Strategies needed to keep gamblers within limits: U of G prof

By Mark Pare

Knowing your limit and playing within it may not ring loud enough for some people these days.

There are things governing bodies, gaming websites and sportscasters could do to discourage gamblers from biting off more than they can chew.

But a University of Guelph professor indicates there's been little research done in sports betting in the last few years, and that comes with some unknowns in figuring out trends to capitalize on.

“Although a small number of people may try to adopt a budget, there's really little research about sports betting in the past several years,” said Sunghwan Yi, who studies the addictive and compulsive behaviour of people.

“We don't really know whether sports bettors even have a budget.”

But even with limited research, he does believe the OLG-coined term “know your limit, play within it” puts too much onus on the consumer, and just assumes gamblers know when to stop.

He's recommending more safeguards be built into websites and devices to help gamblers along the way.

“It'll be important for (the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation) to include some kind of reminder when gamblers are approaching this limit,” he said.

He pointed out in some European jurisdictions, gamblers are asked to input their daily gambling budget, given notifications when they're approaching the number and temporarily restricted once they pass the limit.

Some websites and apps, such as FanDuel, have links where consumers can set limits.

Yi admits it may sound heavy-handed, but it may also be understandable in some situations.

“Even if they know that they're about to extend their gambling limits, they'll still do it, they'll still go on,” he said.

“So, a little more controlled approach like this would be helpful, in my opinion.”

Some safeguards include something as simple as asking a person to rate their mood, as well as inputting a limit ahead of each session.

Yi also touched on gambling advertising on TV, which has become a staple since single-game sports betting became legal in Ontario in April.

He said limiting the amount of advertising could be a step to take, noting sportscasters will say things encouraging someone to gamble.

New U of G research looked at just over 100 regular Canadian gamblers. It found even those who believed they have high self-discipline would still ignore their limits if they were having a stressful day.

Yi said a good practice would be to just avoid gambling on those days.

The online sphere, he admits, is much tougher to set limits, with debit and credit cards not only within arms reach, but for some, programmed into devices.

For offline, like going to a casino, Yi agreed one strategy is to just bring cash and leave the debit and credit cards at home.

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