Using "Markers of Harm" to Track Risky Gambling in Two Cohorts of Online Sports Bettors

J Gambl Stud. 2022 Dec;38(4):1337-1369. doi: 10.1007/s10899-021-10097-0. Epub 2022 Jan 24.


Online gambling poses novel risks for problem gambling, but also unique opportunities to detect and intervene with at-risk users. A consortium of gambling companies recently committed to using nine behavioral "Markers of Harm'' that can be calculated with online user data to estimate risk for gambling-related harm. The current study evaluates these markers in two independent samples of sports bettors, collected ten years apart. We find over a two-year period that most users never had high enough overall risk scores to indicate that they would have received an intervention. This observation is partly due to characteristics of our samples that are associated with lower risk for gambling-related harm, but might also be due to overly high risk thresholds or flaws in the design of some markers. Users with higher average risk scores had more intraindividual variability in risk scores. Younger age and male gender were not associated with higher average risk scores. The most active users were more likely than other users to have ever exceeded risk thresholds. Several risk scores significantly predicted proxies of gambling-related harm (e.g., account closure). Overall, the current Markers of Harm system has some correctable limitations that future risk detection systems should consider adopting.

Keywords: Gambling; Online gambling; Risk algorithm; Validity.

MeSH terms

  • Gambling* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Sports*