One of the most surprising findings to emerge is that although playing for money was important in terms of making games entertaining, overall, the majority of gamblers appear to not be playing to win money long-term – it's more about the entertainment. When players across all forms of gambling were asked why they gambled online, answers such as 'to relax', 'for the entertainment and excitement' or 'to relieve boredom', heavily outweighed 'to make money' or 'to win', highlighting that online gamblers view their pastime as simply another form of leisure activity.
The scale of the sample has allowed researchers to create the most reliable picture of the typical online poker and casino player to date.
The Average online poker player is likely to:
· Be male (73.8%)
· Be aged 26-35 (26.9%)
· Play 2-3 times per week (26.8%)
· Have visited more than 6 poker sites in the preceding three months (25%)
· Have played for 2-3 years (23.6%)
· Play for between 1-2 hours per session (33.3%)
· Play one (24.1%) or two (24%) tables at a time
· Play both cash games and tournaments (34%)
· Play at big-blind (minimum stake) levels of 25p to £1.00 (61.2%)
· Play with 6-10% of their bankroll at a table at any one time (23%)
The Average online casino player is likely to:
· Be female (54.8%)
· Aged 46-55 (29.5%)
· Play 2-3 times per week (37%)
· Have visited more than 6 casinos in the preceding three months (25%)
· Have played for 2-3 years (22.4%)
· Play for between 1-2 hours
The best things about internet gambling are 'convenience and accessibility' and 'fun and excitement', while 'losing' and 'financial implications' came top of the worst things - as might be expected. The vast majority of players say they are 'up' or 'down' within a range plus or minus £130 a month or £32.50 per week – less than the cost of a night in the pub with your mates and a taxi home.
Overall, players felt that there was some need for improvement across a range of areas – 55% wanted to see an increase in the number sites submitting themselves to effective self regulation e.g. eCOGRA, while operator transparency (55%), clarity of regulations (54%), uniformity of code of conduct (51%), responsiveness to complaints (49%) and better responsible gambling features (48%) all featured highly on the list. In addition to the 55% who supported effective self regulation, a further one in four players (25%) felt 'very strongly' about the need for sites to sign up to a common code of conduct.
When it comes to customer service, it appears that online gambling companies do well when compared to other industries. The majority of players felt they received either the same level or significantly better levels of customer service, even when they'd had a dispute with a site.
Approximately half of all respondents had confidence in the integrity of the software, although disturbingly, one in three people thought that the sites had an on/off switch that allowed them to turn the software in their favour – something that an eCOGRA member site would find it impossible to implement thanks to the organisation's standards for software development and independent testing procedures.
When it came to minimising the risk of being cheated, 64% of players 'often' or 'always' played on the biggest named sites, with 40% saying they 'never' played on smaller sites because of this fear. In addition, 70% of players said they sought out well known software providers or other assurances such as the eCOGRA 'Play it Safe' seal (61%).
Play takes place mainly at home (89.7%) in the evening; however one in ten women preferred playing in the workplace.
Nearly 40% of respondents said they visited message boards or forums, contradicting previous perceptions of online gambling as a rather solitary activity. Message forums are visited to get information about sites (53% say they visit for this purpose), to have a general read and catch up on news (40% and 37% respectively), as well as find out about promotional offers (the most popular of all, cited by 65% of respondents).
Wagers and winning
The typical wager is between £15-30 a session in casino games and poker players said they typically played with 2-10% of their bankroll at any one time. In a further sign of realism about their chances, a third of poker players say that the game required more skill than luck, yet most say they were simply 'averagely' skilled.
Reasons for playing at specific casino sites
The most important single motivator for playing at a particular casino site is its bonuses (75%), followed by game variety (62%), deposit method and reputation (both 56%) and then promptness of payouts (54%).
The poker results provide a fascinating snapshot into the area of multi-table play. The majority of players play one (24%), or two (also 24%) tables at a time, however researchers were able to ascertain that after four tables, concentration drifts significantly and leads to dramatic drop off in success. Likewise, the optimum amount of the bankroll that a player should use is 2-10% at any one table to maximise winnings.
Both casino and poker players were more likely to do well financially if they refrained from chasing losses and were unbiased in their approach i.e. not influenced by previous hands/game outcomes - all players might do well to take note here.
Andrew Beveridge, CEO, eCOGRA comments on the findings: "These findings are a salutary reminder about the vast majority of players who enjoy this form of entertainment responsibly. Our job is to signpost players towards those operators who are meeting the majority's expectations regarding fair play, responsible operator conduct and provisions to address problem gambling. We are encouraged by much of the feedback, but also recognise that we still have some way to go.
"This report provides invaluable information that will shape our approach for the next year as we continue to provide players with a 'gold standard' level of protection. We are delighted that the vast majority of players who responded were supportive of eCOGRA's efforts and we hope this endorsement will encourage those within the industry that have yet to apply for our 'Play it Safe' seal, to do so over the coming year."
Jonathan Parke, International Gaming Research Unit, says, "This is exciting research in many ways. Not only does it mark the first significant research collaboration between academia and the Internet gambling industry to date, but it is also the largest research initiative ever carried out in this area. There are many interesting findings: some of which reinforce previous assumptions; some of which provide a fresh understanding of player behaviour and attitudes."
Professor Leighton Vaughan Williams, Director of the Betting Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University, comments, "The importance of this research for our understanding of the online gambling phenomenon cannot be overstated. The findings of this groundbreaking collaboration between academics and practitioners will have a significant, positive role in influencing the thinking of policy-makers, regulators and operators alike".