University researchers are calling for betting firms to implement a warning system to label the relative risks of different football bets, to enable gamblers to judge the likelihood of losing their money and avoid getting into debt.
The study, which involved tracking four different types of bet over eight seasons of the Premier League, has shown that betting on correct scores for matches (known as odds betting), can mean that gamblers could lose up to 50 times as much money in the long term.
Researchers at the Universities of Bath and Warwick are now calling for a new scheme, similar in concept to alcohol warnings on labelling- ‘alcohol by volume’ (ABV) - to flag the risks of different types of bets and the actual likelihood of winning.
Using advanced computer modelling techniques (‘machine learning’), they simulated three potential human betting strategies: a ‘random selection’, effectively mimicking the risks of throwing darts at a set of betting odds; a ‘most-skilled strategy’, studying betting odds and results for the three previous seasons; and a ‘least-skilled strategy’, mirroring a gambler who is unlucky and unskilled.
Some of the highest risks came from betting on the correct score. Randomly selecting correct score bets resulted in an average loss of 34.3 per cent and reached 58.9 per cent when the least skilled strategy picked very high correct scores.
Bets with lower odds, focussing on the home team to win, a draw, or the away team to win, fared better in the long term. The random strategy returned average percentage losses of 8.7 per cent, nearly four times less than randomly choosing correct score bets.
Dr Arman Hassanniakalager at the University of Bath’s School of Management, said: “Betting advertising comes with the caveat to ‘gamble responsibly’ but it’s very difficult to do this if consumers don’t have information to judge the relative risk of different types of bets. Given that we know gambling losses are a reliable predictor of gambling related harm to individuals, their families and friends as losses and debts mount up, this research points to one measure that could play an important part in protecting public health.”
A spokesperson for campaign group Fairer Gambling said: “The clampdown on fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) was a result of policymakers finally waking up to the reality that gambling harm is not just rooted in faults with individuals, but the addictive nature of the products. The different levels of losses and harm associated with each product shows some are more addictive than others. Consumers should be made aware of these risks before they engage in them.”
Dr Philip Newall, from the University of Warwick, said: “The absence of any labelling of different product risks is compounded by the gambling companies picking high risk bets to dominate advertising campaigns – on digital advertising and inside bookmakers. TV advertising during matches is stopping from next summer but we know that gambling firms are already spending five times more on online advertising than tv advertising.”