Changes to the Playing Field: A Contemporary Study of Actual Online Sports Betting

Alessandra Grossman, B.A.

Cambridge Health Alliance
Changes to the Playing Field: A Contemporary Study of Actual Online Sports Betting

Scientific Abstract

Background: Online sports wagering is a popular and still growing gambling activity around the world. Like other types of gambling, it can lead to problems that include devastating financial, social, and health-related harms. The first analysis of actual online sports wagering activity (LaBrie et al., 2007) suggested that levels of financial and time involvement were more moderate than anticipated from earlier survey studies. However, these findings are now more than a decade old.

Methods: The current study examined actual online sports wagering activity of a similar cohort of 32,262 online gamblers who subscribed to bwin online gambling platform in February of 2015 to understand how sports betting might have changed in ten years. Measures included subscriber characteristics, betting activities, and transactional activities. We hypothesized that patterns of sports betting behavior would look very similar to the patterns observed previously, with only moderate engagement from the majority of users and a very small subgroup of heavily engaged players.

Results: Players placed a median of 15 bets total, made a median of 2.5 bets per active betting day, wagered a median total of 100 euros during the study period, had a median bet size of 6.1 euros and had a median total net loss of 25.0 euros. We were able to distinguish highly involved players as those who were in the top 2% of total wagered, net loss, and number of bets. Overall, online sports wagering behavior was similar to what was found a decade ago, with the majority of subscribers exhibiting modest to moderate engagement with online sports gambling, and a small subset exhibiting disproportionately high engagement, transactional activity, and in-game betting.

Conclusion: These findings demonstrate that sports wagering behavior has remained relatively stable over time despite legislative changes and an increase in popularity. In addition, the results suggest that further investigation of individual trajectories of sports wagering behavior and engagement with different types of sports wagering products is merited.

SoundCloud Transcript

Thank you so much for taking the time to learn more about my poster! My name is Alessandra Grossman and I am a research coordinator at the Division on Addiction at Cambridge Health Alliance. My poster is titled, “Changes to the playing field: A contemporary study of actual online sports betting.” 

 

For this project, we wanted to look at patterns of online sports betting behavior. It is important to understand typical online sports wagering behavior because online sports wagering is a popular and still growing gambling activity around the world, and is poised to take off in the United States as more and more states legalize sports gambling. Like other types of gambling, sports gambling can lead to problems that include devastating financial, social, and health-related harms. The first analysis of actual online sports betting activity, published in 2007 by LaBrie et al., suggested that levels of financial and time involvement were more moderate than anticipated from earlier survey studies. However, these findings are now more than a decade old. 

 

In order to update our understanding of typical engagement with online sports wagering and to understand how sports betting might have changed in ten years, the current study examined actual online sports wagering activity of a similar cohort of thirty-two thousand two hundred sixty two online gamblers who subscribed to the bwin online gambling platform in February of 2015. We hypothesized that patterns of sports betting behavior would look very similar to the patterns observed previously, with only moderate engagement from the majority of users, but also a  small subgroup of players who engage at extremely high levels. 

 

We found that over a total duration of 8 months, players placed a median of 15 bets total, wagered a median total of 100 euros, and had a median total net loss of 25 euros. (A euro was equivalent to about $1.10 at the time of the study.) We also found that players placed a median of 2.5 bets of 6.1 euros on each day that they bet. A quarter of players’ bets were combination bets. (Combination bets are bets where gamblers place multiple bets, all of which have to be correct for them to win.) 

 

We also identified groups of highly involved betters whose behavior was distinctively different from the rest of the sample. These groups were in the top 2% of total wagered, net loss, or number of bets. This is displayed on the figures in the center of the poster. As you can see, the vast majority of players engaged moderately, with the top 2% (shown beyond the 98% mark on the farthest right on each figure) of players for each measure displaying significantly greater engagement. We also found that highly involved players placed a greater percentage of their bets on in-game propositions (meaning betting on games or outcomes while the game is going on) and were more likely to have reversed withdrawals (meaning they went to withdraw their money and then changed their mind) and placed failed deposits. 

 

So what does all of this mean? These findings tell us that overall, betting behavior in the 2015 cohort remained very similar to what was found a decade earlier, with the majority of subscribers exhibiting modest to moderate engagement and a very small subset exhibiting disportionately high engagement. This demonstrates that despite changes in popularity and legislation, sports wagering behavior has actually remained relatively stable over time. However, given the potential risks of both combination and in-game betting, further investigation of individual trajectories of sports wagering behavior and engagement with different types of sports wagering products is merited. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to learn about my poster. For any questions, please feel free to contact me at abgrossman@challiance.org. Also, check out our project’s open science page by scanning the bar code on the poster with your phone!

 

Live Zoom Session – April 21st

research Areas

Authors

Alessandra Grossman, B.A., Sarah E. Nelson, PhD, Timothy C. Edson, PhD, Eric R. Louderback, PhD, Matthew A. Tom, PhD, Debi A. LaPlante, PhD.

Principal Investigator

Sarah E. Nelson, PhD, Debi A. LaPlante, PhD

Affiliated Website