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Expert comment: Gambling Harm – Time for Action report from the House of Lords

Dr Lukasz Walasek from the University of Warwick Department of Psychology has made two comments in relation to the Gambling Harm – Time for Action report, published today by the Authority of the House of Lords.

1. On the prevalence of custom bets

A growing number of betting companies now provide customers with the option to create and customize their own bets. Our own research shows that such forms of betting feature heavily in TV advertisements (Newall, Walasek, & Ludvig, 2019; Newall, Thobhani, Walasek, & Meyer, 2019), and some betting providers directly encourage potential customers to place such bets by engaging with them on social media. This should be very concerning because our research also shows that “sports betting products that allow gamblers to customise their own bets are especially attractive to problem gamblers. In one recent survey, 16.0% of participants who had placed at least one custom bet were problem gamblers, compared to 6.7% who had never placed a custom bet.” (Newall, Walasek, Vázquez Kiesel & Ludvig, 2019; Newall, Cassidy, Walasek, Ludvig, & Meyer, 2020). In our written evidence to the parliamentary committee (https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/216/html/), we stress that regulators must closely monitor the potential harmfulness of new gambling techniques and products appearing online.

Newall, P. W. S., Thobhani, A., Walasek, L., & Meyer, C. (2019). Live-odds gambling advertising and consumer protection. PLOS One. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0216876

Newall, P. W. S., Walasek, L., & Ludvig, E. A. (2019). Gambling advertising and problem gambling: A content analysis of TV adverts from the 2018 World Cup. https://psyarxiv.com/5dw9g/

Newall, P. W. S., Cassidy, R., Walasek, L., Ludvig, E. A., Meyer, C. (2020). Who uses custom sports betting products? Addiction Research & Theory.

Newall, P. W. S., Walasek, L., Vázquez Kiesel, R., Ludvig, E. A., & Meyer, C. (2019). Betting on intuitive longshots. https://psyarxiv.com/nk6tw/ 

2. On lootboxes

It is clear that lootboxes need to be studied from the perspective of gambling-related harm – they include mechanics used in traditional forms of gambling and they also feel like gambling to the people who purchase them. We cannot yet understand long-term negative effects of lootboxes because these products have not been around for long enough. However, we know that exposure to legal gambling products during childhood/adolescence carries negative consequences for gambling behaviours in later life. In our recent study we asked over 1000 UK adults to tell us about their experience with legal gambling products (scratchards, coin push machines, crane grab machines, national lottery products, and category D fruit machines) when they were under the age of 18. We found that higher levels of recollected legal youth engagement with each of the five products was robustly associated with adult disordered gambling (Newall, Russell, Sharman, & Walasek, 2020). These findings should be alarming to everyone considering the potential long-term consequences of engaging with lootboxes by young people. Based on the empirical evidence so far, we do not see any reason why the lootboxes shouldn’t be regulated in the same way as traditional forms of gambling.

Newall, P. W. S., Russell, A. M. T., Sharman, S., & Walasek, L. (2020). Frequency of engagement with legal UK youth gambling products is associated with adult disordered gambling. https://psyarxiv.com/72uav/

2 July 2020

Contact:

Peter Thorley
Media Relations Manager (Warwick Medical School and Department of Physics)

Email: peter.thorley@warwick.ac.uk

Mob: +44 (0) 7824 540863