CAGR Conference – Interview with Oliver Scholten

Delegates at the Current Advances in Gambling Research Conference will be asked by computer scientist and virtual economist Oliver Scholten (University of York) how his data set of over 1.4 million cryptocurrency gambling transactions compares to spending profiles in traditional gambling.

Mr Scholten, who is currently working towards his PhD under the supervision of Dr James Walker and Dr David Zendle, has extracted the transactions of over 17,000 individual accounts using the Ethereum cryptocurrency, to examine their behaviour across millions of decentralised gambling transactions.

“All of the transactions that happen using cryptocurrencies are publicly available, this data set is simply a subset of those, which have been sent to known decentralised gambling contracts,” explains Oliver.

“The interesting thing is that by using this data, you can see where cryptocurrency has been spent and what it has been spent on. Big public data sets in gambling aren’t common but this one has just over 17,000 unique users executing 1.4 million transactions, so is large enough to meaningfully study player behaviour and how people’s spending changes over time.”

Mr Scholten is hoping that by working with behavioural addiction specialists at the conference, he can begin to unlock some of the hidden intricacies of the data set.

He added: “I’ll be explaining what we’ve looked at so far, which is some simple high-level plots. I’m presenting it as someone who isn’t so familiar with the neurological aspects of gambling or problem gambling, but know that this type of transaction level data can be immensely useful. I’m not sure which questions this type of data can help answer, so will be making it available for download, and will be looking for collaborators across all areas of gambling research.

“It’s a tricky problem; the data set itself tells us who, what, when – so we can see how people are spending, but that’s it. It gets really powerful – I hope – when you start to combine it with other people’s work and other people’s data sets.”

The thesis being compiled by Mr Scholten will ultimately examine the technical aspects of gambling virtual goods, including the design of tokens used by gambling websites and their convergence with video games. However, a potential area of interest is the nature of how gamblers view online, cryptocurrency-based gambling in comparison to environmental gambling with physical money.

“All of the bets placed in this data set are in the native cryptocurrency, so you have got this component of; if people are betting using anything other than real money, do they consider the real world value of that as an equal par, or do we need to account for that in any kind of exchange with virtual goods,” explained Oliver.

“If we have a data set of people gambling with real money and we can distinguish the problem gamblers from the non-problem gamblers by some time-based analysis, does it work with those gambling with cryptocurrency, and if so, what can we do to help?

“The interface for the decentralised gambling platforms that I’ve identified for typical internet gambling like dice-rolls, coin flips – that sort of thing – are almost identical. So there are a lot of interesting questions, such as; does the interface matter, does the currency you’re using matter, and how does this compare to real gambling, and gambling in video games.”

Oliver Scholten’s presentation: Decentralised Gambling: Data Abundance and Technical Concerns’ will take place at the Current Advances in Gambling Research Conference, at the University of East London, on Friday, 12th July.

Oliver Scholten is part of the EPSRC funded Intelligent Games and Games Intelligence Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of York. Dr James Walker is a member of the Digital Creativity Labs at the University of York jointly funded by EPSRC, AHRC/Innovate UK. Dr David Zendle is a member of the Department of Arts, Creativity and Computer Science at the University of York St John.

Follow Oliver on Twitter, here.