New Study Shows Effectiveness of Deposit and Loss Limits

The study aimed to evaluate messages that promote setting limits for online gambling and the impact of those messages on gambling behaviour. And they did find that deposit limits did reduce gambling losses and the volatility of gambling activities. Additionally, the methods by which players received messages about limiting their play was important.

Directly from the School of Psychology at the University of Sydney, two researchers completed their study of tens of thousands of gamblers and bettors. It is currently in the preprint stage and awaits a final peer review before publication.

Study Beginnings

The title of the study clearly states its goal: “A randomized control trial to evaluate messages that promote limit setting and the impact of limits on online gambling behaviour.”

Robert M. Heirene and Sally M. Gainsbury began the study in September 2019 out of the Brain & Mind Centre at the University of Sydney’s School of Psychology.

Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA) helped to fund the study. This independent peak body advocates for wagering service providers licensed in Australia, including names like Bet365, GVC, Betfair, Sportsbet, and Unibet. The group emerged in 2016 to ensure that betting operators operate by a standard code of conduct and adhere to social gambling responsibilities.

Some of RWA’s members also provided data regarding requirements and limitations, though they were not a part of the development of the study.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) also supported the research by providing data. The ARC is a part of the Australian government as established by a 2001 law that aids various research and development projects.

It should also be noted that the Brain & Mind Centre at the University of Sydney contributes much data to the wagering community and about gambling. The gambling sector of the Centre aims to “better understand the psychology of gambling and minimize gambling-related harms in the community.” It also works closely with its Gambling Treatment and Research Clinic.

Study Participants: Nearly 32,000 on 4 Sites

Heirene and Gainsbury used four Australian-licensed sports and race wagering websites for the study. All of the people included in the study held accounts on at least one of those sites.

Originally, the sample size and other factors dictated that they should survey 41,720 people, and they rounded that up to 42,000. However, when one online operator left the trial, that reduced the sample size to 31,989. All of them had placed bets on at least five days in the past 30 days from the target date.

Once those people were screened for eligibility and some eliminated, the number of participants became 26,516.

They were each sent messages via email or via their accounts on the betting sites. There were three purposes of the messages:

  • Be informative and describe the availability and purpose of gambling harm minimization tools like deposit limits and loss limits.
  • Highlight the benefits other people have claimed to receive from using the tools.
  • Promote the benefits possible from using the tools.

Participants, all of whom were randomly selected from the sample pool, were then asked to rate the messages on a pre-set scale. The participating operators then tracked those bettors’ activities on the sites for 90 days prior to the first message and 90 days after the second message.

Message Results: Wording Matters

Th messages repeated the same tagline, which was:

  • “Keep on track with deposit limits.”

The best “social perception message” from the poll results was:

  • “Most people who use deposit limits find this helps them manage their spending.”

The best “personal perception message was:

  • “Deposit limits are a great way to manage your spending.”

As for the informative message, it told customers that they could set a personal limit on their gambling account deposits via the Deposit Limits tool. They could limit their deposits on a 24-hour, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis.

When the researchers analyzed the actual data of participant actions after the messages, they discovered the following:

  • 161 customers in messaging group set a deposit limit within 5 days of the messages being sent, 3 customers in control group set a limit
  • 6% (average of 22.4% to 38.5%, depending on site) of customers opened emails
  • Limit-setting rate increased from 0.56% to 2.0% when customers opened emails

Overall Findings: Messages Work

Ultimately, customer messaging can be an inexpensive and easy strategy to increase the use of deposit limits for customers of online gambling sites. Further, the way messages are delivered and presented may be more important than the content.

Customers who set limits showed significant decreases in daily wagering totals, average daily wagers, net losses, and “betting intensity.” This indicates that encouraging customers to set deposit limits may be an effective way to reduce gambling harm.

It is important to note that a law implemented in May 2020 required all internet gambling website operators to require their customers to set a deposit limit or opt-out. This changed from the previous opt-in programs. The people participating in the study had opted out of limits or removed a limit they previously allowed.

With that in mind, the study found that people who had once used a limit were the most likely to reimplement a deposit limit.

Further, the researchers found a sustainability factor. The reduction in the average daily wagers showed that deposit limits did lead to a most sustained reduction in overall gambling intensity and loss, which was proven out over the 90-day period after the messages.

The preprint of the study is here. After the peer review process, the researchers and funders will more widely distribute the results.


Rose Varrelli

Rose Varrelli has always been passionate about online casinos, as she’s been a player at a variety of places for years. Rose turned her personal knowledge and insight into a writing career. She aims to provide readers with the most up to date, informative news in the world of online casinos!


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