Insight Wellbeing: Mobile gambling – when does it become problematic?

Submitted on Wednesday, 16/11/2022

Last year, Dr Eoin Whelan, an Insight FI and senior lecturer in Business Information Systems at the University of Galway published a study that found problem and non-problem gamblers differ in the gratifications they seek from mobile gambling. The study examined how the different gratifications sought from mobile gambling explain problematic versus non-problematic patterns in highly involved gamblers.

Researchers found that for a subgroup of vulnerable individuals, gambling involvement can be pathological and reflects a personality disorder, while for others, gambling is a non-problematic recreational activity.

The study focused specifically on mobile gambling – where people gamble online using their smartphones. Mobile gambling is more accessible than traditional forms of gambling because instead of going to a physical bookmaker or casino, mobile gambling is done quickly and swiftly, anytime, anywhere, with a few taps on a mobile device.

Mobile apps have been found to promote a form of gambling that is more impulsive and habitual in nature.

The study found that high involvement in mobile gambling is not necessarily problematic in itself.  The key is in why people use the apps. Problem and non-problem gamblers are seeking different gratifications from mobile gambling. Using gambling apps to facilitate social interaction and avoid boredom are key motivations for problem gamblers, but not for non-problem gamblers.

In a University of Galway press release, Whelan said, “Our study sought to find out what differentiates the two groups with the findings suggesting social gratifications are much more pertinent in problematic gamblers. The link between social gratifications and obsessive gambling could be a result of the broader cultural normalisation of mobile gambling. Regulators wishing to promote responsible gambling should consider restricting gambling app promotions from depictions and associations with social inclusion.”

You can read more about this study in that press release here.

You can link to the full study here