More than one third of gamblers under the age of 45 demonstrate low gambling literacy, according to Mass. study

Massachusetts Study Shows Lack Of Gambling Literacy An Issue For Younger Clientele

An experienced gambler is a more responsible gambler, according to a recent study.

Gamres, a Canadian research and consulting firm, conducted the study, with psychologist Dr. Richard Wood in charge. It considered 1500 Massachusetts residents who had gambled in the last year, half of them at retail casinos in the state. Men and women were represented equally.

Dr. Wood used the participants answers to an online survey to assign each a positive play score in four separate cateogories: personal responsibility, gambling literacy, honesty and control, and pre-commitment. The survey included questions about gambling activity both before and after the COVID-19 lockdown.

Several findings came out of the study. The most interesting of these, from the perspective of regulated online gambling, were an overall lack of gambling literacy, and the fact that older participants scored better on all metrics.

Gambling literacy trails other metrics

Overall, the scores of participants were encouraging, and show that the majority of people are well-equipped to gamble responsibly. However, it also identified gambling literacy as the area of most concern.

Personal responsibility

“Personal responsibility,” by the study’s definitions, means knowing the importance of gambling within one’s means. Survey respondents scored best in this category:

  • 77% scored high
  • 17% scored medium
  • Just 6% scored low, indicating a potential problem

Honesty and control

Massachusetts players likewise scored well in  the honesty and control section. This reflects the ability of players to control their betting and know when to stop.

  • 69% scored high
  • 21% scored medium
  • 10% scored low

Pre-commitment

The pre-commitment category tested whether players arrived at the casino with a set limit on betting and losses. Here, relatively fewer respondents received high scores, but the proportion of low scores was still small.

  • 58% scored high
  • 28% scored medium
  • 14% scored low

Gambling literacy is an issue

It was quite a different story the final category. On the topic of gambling literacy:

  • Only 38% of respondents had high scores
  • 34% scored medium
  • 28% scored low, more than twice as many as any other category

What “gambling literacy” means here is players’ understanding of the games they’re playing, including things like odds and payouts. In other words, over a quarter of gamblers are playing games they don’t truly grasp. That number soars to a troubling 66% among those who engage in multiple forms of gambling.

Does wisdom come with age? In gambling, it does

One important takeaway from the study was a correlation between high scores and age. This was true across all categories, but particularly the more problematic ones, gambling literacy and pre-commitment.

Older players were more likely to set limits, both before and while they were gambling. They better understood the rules and odds of the games they played as well. For gambling literacy, the difference was starkest between players 44 and younger, versus those 45 and up.

The reason, presumably, is that more exposure to the gaming environment equals more experience, knowledge  and self-discipline. Over time, players are also exposed to programs and casino literature designed to promote responsible gaming.

What does this mean for online gambling?

This should be alarming to online gambling companies, as it’s something younger players gravitate towards more frequently.

Online gambling has only come to the US recently,  the most recent addition being the Michigan iGaming launch this January. Not much is known about its demographics here, but several European studies have shown that 50% or more of online gamblers are under 35. Conversely, only 18% of visitors to US retail casinos fall in that bracket.

Online gambling is profitable, but appealing to a demographic that is known to be prone to risk taking means there’s need to help users make informed, self-aware decisions. It also affects players’ risk calculations, as gambling with digital currency in an online account feels different than handing over cash in person.

How to best serve the future gambler

How can the industry help younger gamblers overcome their knowledge deficit when it comes to odds, game rules and personal responsibility? The problem may also be the solution.

Internet-based media is similarly popular with younger audiences, and can be used to take the mystery out of the various forms of gaming. This is particularly important for  table games like baccarat, which are familiar to players of earlier generations, but that some younger players may find enigmatic.

Messaging is also important. Dr. Wood suggested phasing out passive terms like “budgeting” in favor of more active ones like “saving my bankroll.”

Some companies are more proactive on these matters than others. Caesars, for instance, already has a variety of brochures targeting different demographics with customized responsible gaming messages. It would behoove other online operators to consider the results of this study and ensure the education of their younger clientele.

- Toya Browder is a poker enthusiast from Columbus, OH.
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