Fighting illegal gambling with AI

In this new article, part of his series on ‘Intelligent Lottery Models’, our expert Luis Ayestaran assesses the gaming offer during the COVID-19 crisis. He points out that, in this time, clandestine iGaming has advanced through social networks, and suggests that tools such as artificial intelligence are valuable weapons to face the black gambling market.

By Luis Ayestaran, founding partner and technical consultant at APF & Asociados*



Marketing paradigm of gaming, consumers and work has totally changed as a result of the pandemic, thus raising a number of questions. We can ask ourselves: how do lotteries adapt to this new digital era? How important is to have a fully integrated and omnichannel offering in the post-pandemic scene? In addition, despite the clear dominance of the land-based mode, what opportunities are seen in online gaming and how to work in order to educate, support and encourage public in the transition to this channel?


One of the main concerns of regulators and operators, licensed during quarantine, has been the huge advance of illegal online gambling operations. What initiatives are being promoted to end this issue? We said that the pandemic changed consumer experiences and, in some circumstances, users were forced to implement electronic marketing methods. For their part, regulators had to quickly adapt to this state in order to continue operating in the entertainment industry. The social and economic situation that led to mandatory isolation due to the pandemic was the breeding ground for the proliferation of the illegal market. Since the middle of this sanitary crisis, many people found different means of obtaining resources, in general, forced by the economic circumstances derived from the pandemic. Lots of them decided to organize and promote (illegal) gambling via social networks. Of course, for the most part, they were unaware of the illegality of their actions. In other cases, they took risks, taking advantage of the novelty of this marketing strategy and the few (or inexistent) measures to fight against these actions.

Why was there no quick action to end these mechanisms? There are several reasons: it was a new, unexpected system, and there were few technological tools available to face it. Moreover, we should mention the lack of coordination and participation of the different actors that must intervene in the offensive against clandestine gambling: regulatory entities, the Attorney General’s Offices, Justice and the media. Likewise, we know that illegal gambling is advancing because official online gaming offer is not adequate and does not meet the demands of consumers, or even is not available to the public.


In this sense, it is essential to consider the important role of electronic payment methods in the spread of illegal gambling. Besides, there is content control from social networks’ operators. These networks were the most chosen by the people during the pandemic as a tool of disseminating (and marketing) these clandestine practices. All these activities, implemented in a context of global crisis, showed the exponential growth of unlicensed online gambling offerings throughout the Latin American region, whether from international or Argentine sites. How to solve this problem? When it comes to Lotteries, they should benefit by using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to eliminate that illegal market, from social networks to web platforms. Thanks to this technology, all unauthorized gambling offers can be quickly and efficiently detected and investigated, for their subsequent cancellation.


*Luis Ayestaran is a renowned executive in Argentine gaming. For 5 years (2015-2020), he was the head of the Rio Negro Province Lottery, one of the most advanced in technology and structure in Argentina. Previously, he held other senior public positions in the Provincial Institute of Health Insurance (IPRROS), the General Directorate of Civil Registry and Identification (DIGERCIC), the General Inspection of Legal Persons of the Province of Rio Negro, the Provincial Agency for Economic Development of Rio Negro, the Federal Council of Investments and Aguas Rionegrinas SA.

In addition, he was main consultant for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Ayestaran is a Certified Public Accountant with a specialty in Strategic Management, graduated from Universidad Catolica de La Plata (Argentina).