Young Australians are being sucked into the vortex of gambling addiction at an alarming rate, but not by horse racing or sport.
Competitive online gaming – known as “e-sports” – is drawing in a younger, better educated generation of gamblers who are nearly four times more likely to be addicted than people who only have a punt on the horses.
They are almost twice as likely to have suffered harm due to gambling.
The concerning statistics have been uncovered by a CQ University study – one of the first in the country to look at the connection between e-sports and problem gambling. It found the e-sports gamblers they analysed were likely to bet more often, and 64.8 per cent of them qualified as “problem gamblers”, compared to 17.3 per cent of people who bet solely on sport.
Four out of five also suffered “at least one gambling related harm”, such as stress caused by money issues, relationship breakdowns or anxiety. That compared to 45 per cent of people who bet on traditional sports.
Those who bet with items that could be found in online games – often bought with real money – were at a much higher risk of being problem gamblers.
The study said “young video gamers and e-sports spectators are likely to be exposed to gambling products early in their development, due to the presence of gambling operators’ advertising in environments they ‘frequent’, including online streaming services, social influencers, social media, and e-sports competitions”.
Researcher Alex Russell, who worked on the study with Nancy Greer, said e-sports betting by its nature appealed to younger men, who were generally more impulsive and likely to gamble more.
He said the seeds were usually sown in childhood. “This stuff is pretty freely available and they can watch it on devices in their bedrooms,” Dr Russell said. “If they’re watching AFL or NRL there are some pretty strict rules about what’s allowed on TV in terms of gambling advertising.
There isn’t that with e-sports. “It’s more of an international kind of vibe. A lot of (e-sports competitors) have gambling ads prominently displayed on shirts and things like that, so children can be more exposed and that leads to normalisation.”
He said e-sports gamblers also generally bet on other things and gaming was “wood on the fire”.
The study was funded by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.
Greer, N, Rockloff, M, Russell, Alex M. T.