An analysis of digital transformations in sports gambling

In order to contextualise the scope of the online gambling industry in Britain, recent reports from Statista suggested there were a total of 31.57 million sports betting accounts registered in the UK, with 81.3% of online gamblers partaking in sports betting. McGee (2020) discussed the now intrinsic link between gambling and sport, stating; “gambling has become a normal part of sports leagues and events, and affects young men’s enjoyment of sport…  mobile apps increase young men’s access to sports betting and entice them to gamble.”

As McGee noted, apps have removed barriers of time and travel; apps are available twenty-four hours a day and a bet can now be placed in split second, without having to make a journey to a betting shop.  Comparison apps such as Oddschecker, and horse racing apps, such as Racing Post and At The Races, allow the user to compare odds between each bookmaker and place bets directly via the third party app. This has led to an increased level of competition between bookmakers, as consumers can now have access to the entire market.

Therefore, this increased competition has led to bookmakers looking to incentivise gambling with their firm. Many aspects of the online gambling landscape, such as bookmakers providing free bets or giving “best odds guaranteed” are direct results of the digital environment.

The digital environment also enables bookmakers to offer “in-play” gambling, which Lopez-Gonzalez & Griffiths (2020) stated had; “fundamentally changed the structural characteristics of sports betting from a discontinuous form of gambling to a continuous one.” This continuous nature of in-play also allows bookmakers to provide markets on “micro-events,” such as “next goalscorer.” These “in-play” markets can often prove lucrative for bookmakers, given they often are specifically designed to coerce a bettor to make a snap decision as to whether to bet, with Newall et al (2019) discussing how many in-play bets were often “subject to time pressure, being valid only if a gambler immediately took out their mobile device and placed a bet… these bets were also determined well before the match ended, meaning that gamblers could try to recover their losses via further in-play bets.”

The betting apps of most major bookmakers also provide live streams of some sporting events through their app, which would also signify how digital media has provided outlets other than the traditional analogue media channels for fans to consume sport.

However, whether this level of freedom will be enjoyed by bookmakers and punters for much longer is a cause for debate. The Gambling Commission’s recent proposal to introduce “affordability checks,” requiring any punter whose losses exceeded £100 in the space of a month to provide proof of funds in order to continue gambling, poses a huge financial threat to the industry and raises the questions about acceptable levels of consumer privacy.

Research from Entain found that “45 per cent of self-identified regular gamblers surveyed would consider turning to black market gambling sites” if these proposals were to pass, which also highlights how regulatory bodies, in some aspects, now have less control over their industries, as the Internet can often provide a platform for unchecked operates to do business, which surely defeat the objective of the Gambling Commission’s proposals in the first place.

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