Towards Responsible e-Gambling: Assessing the Perceived Opportunities and Risks Associated with Digital Gambling


As electronic or e-gambling services widen both the reach and scope of gambling practice, a new generation of gamblers is playing in previously non-existent ways. Very little research has been conducted on this development, however. This means that little is known regarding the risks and opportunities that e-gambling present. Yet, this information is crucial for responsible gambling efforts. The current study aims to extend our understanding of this shift to online play.


This study used a mixed methods approach to understand the risks and benefits of online gambling featuring a nationally representative Belgian population sample (N=1841) and 15 in-depth interviews with a diverse set of gamblers.


Below, we describe some highlights:

  1. Risky game types played by a younger audience

    • While it is now possible to play simulated gambling games with virtual credits and never bet or win actual money, the survey findings reveal that most traditional forms of gambling, e.g. lottery games, scratchcards, sports betting and electronic gambling machines are still predominantly played for real-money.
    • Electronic gambling machines, casino games, informal bets, and sports betting show the highest percentages of players that report risky or even problematic gambling. Additionally, these four game types are more frequently played by younger players, while scratch cards and lottery participation seem to be restricted, largely, to the traditional newspaper shops and attracts older players.

Risky game types played by a younger audience

  1. Sports betting: a leader in online play

    • Betting on sports outcomes for real money, such as soccer betting, seems to have adapted well to the new online environment, as it is the most likely form of gambling to be taken up on the laptop/personal computer and on the smartphone/tablet.
    • The interviews suggest this might be related to the presence of strong marketing: the interviewees report a general discontent with the amount of advertising, specifically in relation to soccer matches and soccer betting. Moreover, there is some frustration about manipulative bonus money schemes and high deposit limits among players of online gambling games.

Sports betting: a leader in online play

  1. Online play: a mixed picture

    • Surveyed players are generally nuanced about online play. The top five benefits of online play are: You do not have to leave the house (65.2%), 24 hour per day availability (57.2%), Convenient / easy (52.0%), Comfortable (28.8%), and High amount of privacy / anonymity (23.2%).
    • However, serious concerns are raised about online play as well, both in the interviews and the survey. The top five reasons for avoiding online play are: Too easy to spend money (69.9%), More addictive (61.7%), Hard to determine if games are honest (37.8%), Concerns safety online deposits (21.6%), and Worse atmosphere / less social (19.7%).
    • The majority of respondents that play for money (76%) prefer the government-approved, legal websites due to concerns about deposit safety and game honesty on websites operated by private, foreign owners.

Online play: a mixed picture

  1. Prevalence estimates for gambling and problem gambling

    • The full report includes weighted national Belgian estimates for the participation in (digital) gambling and gaming activities. Some key figures from the report:
      • Gambling prevalence (<12 months, real money bets). The most popular games, where real money is bet, were: Lotteries, 53.9%, Scratch cards, 43.6%, Sports betting, 6.0%, Informal bets, 5.3%, Video machines, 2.6%.
      • Playing on laptop/pc. The laptop/personal computer is occasionally used for gambling, most frequently to bet on sports (59.1%) or play poker (38.1%). Betting via phone or tablet is mostly restricted to sports betting (31.7%).
      • Physical locations of play. Newspaper shops are used for lotteries (65.4%) and scratch cards (75.9%), casinos/betting centers for video gambling (44.0%) and casino games (72.3%), and bar environments are occasionally used for video terminal games (31.4%) and informal bets (29.1%). Both poker (87.5%) and informal bets (80.8%) are predominantly engaged in at home.
    • The report also discusses problematic gambling:
      • Problematic & risky gambling. Electronic gambling machines (26% of players risky) and casino games (23% of players risky) are the game types where the highest percentage of risky/problematic players are found, while scratch cards and lotteries contain the lowest percentage of risky/problematic players.


More information can be found in the full report.



dr. Antonius J. van Rooij

dr. Mariek Vanden Abeele

Prof. dr. Jan van Looy

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