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Image of David Taylor - Gambling Commission head of evidence assurance and evaluation, along with the blog title 'The impact of the World Cup on gambling attitudes and behaviours

The impact of the World Cup on gambling attitudes and behaviours

With the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand reaching its final week and with England playing in the semi-final today, we thought it was a good time to share some findings about the impact of major sporting events.

Posted 16 August 2023 by David Taylor

The men’s World Cup comes around once every four years and represents the most significant event in both the sporting and betting cycle. Rather than just looking at gambling activity during the World Cup, we commissioned Yonder to help us find out a bit more about what happened after the World Cup.

What did Yonder do?

On the weekend of the men's World Cup final at the end of December, Yonder contacted people who reported betting on the World Cup or playing a related free-to-play game during the tournament. Respondents answered questions about their gambling behaviours and attitudes over the last four weeks. Yonder then recontacted the same individuals in March to find out about any changes in their gambling behaviour; 811 people responded to both surveys. Here are a few of the main findings.

Gambling Participation shows a slight increase

Despite respondents in the second survey reflecting on a shorter period (“since the World Cup” rather than the past 12 months), the survey results indicate that reported gambling participation slightly increased amongst participants. This includes the proportion that bet on football online, although perhaps unsurprisingly the amount being spent on football over the previous four weeks decreased significantly after the World Cup.

The social side of World Cup betting

We looked at the internal impulses stage of the Path to Play and why people bet on football. During the World Cup, significantly more people reported that they placed bets to add excitement to a game - and one of the groups to decrease after the World Cup was those who reported that the chance to gamble with friends had ‘a lot’ of influence.

Looking at gambling typologies, and comparing responses to those that reported sports betting in earlier ‘Understanding Why People Gamble’ fieldwork, people who had bet on the World Cup were more likely to do so because they were in the ‘Feeling Lucky’ and ‘Social Play’ categories, and less likely to be in the ‘For the Money’ category. This reinforces the view that betting on the World Cup was more of a social experience than normal football betting.

Is the World Cup a ‘gateway’ event?

Of the 811 that responded to both wave one and wave two of the survey, there were 101 that reported they had not bet on football in the 12 months prior to the World Cup. We were particularly interested to know how the behaviour of this cohort of non/infrequent bettors changed once the World Cup had concluded.

In the 11 to 12 weeks after the conclusion of the World Cup, 34 of them reported placing a bet on sports during that period, with 72 engaging in non-National Lottery gambling in total. This suggests that for approximately a third of people who were new or returning gamblers, betting on the World Cup did lead to continued (re)engagement with betting, and that there was also an observed increase in gambling engagement across a range of products.

Negative impacts of gambling are fluid

Using the Problem Gambling Severity Index as a measure for gambling to a degree that compromises, disrupts or damages family, personal or recreational pursuits, the aggregated proportion in each band of scores (0, 1-2, 3-7 and 8+) was stable between the two waves. However, the data also shows quite a lot of movement between the bands as individuals’ scores increase or decrease.

We’ve always known that the way that people experience gambling changes over time, but this approach allowed us to look at how much movement there was between the different bands. Due to this being the first time we have had this type of data, and the considerable overlap between the 12-month periods reflected upon in each survey, we are treating the findings from this research with a little bit of caution – but we will be exploring this and other longitudinal data further to continue to build a picture of how people move in and out of problematic gambling, even over short periods of time.

Supporting data

We will be publishing accompanying data tables related to this blog post in due course.

About the author

David Taylor is the Commission's Head of Evidence Assurance and Evaluation.

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