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Evening the Odds

31 January 2022

Evening the Odds [ 3 mb]

This report is part of a program of work we are doing on the emergence of financial quicksand: online spending that’s easy to slip into but difficult to get out of.

We’re looking at the ways in which this is built into product design. As markets have moved online, companies know more about us and have developed ways to manipulate our behavioural biases.

Online gambling is emblematic of the characteristics of financial quicksand and is in line for new regulation expected to be outlined in the government’s forthcoming white paper on this issue.

Evening the Odds shows how regulation has not kept up with the challenges posed by online gambling. Product design means that it is far easier for people to open an account to gamble, than it is to close one and withdraw winnings.

Design nudges encourage people to spend and, at the same time, make it harder for people to stay in control of their gambling.

Furthermore, while gambling has historically centred on physical locations such as betting shops and casinos, the growing online gambling market means customers can now have interrupted access to a range of games via their smartphones.

Our research showed:

  • One in three gamblers said they mainly gamble between the hours of 7pm to 5am

In order to address the risks posed by online gambling, we suggest safety features which are often opt-in on gambling websites, but should be the default setting. Safety settings are a powerful tool in allowing customers to take greater control over their gambling.

Our research showed:

  • 77% of people who used time on site reminders found them effective in controlling their gambling.
  • 83% of people who used reminders of how much they had spent found them effective.

The problems caused by easy access to gambling opportunities and difficulty in regaining control, have exposed some of our clients to problems of spiralling debt and mental distress.