolution of the European gambling industry. Internet gambling is a reality and the challenge is to figure out how to best to regulate the industry and manage risk.  There was also mention of the plan to consult the gambling industry and Member States on a Green Paper, which Commissioner Barnier intends to release by autumn 2010

The first panel discussion debate was centred on discussing the Schaldemose Report one year on and how best to protect vulnerable people. The debate involved MEPs Toine Manders, Christopher Fjellner and Ashley Fox, who challenged the industry to proactively keep innovating to protect vulnerable players whilst it continues to grow, warning that otherwise 5 years down the line the industry could find itself ‘clobbered’ with more onerous legislation.

During the second panel discussion we heard from Ken Ducatel about the EU’s digital agenda, emphasising the need for all online operators to place trust at the heart of their practices to encourage greater digital inclusion from society, a point re-iterated by the panellists, Peter Reynolds from PartyGaming, Benoit Cornu from PMU and Mark Healey from NEOVIA. Peter made a very good point about operators being too concerned about protecting data rather than using data to better protect the customer.

The final panel discussion included a defence for the right for jurisdictions to maintain the ability to locally regulate by Ana Paula Barros of Santa Casa and an overview of the CENs progress on defining Responsible Remote Gambling Measures by John Ketchell, the CEN’s Innovation Director. Finally, Simon Planzer of St Gallen University provided an overview of the research he is conducting in collaboration with The Division on Addictions, which amongst other things will examine the correlations between regulation and the levels of disordered gambling.

Bwin co-CEO Norbet Teufelberger wrapped-up the conference by noting that the industry is pleased to see more focus from the legislators compared with previous years. He stressed the need to develop open and regulated markets and praised the European online gaming firms for developing the online gaming industry's leading and most innovative companies, whose technology assets are being leveraged to help grow the global market in a responsible manner.

There was a very good turn out and it proved to be a very interesting, useful and enjoyable event. A big thanks must go to the teams from EGBA and Waggener Edtsrom on organising a great event, both the evening entertainment and the conference (although I’m not sure how much they had to do with the very entertaining Belgium v. Austria match which ended-up finishing 4-4 last night!).

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Your social media gaming avatar?

With the ever growing influence of social media it was interesting to read about a new application launched on Facebook called Piggyback which allows parents to monitor their child’s game play (thanks to @appleface_co for the tweet). The service is free and is targeted at the parent’s of kids who participate in social media learning games. Without doubt a very useful service for parents.

But what about the rest of us who play online games but who are past the age where it’s ‘cool’ to have your parents watching over everything you do on the web? Today around 58% of social network users play at least one game and a check on the social media application leaderboard shows us that Texas Holdem Poker is the third most popular social media game with over 35 million active users. Given growing concerns about the impact of social media on youth gambling and given the power of technology, is it not inconceivable that millions of gamers will soon have their own virtual gaming avatar keeping an eye on their gaming to help keep it safe and fun?

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Stacked Odds in Casino Gaming

Nice of Guy Kawasaki to tweet this blog from yesterday which explains in simple terms how casinos are guaranteed to make money. I’m not sure how they have estimated the slots house edge at 5-17% (I thought it was impossible to determine this as the events are unknown) but I’d be interested to see how many punters are aware of the average loss rates per game i.e. you are expected to lose 5x as much playing slots as blackjack over a 16 hour period. I think this raises again an interesting point about how operators best educate gamblers, a point discussed in my recent research paper. For anyone interested in knowing more about house edge and the properties of games I’d recommend reading In The Pursuit of Winning by Zangeneh, Blaszczynski and Turner, which in chapter 3 explains house edge in detail with some great examples. Does this kind of information change my approach to gambling? For me personally no, as I have never really been a slots man and will always like to play a bit of black jack.