Marketing stimuli and their perceived effects among sports bettors in treatment for gambling disorder
Beyond the psychobiological characteristics that make some individuals more susceptible to suffering gambling disorder, other situational characteristics must be taken into consideration to account for the full spectrum of vulnerability factors. Situational characteristics are context-related characteristics such as laxity in gambling regulation, increased availability, and easier accessibility to gambling. Among these situational factors, the marketing stimuli to gamble to which sports bettors are typically exposed constitutes one of the main aspects of concern, due to their proliferation and aggressiveness. A number of recent studies have looked into the effects of marketing enticements among sports bettors, but little scientific evidence exists concerning the effects of marketing among the most severe group of problem gamblers (i.e., those in treatment for gambling disorder).
This paper covers a series of studies conducted via focus group interviews with 43 Spanish sports bettors (Mage = 33.2, SD = 9.3) diagnosed with gambling disorder and undergoing treatment for it. The studies aimed at investigating the perceived influence of marketing stimuli in this population. The analysis of the collected data was performed using a ‘grounded theory-lite approach’. The results showed three main marketing paths for impact: mass-mediated marketing stimuli, personalised marketing, and in-venue marketing. At a perceptual level, bettors recognised that betting marketing has both concealed harms and enhanced benefits. Among the benefits, the most persuasive ones were found to be the narratives envisioned by betting promotions, and the illustration of success in betting by influential examples such as tipsters and celebrities. At a behavioural level, marketing stimuli facilitated bettors to initiate gambling on new products, increase their gambling, and most notably, prevent them from discontinuing gambling (e.g., by presenting missed opportunities that made bettors regret that they had not wagered money on a particular sporting event).
The most influential mechanisms for all these behaviours were price-related gambling promotions. In general, bettors did not think marketing stimuli had any impact on them, and in the cases where it might have, they resisted those effects by avoiding the stimuli. However, and especially when undergoing treatment for their gambling problems, being exposed to gambling marketing stimuli might lead to relapse. The study also provides preliminary evidence for specific regulatory actions in the context of sports betting marketing.