This is the first in a series of articles investigating online gambling and self-exclusion. The full article can be viewed here.
Provider of gambling blocking software Gamban has investigated the UK Online Gambling “Self-Exclusion Puzzle”, finding online gambling is more accessible than ever; especially given the increase in computer, Smartphone and tablet use over the past decade.
Over a series of articles for IAGR, Gamban will present a synopsis of the key issues identified by researchers in the area of online gambling, how regulators are addressing this in the UK through self-exclusion tools, and what the results of these regulatory actions are telling regulators.
As a starting point to this work Gamban suggests that regulatory action must be based upon the evidence of harm and / or the desire to monitor the flow of funds or behaviour. Given that the harms associated with offline gambling are well researched and understood, Gamban suggest it is therefore incumbent upon regulators to firstly understand the harms associated with online gambling.
Online gambling is exploding; in 2019 online transaction fraud protection provider iovation published the 2019 Iovation Gambling Industry Report which indicated online gambling transactions had increased more than tenfold between 2012 and 2018.
Mobile gaming apps are considered to be a driving force behind this dramatic increase, being widely available for the majority of mobile devices and mobile operating systems. As smart phones and tablets have become more prominent, the apps they run off allow have allowed more and more users to register, deposit and place bets without requiring computer access.
To understand the scope of the online sector the iovation report highlighted the example of operator DraftKings. This operator effectively uses mobile gambling with over 90% of their activity through mobile applications, which translates to an average of 53,000 bets each day (iovation, 2019).
This belief is reinforced by a 2015 study conducted by Drake and Hudson Smith, which found that mobile gambling was more accessible than both desktop and offline gambling. This study highlighted the importance and growth rate of mobile gambling as a separate form of internet gambling.
Significantly this report stated “to attract and retain players, a mobile-first approach is needed”, emphasizing that a good mobile experience can make a significant difference revenue-wise for an online operator. Thus highlighting to everyone within the gaming regulatory sector that any provider wishing to increase revenue will be looking to the online space.
Online gambling activity has grown significantly over the past decade with operators’ yield from online and mobile gambling increasing from £1bn to £5.3 billion in the 10 years leading up to 2019 (Financial Times, 2020). In the UK, active online banking accounts have doubled from approximately 16 million in 2008 to over 30 million in 2019 (UK Gambling Commission, 2019).
In a research overview paper by Gainsbury (2015) titled “Online Gambling Addiction: the Relationship Between Internet Gambling and Disordered Gambling”, one of the author’s conclusions was despite Internet Gambling being under-researched, “use of Internet gambling is more common among highly involved gamblers, and for some Internet gamblers, this medium appears to significantly contribute to gambling problems” (Gainsbury 2015).
Since the publication of the Gainsbury study in 2015, online gambling has not only become more popular but also more accessible as smart phones and tablets usage continues to increase. Another study by Kim et al (2017) examined the motivations of young adults to transition from online social network casino games to online gambling and found that social games were often used as “avenues” to online gambling websites.
The factors that contribute to the transition from social casino games towards online gambling include peer pressure, sign-up bonuses, advertisements and inflated payout rates. The results of the study by Kim et al (2017) further highlight how easily accessible online gambling is and how vulnerable populations may find themselves to online gambling platforms “by accident”.
Further research by Hing et al (2017) examined the relationship between gambling promotions and gambling severity amongst Australian Internet sports bettors. They found that: “young male Internet sports bettors are especially vulnerable to gambling problems, particularly if they hold positive attitudes to gambling sponsors who embed promotions into sports broadcasts and to the promotional techniques they use and this heightens the risk that alluring messages contribute to excessive gambling. As problem gambling severity increased, so too did the recognition that these promotions have impacted negatively on their sports betting behaviour”.
Aside from the above factors, online gambling communities, like Facebook groups, are also a significant predictor for excessive gambling in 15-25 year-old at-risk and pathological gamblers (Sirola et al., 2018).
A Spanish study by Choliz (2015) investigated the effect of legalisation of online gambling in Spain and found that there was a significant increase in young pathological gamblers post legalisation. The potential increase in gambling activity observed in young adults is something numerous researchers have encouraged further research as well as protective measures to be developed (Choliz, 2015).
What are these studies telling us? Consistently the research is finding that the online gambling sector is growing, is attractive to younger consumers and is showing a higher prevalence of problem activity.
All these factors indicate that harm minimisation and regulatory action should have a focus in the online space. One of the key regulatory mechanisms being utilised internationally is self-exclusion.
In the next article in this series we will investigate how the self-exclusion journey is being undertaken in the United Kingdom.
Patroklos Androulakis-Korakakis, Gamban
Chóliz, M., 2015. The Challenge of Online Gambling: The Effect of Legalization on the Increase in Online Gambling Addiction. Journal of Gambling Studies, 32(2), pp.749-756.
Drakeford, B. and Hudson Smith, M., 2015. Mobile Gambling: Implications of Accessibility. Journal of Research Studies in Business & Management, 1, pp.3-28.
Financial Times. 2020. Online Gambling Spikes In Britain. [online] Available at: <https://www.ft.com/content/6ca1d9c9-9d13-49c6-96fd-38cd47bcaad2> [Accessed 7 March 2020].
Gainsbury, Sally M. “Online Gambling Addiction: the Relationship Between Internet Gambling and Disordered Gambling.” Current addiction reports vol. 2,2 (2015): 185-193. doi:10.1007/s40429-015-0057-8
Hing, N., Russell, A., Lamont, M. and Vitartas, P., 2017. Bet Anywhere, Anytime: An Analysis of Internet Sports Bettors’ Responses to Gambling Promotions During Sports Broadcasts by Problem Gambling Severity. Journal of Gambling Studies, 33(4), pp.1051-1065.
iovation, 2019. 2019 Iovation Gambling Industry Report. [online] iovation. Available at: <https://gambling.iovation.com/2019-iovation-gambling-industry-report> [Accessed 4 February 2020].
Kim, H., Wohl, M., Gupta, R. and Derevensky, J., 2017. Why do young adults gamble online? A qualitative study of motivations to transition from social casino games to online gambling. Asian Journal of Gambling Issues and Public Health, 7(1).
Sirola, A., Kaakinen, M. and Oksanen, A., 2018. Excessive Gambling and Online Gambling Communities. Journal of Gambling Studies, 34(4), pp.1313-1325.