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How structural changes in online gambling are shaping the contemporary experiences and behaviours of online gamblers: an interview study
journal contributionposted on 2023-02-10, 04:22 authored by N Hing, M Smith, M Rockloff, H Thorne, AMT Russell, Nicki DowlingNicki Dowling, H Breen
Abstract Background Over the last decade, the provision of online gambling has intensified with increased access, enhanced betting markets, a broader product range, and prolific marketing. However, little research has explored how this intensification is influencing contemporary gambling experiences. This study focused on two research questions: 1) What changes in online gambling have online gamblers observed over the past decade? 2) How have these changes influenced the online gambling experiences and behaviours reported by treatment-seeking and non-treatment-seeking gamblers? Methods Two samples of Australian adults were interviewed: 1) 19 people who had been gambling online for at least a decade and with no history of treatment-seeking for online gambling, and 2) 10 people who had recently sought professional help for an online gambling problem. Telephone interviews were semi-structured, with questions that encouraged participants to consider how their online gambling, including any harmful gambling, had been influenced by changes in operator practices and online gambling environments. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Results Both treatment- and non-treatment-seekers noted the increased speed and ease of online gambling, which now enables instant access from anywhere at any time and increased their gambling opportunities. Both groups highlighted the continued proliferation of advertising and inducements for online gambling, particularly during televised sports and racing events, in social media, and through targeted push marketing. Many treatment- and non-treatment-seekers were aware of the vast range of recently introduced bet types, particularly multi-bets. Treatment-seekers disproportionately reported negative effects from these changes, and described how and why they fostered their increased gambling, impulsive gambling, persistence and loss-chasing. They reported limited uptake and effectiveness of current harm minimisation tools. Conclusions Counter to stated policy and practice objectives to minimise gambling harm, industry changes that have made online gambling easier, faster, and more heavily incentivised, and increased the array of complex bets with poorer odds, unduly affect addicted and harmed individuals – who are also the most profitable customers. Further consideration is needed to ensure gambling policy, industry practices and public health measures more effectively reduce gambling harm in contemporary settings. Inducements and the poor pricing of complex bets such as multi-bets, and their outsized attraction to players with problems, should be a key focus.