Critics of online gaming say a new generation of problem gamblers is likely to emerge with Internet poker being so readily available.
But two presenters at this week's 15th International Conference on Gambling & Risk Taking at Caesars Palace say computer programs are being used to educate online gamblers and force them to think twice before making wagers they can't afford.
In a session on responsible gambling and new technologies, Mark Griffiths, a professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University in Great Britain, and Andreas Holmstrom, CEO of Sweden-based Playscan, discussed strategies to communicate with players that make them aware of how much they're gambling.
Griffiths said Mentor, a software program introduced in August, can be used by players to assess their total gaming behavior by providing data that compares a player's time played and money spent compared with systemwide averages.
"It's a behavioral tracking software that can be used to develop social responsibility tools to help players gamble more responsibly," Griffiths said.
The software, developed by London-based Neccton, currently is being used in Germany and sends messages to players when they reach pre-set levels of time or money wagered.
Griffiths said the messages contain no value judgments or confrontational material but are just a reminders and educational tools.
Playscan is a similar program developed in a partnership with a Swedish government-owned gaming operator.
Using data acquired when a player signs up, the program, first introduced in 2007, presents color-coded graphics that are green, yellow and red to indicate elevated risk levels and behaviors by a player.
"The biggest challenge is to get players to use the system — and to read the messages once they get them," Holmstrom said.
He said that using tracking technology, researchers have determined that 40 percent of the system's users have followed recommendations sent in messages to contact external resources about problem gambling.
Since a player's behavior is traceable once they've signed up, the data gathered by the company can be used to encourage online casino operators to change their marketing tactics to keep player risk down while maximizing profits from players who can tolerate higher risk levels.