If you’re a sports bettor, then you will probably just go down to the local bookies or visit your favoured online sportsbook and decide upon the sports events you want to wager on. But do you have a common way of deciding how much you’re going to stake on a specific market? Or do you just go with your gut instinct on these things?
Moreover, is there a common way that all punters decide upon the amount they are staking on a market? Surely the general budget that a person has for gambling will need to be considered for most bettors, but is there anything else that sways a person’s decision on this?
In 2020, the United Kingdom Gambling Commission (UKGC) undertook research into the online staking habits of gamblers. Within that research, the regulatory body explored the online betting behaviour of people, the proposition of stake limits being introduced at gambling sites and additional limitations that may end up being imposed on them in the online gambling sphere.
What did that research show? And how will people be affected if staking limits are indeed introduced as part of the UK’s gambling industry overhaul?
Key Facts Of UKGC Research
While a wealth of information was gathered from the research undertaken by the UKGC, the primary factors unveiled within include insights that:
- Players’ typical staking behaviour is dependent on their personal approach to risk for the most part, as well as the games played. Their willingness to stake more increases significantly as their score on the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) increases.
- Alterations to punters’ gambling behaviour appeared to be incremental and was also difficult to describe. This was based on bettors’ needs for a “bigger buzz” from achieving higher payouts as well as experiences with other games where payouts were higher, and they had a desire to make up for losses.
- People could be inclined to increase their stakes if they had a belief in “success streaks”.
- Many participants in the survey had the belief that certain restrictions should be in place, although there wasn’t a specific agreement on what the limitations should actually be made up of. It was noted that most people said the restrictions should affect other gamblers more so than themselves.
- The participants who were least at risk declared that they would not be affected by the introduction of stake restrictions, while moderate risk and problem gamblers would find it more inconvenient, believing that some of the fun would be taken out of the activity. Only moderate risk gamblers were against the idea of the introduction of restrictions, though.
The overall aim of the study conducted by the Commission was to understand what a typical gamblers staking behaviour looks like, why it was that way and how their behaviour may have already changed or will change in the future.
Furthermore, it was aimed at garnering the response from bettors regarding potential staking restrictions. This is something that has been mentioned in relation to the review of the country’s gambling laws, which has been taking place since the end of 2020.
To be able to conduct the research, the UKGC saw 32 participants take part in a 14-day online exercise. Within that, they completed a series of short and reflective tasks, which were designed so as to encourage the reflection on their own online gambling activity and staking behaviour. To add to this, participants were presented with certain stake and spend restrictions to consider and reply to.
Of the full 32 people involved, 29 participants completed all of the digital tasks set. Each person had engaged in online gambling within the last month and noted that they participated in betting online at least one per week. Further to this, all of the respondents had engaged in either online bingo, casino games or slots.
It is also key to note that each of the people involved possessed multiple online gambling accounts. And finally, six of the 32 participants each engaged in a 45-minute in-depth interview, which saw them reflect on the subject at hand. These interviews were set up so as to understand staking habits at a greater level.
Range of Staking Behaviour and Escalations
|Stake and Session Spend||Low-Risk PGSI||Moderate-Risk PGSI||Problem Gambler|
|Typical Stake Spectrum||20p to £15+||20p to £20+||£1 to £30+|
|Session Spend Spectrum||£10 to £20 and/or £30+||£10 to £20 and/or £40+||£10 to £40 and/or £50+|
One of the first items that the Commission looked at was the staking behaviour, measured by the usual stake and session spend, amongst participants. The customers’ PGSI levels were also highlighted, with the evidence suggesting that spend levels escalated across these. Take a look at the findings above.
Those people participating in the study reported that several variables were enough to encourage them to place higher stakes on their chosen gambling option(s). They included being on successful streaks, the price levels of casino games, being on the receiving end of insightful tips, and seeing other players or friends placing bigger bets.
One man, identified as a problem gambler from Scotland, aged 26, said that the key factor which determines his next stake is dependent upon whether or not he is being successful. “If I feel like I am on a winning streak or having a bit of luck, I tend to stake a bit more for higher returns, especially with online games such as roulette”, he said.
On the other hand, if he feels as though he is losing, he tends “to call it quits”, although he has also found himself in what he described as a “vicious circle”, trying to chase his losses.
Another player, marked as a low-risk female from the Midlands, aged 34, said that if she is falling behind “or my money is running low, I will bet more to try and win more”. She said that it would carry on this way until the next time she is able to afford to play. “That could be the next day or maybe the next week”.
The results of the research also dictated that many participants were likely to gamble a little more if they had just experienced a large payout, thereby chasing the high that it has provided. For many players, especially those on the lower-risk end of the scale, losing could end up resulting in them having a period of reflection, which also leads to a reduced spend, although this wasn’t a guaranteed outcome.
In comparison, those experiencing losses at the high end of the risk spectrum would end up spending more with raised stakes to try and reclaim their losses.
External influences on their staking behaviour were also noted by participants, including:
- The overall financial situation that they are in, e.g., how close they are to receiving their wages for the month and the amount of income they have obtained across different accounts determined their day-to-day spend levels.
- Peer pressure due to the fact that gambling is quite competitive in its own right and has a social element to it, too. Sports betting is often participated in competitively with friends, while online chat functions for bingo and casino games sees encouragement for continued and/or raised spending by peers.
- Advertising which draws people in to play, including those that incorporate promotional offers, influencing higher stake amounts.
