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Smart cash on bots taking your bets

Fast-changing technology to transform world of gambling Guy Rogers Robotic croupiers, gambling with cryptocurrency and using artificial intelligence to spot punters with a problem – those are some of the predictions for the future as the fourth industrial revolution collides with the gaming industry. Super-digital disrupters will likely make gaming more popular but the advent of robots will up the stakes and staff will to be retrained to meet the needs of the new-look gaming industry. Speaking at the 15th…

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  • Fast-changing technology to transform world of gambling

Guy Rogers

Robotic croupiers, gambling with cryptocurrency and using artificial intelligence to spot punters with a problem – those are some of the predictions for the future as the fourth industrial revolution collides with the gaming industry.

Super-digital disrupters will likely make gaming more popular but the advent of robots will up the stakes and staff will to be retrained to meet the needs of the new-look gaming industry.

Speaking at the 15th Gaming Regulators Africa Forum conference at the Boardwalk Hotel in Port Elizabeth on Monday, Yekani Manufacturing CEO Siphiwe Cele said electronic hosts would be a feature of gambling in coming decades. “For example, a punter will enter a casino and enable an e-host on his phone and thereafter the host will welcome him and stay engaged with him through his visit, supplying him with refreshments, information on different machines and games and using artificial intelligence to design a customised gaming experience for him.”

The attraction of cryptocurrencies for gamblers was that they could access funds online and deposit and withdraw them with minimal fees. “Therefore allowing the use of cryptocurrencies in gambling games will increase the popularity of the casino industry,” Cele said.

Artificial intelligence (AI) could be used to spot potential gambling addicts, he said.  “AI software can identify players who are inclined to develop gambling problems, notify them and prevent the negative consequences in due time, which would greatly benefit the gambling industry.”

AI could be used for predictive maintenance of gaming equipment and avoiding unwarranted down times. While online gambling was illegal in South Africa with the exception of sport betting, overseas it had expanded in tandem with the fourth industrial revolution, Cele said.

It was anticipated that in 2020 online gambling revenue generated globally would grow to almost $60bn (about R924bn) in 2020.

Linked to online gambling, virtual reality would deliver online punters the full monty. “They will be able to immerse themselves into their casino … walk around, light up a cigar. Gambling providers invest in the development of virtual reality technology because they see it as an opportunity to attract younger generation who are not as likely to play gambling games.” Cele said despite these benefits, the fourth industrial revolution would pose challenges for the gambling industry. “Job losses will result with the replacement of dealers and hosts with robots,” he said.

This will require an up-skilling programme for current staff … There will eb a need for secure cyber security. “Lastly, the gambling will require highly skilled employees in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.” Cele said that to capitalise on the fourth industrial revolution and the gambling industry in terms of revenue and jobs, the government should help fund tech innovators. “We should develop our own virtual reality devices – by Africans, for Africans.”

The government should also support SA-designed indigenous gambling games and manufacturers such as Yekani, which had the competence to produce gambling equipment.

Welcoming the conference delegates – which included representatives from several African countries – Eastern Cape economic development, environmental affairs and tourism MEC Mlungisi Mvoko said the legislation of gambling in SA in 1994 had resulted in number of benefits. It had given consumers an additional form of recreation, largely eradicated the illegal gambling industry, generated considerable tax revenue and funded infrastructure, including roads and hotels, he said.

It was estimated that the provincial economy had grown by R985m over the past five years as a result of the gambling industry. “It is still our fervent belief that through the infusion of the new fourth industrial revolution and optimal regulation, a legalised gambling industry could be a game-changer.”

Eastern Cape Gambling Board deputy chair Odwa Mtati said while he agreed with much of what Cele has said, the social impact of unrestricted online gambling had to be taken into account and this was one of the reasons why the government had not yet legalised it.

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