In-Play Betting More Dangerous For Problem Gambling, Expert Warns

Professor of behavior addiction points out key distinction between continuous and discontinuous gambling
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Betting during a sports contest is a major area of concern on the problem gambling front, an expert on the topic said during a webinar Tuesday hosted by the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, a professor of behavior addiction at Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom, gave a solo presentation on his extensive research on gambling and addiction. Tuesday’s talk centered in large part on in-play betting, expected to be one of the major areas of growth for the nascent U.S. sports gambling industry. In-play wagering is already popular overseas in more mature markets.

Much of what Griffiths said was intuitive if you follow the gambling industry closely. He said that in-play betting, as opposed to pre-game wagering, involves an “increased perception of skill” and bettors are more likely to chase their losses.

Griffiths offered a helpful distinction between in-game and pre-game sports gambling. He described the former as “continuous,” meaning that you can wager pretty much constantly throughout a sports contest, while the latter can be thought of as “discontinuous” gambling.

Continuous gambling, as one would expect with a faster rate of play, poses greater risks for those with problem gambling tendencies.

In-play is the cash cow

According to Griffiths, in-play wagering is the preferred product for a sportsbook operator. He said that “most of their money” will be made from gambling during contests. It’s unclear exactly what percentage of a U.S. sportsbook’s handle comes from in-play. State regulators don’t release that data.

According to Sports Business Daily, it’s estimated that in-play gambling currently accounts for 30% to 50% of a sportsbook’s handle in the emergent U.S. market. Most if not all states allow gambling during a contest, but without mobile gambling the product isn’t very viable.

Legal sportsbook operators in the U.S. are actively working to improve the speed of their in-play products to make the form of gambling more enticing for their customers. A second isn’t a lot of time, but in live betting each second matters a lot, as games change quickly.

Sportsbook operators are also looking to bolster their sports streaming capabilities on their respective platforms in an effort to improve the in-play gambling experience.

In-play betting is expected to continue capturing more of the U.S. handle share in 2021 and beyond.

In Europe, in-play gambling reportedly accounts for about 70% of the handle.

Griffiths stated that research has found in-play is associated with greater alcohol consumption, another worrying sign for the product. Problem gambling in general is linked to substance abuse.

The professor didn’t offer any major recommendations Tuesday on how the industry in the U.S. market can fend off problem gambling associated with in-play betting. Gambling during a game will surely be a hot topic among problem gambling advocates going forward.

Photo by Shutterstock.com

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