Sports betting: all losers except the operators

It’s a sector in crisis…meaning it seems to be benefiting from it. Despite the pandemic and the suspension of many competitions, the online sports betting market has continued to grow in 2020, uninterrupted since it opened for competition ten years ago. 2021 will be an exceptional year for this market, which is contested by about fifteen licensed operators, almost all of whom are based in Malta.

Last year, according to the latest report from the National Gaming Authority (ANJ), they registered 600,000 new active player accounts. Shares jumped 47.4% to 7.84 billion euros, and revenue (total gaming revenue, GGR) jumped 44.1% to 1.35 billion euros – a record increase. According to data compiled by Christian Caleb, a market consultant, France now ranks fourth in the world in sports betting, after China, the United States and Turkey.

Is the peak behind us? Maybe not yet. Advertising investments should increase by 7% in 2022, ANJ estimates, highlighting the bookmakers’ overall presence in the sports world. It is impossible, in fact, to attend a soccer match replay without seeing the scrolling of the operators’ patches, whose logos have also been affixed to the shirts and edge panels of the floor. For twelve years, this sector represented significant gains for clubs and professional leagues, but also for specialized media and broadcasters.

Target: young people from working-class backgrounds

If all the economic lights are green, the alert about social and health risks on the other hand turns red. The operators’ advertisements are the target of growing criticism, and even the subject of ANJ’s rejection. The latter thus ordered Winamax, on March 17, to stop broadcasting its “Tout pour la daronne” television ad, on the grounds that it “Conveys the message that sports betting can contribute to social success, understood as social climbing or a change in social status.”.

Gaming Monitor defines a standard sports bettor profile as “of lower social backgrounds, lower educational level and income than other players.”

The springs that operators pack are fairly constant, and in fact they overlook the taboos: the promise of easy winnings, the bets offered as an aid to the sports scene (“No bet, no game”summarizes the Betclic slogan), unrestrained praise for the addictive nature of the bet (“Switch in the game” – Betclic again) and the explicit targeting of young people from working-class backgrounds through mobilizing images of urban cultures and ‘regions’.

And for good reason: 85% of bettors are men, 18-24 and 25-34 year olds each account for more than a third, and 90% of bets are made on a mobile device. The Game Monitor (ODJ) defines the standard profile for sports bettors as Belonging to modest social backgrounds, with lower educational level and income than other gamblers, (…) less active than all gamblers and more unemployed. For example, the risks of debt and poverty are documented on the Bondi blog.

With the extensive use of social networks and influencers, “Digital-focused marketing policies are not without risks, on the one hand from the point of view of exposure of minors, and on the other because of their significant impact on vulnerable audiences, such as young people under 25 years of age. years and excessive or pathological gamblers”, worry ANJ. A study by the French Observatory on Drugs and Addiction estimated that four out of ten 17-year-olds had bet at least once in 2019…

arsenal of manipulation techniques

“We made people bet on who they shouldn’t bet”, summarizes Christian Dog. The ODJ didn’t say much else, in 2019, by estimating that two-thirds of bets on the sport are made by players classified as “problematic” (“moderate-risk gambling” and “excessive gambling”), a much higher proportion than that observed. In other games of chance.

The operators clearly encourage this addictive dimension, insofar as they create what Christian Kalb calls ” artificial markets » Boosted by massive hiring. Added to this strategy is a context effect: confinement could have led to an increase in addiction, according to several studies.

“Gambling has become the norm for man-made behavioral addictions”As sociologist Thomas Andrew says in gambling addiction factory (Transcript from the Waterfront, 2021). to stir “A desire to play without ceasing, despite the losses that accumulate, and to maintain the hope of gaining”Game designers have “Developed expertise in cognitive and behavioral manipulation of clients”.

Investigations by Liberation and Mediapart have proven that some operators identify and ignore bettors who win “too much”, while those who lose too much receive free bets.

This researcher describes “Arsenal of Technologies” : targeting and excessive soliciting of problem gamblers via (in particular) app notifications; incentive for Exaggerating low-probability gains or underestimating high-probability losses, especially with compound bets, which are deceptively more attractive; The illusion of “near win” that encourages the bettor to play when he thinks he is passing near the bank; Exclusive promotion for winners.

Add the illusion that you took the opportunity to know a sport, but also the bonuses offered upon registration, amounting to 200 euros. surveys Release And Mediapart have proven that some operators identify and ignore bettors who win “a lot”, while those who lose a lot receive Free (Amounts offered to bet). In sports betting, only operators can truly win.

Despite a very dense regulatory framework, which subjects operators to approvals, certifications, approvals and commitments, the battle for regulation appears to have been lost up front in the face of the power of product temptation and the power of product promotion. “Invite the player to moderation in his trainingOr being rational is meaningless if everything is done at the same time to encourage him to play more and more »Thomas Andrew notes.

Limited regulation, booming market?

By becoming an ANJ in 2020, the former Arjel certainly gained privileges, notably to invalidate communication strategies and advertising messages, but the Winamax example illustrates the limits: it was necessary to wait for the authority in February to publish its “guidelines” so that it rechecks the operators’ connections and decides to block the patch after Eight months of deployment.

By imposing taxes of up to 7.5%, the state recovers several tens of millions of euros annually, partly intended for the National Sports Agency (which is enough to guarantee 50% of its budget)

ANJ is somewhat virtuous compared to its counterparts in other countries, due to a rather narrow regulatory framework, but its defense of an exclusively “entertainment” game is not without contradictions. Regulators are ambiguous when they implicitly welcome market growth figuresAnd Christian Kalp thinks: They should only manage supply and demand, not the interests of operators. Good regulation must strike a balance between supply, demand and risk, which is incompatible with an overall conception of supply. »

The state itself is in a contradictory position. By taxing promotions at 7.5%, it recovers several tens of millions of euros annually, partly allocated to the National Sports Agency (enough to guarantee 50% of its budget), and partly to the general budget. It’s tempting to keep it…or see it grow more.

However, in the face of mounting evidence of adverse effects, many European countries have decided to report several game interruptions. The club’s shirt sponsorship has thus been banned in Spain and Italy, and has been discussed in the UK where there are already restrictions on the distribution of advertisements. In France, we have not had such problems so far: the 2020 Professional Football League and the French Football Federation, the following year, entered into a sponsorship partnership with Betclic …

Should we then decide on a tidal wave that can never be controlled? Christian is a dog in doubt. For him, operators “Cancel the request” The French market will suffer from a downturn in the coming years. But the examples from abroad are not reassuring: football clubs looking for sponsors are already turning to the new “Eldorado” of cryptocurrency and the almost unregulated NFT, which risks at least a lot of losers.

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