This study aimed to examine the impact of different approaches to wagering marketing, including inducements, on vulnerable adults (adults at-risk of, or experiencing, gambling problems). It involved five empirical stages:
- Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) study. This study captured longitudinal data over 15 surveys from regular bettors on races (n = 402) and sports (n = 320). It assessed: 1) exposure to different types of wagering advertisements and inducements; 2) their reported influence on the size, frequency, and riskiness of subsequent bets placed; and 3) longitudinal associations between exposure to wagering advertisements and inducements and betting expenditure.
- Experimental study. This study tested the effects of four types of wagering inducements (bonus bet, better odds, reduced risk, cash rebate) on propensity to choose riskier bets (with greater theoretical loss). Using video game simulation, 299 sports bettors watched and bet on AFL, cricket or soccer matches. Participants were provided with a $4 stake for each trial, and winnings accrued to their take-home compensation. This study assessed: 1) the effects of different types of wagering inducements on the riskiness of bets placed; 2) their relative appeal to bettors; and 3) any differential effects for vulnerable adults.
- Study of play-through conditions on bonus bets. The 299 participants rated the attractiveness of three variations of an inducement offer. Promo1 simply noted ‘terms and conditions apply;’ promo2 included the terms and conditions; promo3 revealed the offer’s true cost. Respondents were asked to calculate the true cost before it was revealed. This study assessed: 1) whether the attractiveness of bonus bet inducements varied with information provided about their play-through conditions; 2) bettors’ comprehension of their true cost; and 3) whether this varied by gambler risk group.
- Psychophysiological study. This study measured electrodermal, cardiac and eye movement responses of 60 participants to 12 advertisements. Participants also rated how stimulating each advertisement was and their likelihood of taking up each inducement. This study assessed: 1) the appeal of wagering vs non-wagering inducements; 2) attention, excitement and desire to gamble elicited by four types of wagering inducements (bonus bet, better odds, reduced risk, cash rebate); and 3) variations by gambler risk group.
- Interview study. Interviews with 31 regular race and sports bettors explored causal mechanisms driving betting-related responses to wagering advertisements and inducements. Constructivist grounded theory methods were used to develop a model of influences from wagering advertisements and inducements, including environmental, situational, structural, and individual factors.
Key findings from the study include that wagering advertisements and inducements: are prolific; encourage riskier betting; increase betting expenditure; elicit attention, excitement, and desire to bet amongst vulnerable gamblers; and have negative effects on all gambler risk groups. While aggregate exposure across all types of advertisements and inducements increased betting expenditure, those with most influence were: direct messages from wagering operators; advertisements on betting websites and apps; betting brands promoted during live and televised race/sports events; commentary promoting betting or betting odds during events; stake-back offers; multi-bet offers; and inducements for rewards program points. Most bettors underestimated the cost of bonus bets with play-through conditions. Inducement information in wagering advertisements overrode attention to responsible gambling information.
Measures to reduce harmful wagering include banning or restricting inducements that include cash rebate and reduced risk offers, which refund or match part or all of the bet via cash, bonus bets, deposits, or reward points. The appeal of these inducements is that they are thought to minimise betting losses; however, these inducements actually increase rather than decrease losses by encouraging riskier bets and increased betting expenditure. Misperceptions about the likely returns from wagering inducements indicate a need for consumer education and operator care in advertising, as well as banning or restricting play-through conditions. Direct messages are particularly problematic and require restrictions or stringent opt-in requirements. Consistent with a public health approach, measures to reduce and regulate wagering advertisements and inducements need to be supplemented by measures to reduce the environmental, structural and situational factors that interact with wagering marketing to normalise betting and contribute to betting-related harm. Reducing this harm is critical, given that two-fifths of Australian adults who bet on sports or races on a monthly basis or more frequently currently meet criteria for at-risk or problem gambling.
Please refer to the executive summary and the main report for further details, including the limitations associated with the study.