UK (Bournemouth University) More transparency on safer gambling needed on online betting sites, study shows

Gambling websites need to provide better information about their actual pay-out rates and tools to help their users gamble more safely, new research by Bournemouth University has concluded.

The researchers also advise that gambling operators also need to be more transparent with gamblers about how their information is used and clearly explain how any algorithms affect them.

The study is part of the university’s Responsible Gambling Projects, and was funded by GambleAware.

The global online gambling industry continues to grow and was estimated to be worth £66.67 billion in 2020. Concerns have previously been raised that the characteristics of online gambling increase the risk of harm due to factors such as betting alone, the fast pace of online games and users taking part in several gambling activities simultaneously.

As part of the study, the researchers examined UK gambling websites to assess what information they provided about safer gambling – for example how set up maximum spending limits or alerts for higher than usual bets – and how visible this information was compared to other features on the websites.

They found that whilst many sites had dedicated safer gambling pages that provided good quality information and advice, it was not always clear from the homepage how users can get to that information. In many sites the link was written in small text and relegated to the bottom of the homepage where it can get lost amongst “copyright notice” and “contact us” links; it was also difficult to locate safer gambling information on mobile devices, often requiring several clicks.

John McAlaney, Professor in Psychology at Bournemouth University who led the study said, “Online gambling involves unique risks, but also unique opportunities to provide transparency and to promote safer gambling strategies.

“In our research we have demonstrated how operators can implement changes to ensure that people who gamble online can do so in an informed and responsible way.”

Other recommendations the researchers make are:

  • Gambling sites should provide clear and realistic information for gamblers about their likelihood of success for each game.
  • The gambling industry should work closely with researchers and behavioural experts to design tools for safer gambling.
  • Sites should provide full information about how their games work to minimise any misunderstandings by players.

Zoë Osmond, Chief Executive, GambleAware said, “This report makes some important recommendations for gambling operators to place greater focus and importance on safer gambling messages on their websites and ensure people are aware of the risks.

“This research serves as further proof that we need to see the gambling White Paper published as soon as possible to avoid further gambling harm.”