By Cecilia Diaz, MSc International Sport Management (Online) module leader at UCFB

Cecilia is a specialist in strategic management and analysis, a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and is currently completing her postgraduate diploma.

The World Cup is here and, as with many other mega sports events, it has stimulated many individuals to make their predictions on the winner of a particular match, or even the overall champions. Regular betting individuals and non-gambling fans alike, will feel tempted to go beyond verbal estimates and wager some cash on their predictions. The question is: what makes sports betting so stimulating that it holds 40% of the global gambling market (Yuce, Yuce et al. 2017), with a global betting turnover of £3.4b at the 2010 FIFA World Cup (Surujlal 2011)?

Some researchers (Koning and van Velzen 2009) seem to support the idea that the dynamics and uncertainties intrinsic to sports activities, creates a desirable environment for sports betting. Some readers of this article might be thinking that sports betting doubles the thrill and excitement of sports events. However, while this might be a plausible answer, cultural, societal and technological changes have intensified this trend. Sports betting stakeholders have propagated the view that it is a socially acceptable recreational activity (Pinto and Wilson 1990, Claussen and Miller 2011) without the risks associated with other types of gambling. In fact, some researchers seem to support the idea that gambling and sports betting are two distinct activities, in which the latter might not pose such a potentially high health risk.

There seems to be a differing perception between gamblers and non-gamblers, which does not seem to appear with other types of gambling. Individuals that don’t bet on sports events regarded sports betting as gambling; while those who were involved in sports betting viewed sport betting and gambling as different (Anastasovski and Nanev 2014). This difference in opinion may be triggered by various factors such as cultural background, social trends in entertainment, affluence, messages presented by the media and marketing activities, even at work, there will be some fantasy football or sports event pool.

Sports betting, especially in the UK, is embedded within culture. It’s normal that individuals don’t think of sports betting as a risk when parents and other relatives may take part, and various teams are sponsored by betting companies. There is this unsaid recognition that placing a bet on your team is a potential way to express your loyalty to them.

The inherent risk is that this socialisation and normalisation of gambling has brought about a new vulnerable group – the 18-35 age group (Wheeler 2015, GamblingCommision 2016). The diffusion of gambling on the 18-35 group is partly a result of seeing parents gambling, but mostly due to being part of a social network (Gupta and Derevensky 1997, Gupta and Derevensky 1998, Buil, Moratilla et al. 2015). Youths are also gambling as a way to escape everyday strains as their coping skills are not fully developed, and they’re also highly vulnerable (Griffiths 1995, Gupta and Derevensky 1998, Buil, Moratilla et al. 2015). This age group will use betting on major sports events as a way of bonding and feeling like a part of social trends that constantly influence their environment (friends, family, TV, Radio, etc). The knowledge they obtain about the game through these interactions with peers and the internet provides them with an illusive confidence that they will be able to predict match results.

Whether it is a win or a loss, the thrill of gambling might inadvertently trigger behaviours where individuals would go beyond an “innocent” bet on the World Cup, to a more harmful situation where the stakes and potential risks are higher.