Deposit limit tools: Should online gambling industry-set options be removed?

GambleAware has today (20 January 2021) published the report and press release (each of which you can download below) for the research it commissioned the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) to complete on deposit limit tools. The research findings merit serious consideration by all UK-licensed remote gambling operators.

The press release (entitled “Gamblers reduce their online gambling spending limits by almost half once operator defined options are removed from view”) explains that the BIT research, involving more than 1,700 online gambling customers, found that by removing industry-set options for deposit limits, online gamblers reduce the amount they set for themselves by up to 46%.

It goes on to say:

Deposit limit tools are a common feature of gambling sites in Great Britain. Customers are typically required to scroll through a dropdown menu of pre-defined options, such as £10,000, £5,000, £1,000 and £5, to find the value that they wish to set as their personal limit. The options usually begin with the largest deposit limit available, which in some cases can be as high as £100,000.

Insights from behavioural science suggest that the way deposit limit tools are typically presented could influence the limits that people set for themselves. The psychological phenomenon of “anchoring” in particular means peoples’ choices can be over-reliant on prior information.

This research trial, funded by GambleAware, an independent national charity commissioning treatment, research and education in gambling, set out to determine whether the current design of deposit limits influences gambling behaviours. It found that the high values commonly found in dropdown menus do indeed anchor people to select higher deposit limits. Additionally, the research observed that customers exposed to the industry-standard deposit limit dropdown options deposited more money into their accounts over 30 days: however, a larger sample of customers would be needed to confirm these observations ……

….. The research recommends that deposit limit tools should not present any values at all. Instead, customers should be presented with a free text box with no visible or suggested minimum or maximum monetary amounts on display. The researchers argue that this would likely improve the harm-reduction efficacy of deposit limit tools, without constraining choices for the consumer.

Commenting on the research findings:

Rosanna Barry, Principal Advisor, Consumer Markets and Business team, from the Behavioural Insights Team has said:

This report is the culmination of a huge amount of detailed work by the team at BIT. It shows how seemingly superficial changes to the way that gambling sites offer deposit tools, if implemented across the industry and for all customers, will deliver large benefits to individuals who gamble and society as a whole, without constraining customer choice.

Tim Miller, Executive Director of Research and Policy at the Gambling Commission has added:

This is an important study that uses experiences from real consumers to find what actually works to reduce the harms that can come from gambling. Importantly, it provides practical options for how gambling operators can strengthen the tools they provide to protect consumers from harm. These are also issues we are seeking responses on through our remote customer interaction consultation and call for evidence, which closes next month.

The deadline for responding to the Gambling Commission’s Remote Customer Interaction Consultation and Call for Evidence (to which Tim Miller has referred above) has been extended until Tuesday 9 February 2021, as reported by us here.