Sometimes referred to because the “crack cocaine of gambling”, electronic gaming machines (EGMs) comparable to slot machines allow bets to be placed as quickly as once every 2.5 seconds, delivering a rapid and immersive gambling experience. Similar features are actually getting used to remodel online sports betting, significantly increasing the danger of problem gambling.

Sports betting is one the UK’s hottest types of gambling. Traditionally, people have placed sports bets in the identical way they play the national lottery: betting on the end result of a match or race in the course of the week and infrequently waiting until the weekend to find the final result of the event.

But our recent research indicates that the net environment has massively transformed sports betting. It has now turn out to be immediately accessible, offering a large number of features and betting options that pose a significantly greater risk of addiction than prior to now.

And with technology rapidly advancing, the longer term of sports betting may very well be much more worrying as gambling firms look to artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) to boost their offerings.

More harmful sports betting has been linked to recent features which can be much like those present in EGMs. Countless “in-play” and “micro” sports bets can now be placed on the shortest intervals inside a sporting event, comparable to a bet on the following free kick in football. Although not quite as fast as EGMs, the increased speed at which in-play sports bets can now be placed is linked to problem gambling.

Another similarity between EGMs and online sports betting involves “losses disguised as wins”. This is when a player receives a payout that’s lower than their original wager but continues to be celebrated with visual and auditory feedback, making it feel like a win.

The “cash-out” feature also allows players to settle bets early, often for lower than the unique stake, to minimise potential losses. This is especially profitable for bookmakers when large sums are involved and will also disguise overall losses as wins. Using the cash-out feature can be related to problem gambling.

Sports betting within the near future

It’s possible to see how sports betting products that incorporate AI and AR could evolve before they’re commercially available by analysing patents. This is a useful strategy for researchers like us because potential areas of harm might be identified before recent products hit the market.

Our recent research identified three patents that aim so as to add augmented reality (AR) to the sports betting experience. AR typically uses goggles or mobile phones to overlap computer-generated imagery onto a player’s view of the actual world. Big tech firms comparable to Apple (Apple Vision) and Samsung (Galaxy Glass) are currently racing to assimilate augmented reality into many facets of our day by day lives, with the potential for very positive results comparable to when used to provide information to surgeons during operations, for instance, or to maintenance staff fixing complex equipment.

But integrating AR with sports betting could have disastrous consequences. In a sports betting context, this is able to probably involve aiming the goggles or phone at a live sporting event each on TV or on the stadium and having real-time betting opportunities shown in your sight view because the event unfolds. Research shows immersion is pivotal in fuelling problematic gambling behaviour and disengaging from an AR sports betting session may very well be very difficult.

We also identified three patents that seek to introduce competitive in-play sports bets between players somewhat than against bookmakers. These patents involve people joining online tournaments, and competing for rewards based on entry fees and wager pools. Leaderboards track bettor rankings, and players can communicate with one another in a similar way to poker.

However, introducing such competition in online sports betting might exacerbate “tilting” – when an individual makes poor betting decisions in response to loss or pressure. This could also be made worse when gamblers can chat and taunt one another. The firms involved within the above patents didn’t reply to requests for comment.

Bookmakers are already using AI to enhance predictions and odds-setting processes. The UK government is aware of the risks related to AI, but regulating this rapidly growing technology will proceed to be difficult.

Augmented and virtual reality headsets and goggles offer an immersive experience.

Regulation and policy

Gambling regulation is notorious for its lack of foresight. The 2005 Gambling Act was only revised this 12 months to recognise the expansion of online gambling, which has existed for nearly 20 years. So while more forward-looking regulation and policy is required to guard consumers from the harmful evolution of sports betting, the uncertainty and complexity surrounding recent sports betting technologies only adds to the challenge of regulating this industry.

But there are current harms that researchers and policymakers do understand. Our research shows that reducing the speed and ease of online sports betting makes most sense.

Regulatory measures mustn’t impede the freedoms of those that do gamble safely, nevertheless. Australia provides a superb example: regulations there allow in-play bets, but legally require them to be made via telephone call somewhat than immediately via apps or web sites. This provides friction for the nice of public health, somewhat than complete restriction.

Thanks to recent technology comparable to AI and AR, this industry is already evolving at a faster pace than regulation can sustain with. As a result, sports betting may very well be dominated by a growing web of harms which can be currently unexpected and difficult to understand.

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