- Being under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, making spending decisions much riskier, especially when combined with peer pressure.
- Emotional state – a player’s mood will often drive people to spend more or less than they normally would.
Something that was interesting about the results of the study is that most moderate-risk gamblers and those who had classified themselves as problem gamblers on the PGSI scale, said that they had increased their average spend across the past three years. Meanwhile, low-risk gamblers had remained pretty much consistent with their staking level.
Exploration of Online Betting and Associated Tools
Whether or not a player has support for their gambling activity, participants involved in the study responded that “safe gambling” meant that they were always in control. This, they noted, was achieved through their own awareness of risk and self-imposed restrictions across their overall spend, time spent and maximum stake. However, it also involved playing with trusted operators, which would provide information and control over stake limits.
Moderate-risk gamblers very much placed an emphasis on self-imposed limits, while the other two categories of players on the PGSI scale highlighted the need for operator restrictions to be in place. That being said, many self-imposed restrictions are frequently broken, the participants acknowledged.
While all of the people engaging in the research wanted to be safe with their online gambling activity, it was clear to see that self-set limits and operator nudges could easily cause an override.
When looking at online gambling activity against physical gambling in a land-based venue, online gambling was said to be a lot more unsafe. Yet when it comes to incorporating a safe gambling strategy into their online activity, communications regarding this from the operators were perceived as being most effective, according to those at the low-risk end of the scale. These were more easily dismissed by the other two types of gamblers.
Gambling management tools do exist at UK-licensed betting sites, including limit-setting possibilities, reality checks and time outs, which are there to ensure players stay safe when engaging in online gambling. Less than 30% of those participating in the study (8 out of 28) confirmed that they are using at least one of the gambling management tools available.
The majority are not though, and one third of people involved reported that they were unaware of such management tools. And the number of players informed on these tools hasn’t really changed so much from 2019 onwards, according to alternate research conducted by the Commission. Only 24% of gamblers reported to being aware of the multi-operator self-exclusion scheme, while 27% said they knew of the reality check tool.
Most people in the 2020 study said that they had opted out of using the management tools, either due to feeling like they are in control of their own gambling or because they are conscious of the simplicity of using workarounds. That being said, most participants said that if the time did come for them to utilise such tools, they wouldn’t hesitate to do so.
The biggest number of respondents with operator limitations in place were females classified as moderate-risk players or problem gamblers.
What About Potential Stake Restrictions?
If stake limits are introduced via the review of the gambling act, how would participants of the study feel? The discussion of such raised a number of questions, with some being quite practical and others harder to answer.
Most of the players involved were well-aware of the fact that some gamblers are not able to or don’t know how to stop betting. Therefore, the introduction of limiting gambling spend was deemed as useful by the participants. It was made poignant that the limits would be of benefit to other people rather than themselves, though.
Few of the people participating in the study said that they believed the limitations would be of help to them. Low-risk and moderate-risk players believed that they would spend below the threshold anyway, and as a result, it was quite common to suggest that those limits would be of no issue to them.
Not a lot was able to be decided upon with regard to how restrictions should be applied to gamblers. Various converse attitudes were brought to light as a result, such as:
- Fun vs. Safety – Gambling is supposed to be fun, so the greater focus placed on preventing harm, the less fun it will be.
- Prevention vs. Freedom – Any move towards preventing harm also tends to come with increased restrictions.
- Effectiveness vs. Choice – Limitations should be low enough to make a difference, but also high enough to present players with their own choice.
- Stakes vs. Overall Spend – Uncertainty over whether the limits should be on individual stakes or overalls gambling spend.
- Choice vs. Control – Is it right that people are forced into reducing spending of their own money or should they be able to spend it as they like?
Participants highlighted chance-based games as being the ones that would be prime candidates for the introduction of stake limitations.
Low-risk players were very much in favour of restrictions on stakes, although wary of losing out on the fun side of things. “I think there should be max stakes on non-skilled games.
With skilled games like poker and if entering a tournament, I think that’s okay to have higher stakes because you have to keep up a level of play and it takes longer to lose”, said a 24-year-old female participants with a low-risk PGSI level.
Average maximum suggested stake by low risk group: £7.20
Most moderate-risk players agreed on limitations, but the nature of their introduction was quite divisive, arguing for multiple variants to be considered. Little consensus was reached within this group of players.
Average maximum suggested stake by moderate risk group: £26.33
Problem gamblers, on the other hand, were generally also in favour of limits being brought into effect. And this was mainly due to them being aware of the risks of gambling.
They suggested that gambling firms should be responsible for this, although it was a general consensus that any limitations also come with numerous problems. “I like it when it is restricted it makes it feel like a responsible site”, said a 41-year-old female from North England who is classed as a problem gambler. “I restrain myself as I have friend who have gone over, people don’t stop until they’ve got nothing left. Tombola reward you for not going over your deposit.”
Average maximum suggested stake by high risk group: £38.24
Any alternatives to stake limits suggested came with concerns from participants over their practicality. This included:
- Affordability checks – concerns over it being too intrusive and taking the fun out of online gambling. Questions were raised about how it would be enforced and on data security risks.
- Deposit limits – concerns that it could interfere with certain games for continuity purposes, like poker.
- Weekly and monthly limits – concerns over how meaningful they would be if they weren’t means tested. Questions also raised over the fact that participants could circumvent this if given the opportunity to change weekly limits.
- Loss limits – concerns that this could make the idea of losing too noticeable, encouraging people to go elsewhere.