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Blog: Most people aim to gamble safely but can still be vulnerable

Most people aim to gamble safely, but can still be vulnerable to occasional ‘hot state’ episodes of play

Life is full of risk and reward decisions and opportunities to gamble. It can be difficult to sustain responsible behaviour in a complex world.

All participants had their own approach towards striking a positive balance between their attitudinal restraint (cold state) and their urge to gamble (hot state). For example, in order to maintain typical levels of play, people apply their own restrictions to play, such as: 

  • Going into a casino/bingo/races with a set budget 
  • Financial limits on gambling accounts 
  • Only betting at the bookies  
  • Not betting on football match results  

"When I go to the casino I always make sure that I always leave with the tenner I started with so I am never down" 35, Female, North England, occasional player  

As mentioned earlier, in retrospect respondents often acknowledged their own vulnerability to hot state peaks in play. Many regretfully identify a hot state or ‘binge’ moment in time when they have strayed beyond their limits and subsequently self-regulated in a cold state (or not), including: 

  • Self-banning from a casino as a result of overspending (often where alcohol had reduced their inhibitions)
  • Deleting apps to avoid late night temptation or overspend 
  • Temporary bans on activity as a result of an overspend  
  • Chasing losses on bingo games 

A ‘binge’ moment occurs when a player reported:  

  • A hot state that results in higher than usual gambling activity (but still within acceptable and not problematic spend parameters)  
  • Regret, shame and guilt felt after the event  
  • A positive intention to not return to this state again (but acceptance that it might happen)  

The ‘binge’ moments reported in the research occurred well within individuals’ own benchmarks of acceptable gambling (often based on the worst behaviour of their family, friends and acquaintances). 

The research also shed further light on the role of technology in helping to facilitate hot state gambling behaviour. Mobile gambling has transformed traditional forms of ‘destination gambling’ such as bingo or betting, to function in a similar way to instant win games in terms of ease/convenience of play. The ‘low friction’ nature of mobile play means that ‘binge’ behaviour can happen at any time. Certain types of online gambling are particularly prone to repetitive play, such as instant win games, online casino games and online bingo. 

The ‘binge’ moment draws parallels between hot states in gambling and other behaviours such as shopping. The idea that we can go into a store with the intention of not shopping yet leaving with numerous bags (and much less money), in many respects mirrors the ‘binge’ moment that gamblers can experience whilst in a hot state. Some people may go shopping without their card or put other self-regulation strategies in place to ensure that they don’t overspend in future. Cold states in a retail context may be seen as periods of not shopping or better justification for purchases. From both a retail and gambling perspective, cold states can be useful periods to self-reflect on past behaviour and identify previous hot states.  

Equally if we think about alcohol, most people have an underlying intention to drink responsibly, however behaviour ‘in the moment’ often doesn’t play out that way. We often go out, enjoy the music and seeing friends so much that before you know it, it’s the early hours of the morning and you have drunk too much. Many will over-indulge and subsequently self-regulate in a cold state. 

This type of hot state behaviour has implications when it comes to safer gambling tools. Many of the initiatives that are currently available are best used when in a cold state (where behaviour is reflective), whereas it may be most beneficial to utilise tools amidst a hot state. This is the point at which there appears to be an industry level intervention gap for customer interactions that halt or slow down hot state gambling behaviour.

Read more on this blog:

Reflection 1: Most people perceive their own gambling behaviour as ‘normal’ and perceive vulnerable others as at risk of problems

Reflection 2: Gambling attitudes shift slowly but behaviour varies highly over time

Reflection 4: Responsibility for safer gambling is felt to sit across consumers, gambling companies and Government alike

Reflection 5: Safer gambling strategies need to consider the nature of ‘hot state’ play