Businessman using smartphone against gambling app screen

In-play betting study highlights links to negative immersive behaviour

New research released has revealed that people who engage in live betting on sporting events show increased involvement in watching live sport, but also drink more alcohol and show a higher incidence of problem gambling behaviours.

The collaborative study between Nottingham Trent and Bilbao University examined the motivations behind the consumption of sport by fans, and how emotional involvement in a particular sport has impacted the desire to gamble.

The study surveyed 659 Spanish gamblers, and found that: “compared to participants not engaging in in-play betting, in-play bettors reported higher (i) problem gambling severity, (ii) sport watching involvement, (iii) consumption of sport to escape from everyday preoccupations, and (iv) consumption of junk food and/or alcohol while watching sport.”

In-play bets have become the most popular form of gambling among sports fans, and constitute as much as 59 per cent of the money wagered in sports betting in Spain. Bet365, a global leading bookmaker, has previously reported that in-play betting contributes up to 80 per cent of its sportsbook revenues.

The form of gambling has previously raised concerns among responsible gambling advocates due to its perceived association with addictive gambling behaviour. However, limited evidence was found to suggest that ‘sport-specific factors’ have influenced the connection between gambling addiction and in-play betting. Continuous marketing stimuli alongside “other potentially risky consumptive behaviours” have contributed to the rise in problem gambling.

The consumption of alcohol was found to have significantly contributed to the rise in problem gambling. The report found that there has been a cultural shift towards watching sporting events in pubs, particularly in the UK as a result of rising ticket prices.

Even the smallest consumption of alcohol has proven to impair the self-control of individuals and previous studies have shown that it can make individuals more persistent in their gambling habits.

Team loyalty and ‘wishful betting’ have also been attributed to the rise in problem gambling behaviours, with sports fans “betting on the outcome they desire to see happening or because they feel like ‘traitors’ if they bet against their own team.”

The study suggests that fans may feel obliged to offset the emotional impact from a potential loss through betting against their own team to secure a financial gain. The phenomenon, what has been dubbed “hedging against future failure.”

Betting whilst watching sport was found to be favoured by those with a gambling-problem, while the consumption of junk food and alcoholic beverages were both highly associated with the severity of problem gambling.

The report found that those with gambling problems had more difficulties in watching sport without the consumption of junk food and alcohol, with more problem gamblers reporting a state of intoxication while watching and betting on sport.

It concluded: “The present article has argued that in-play betting is associated with impulsivity under situations of emotional involvement, and therefore, spectators should be protected by authorities against operators that prompt immediate, biased, poor decision-making, and draw on deep-rooted sporting connections to maximise benefits.”

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