“Cashing out” in sports betting: implications for problem gambling and regulation


Most European sports betting operators now feature “cash out” functionalities in their online platforms. This means (as outlined in the examples above) that bettors can withdraw their bets before the event bet upon has concluded, obtaining a smaller but guaranteed return if the outcome of the bet is going their way, or, conversely, cutting down the monetary impact of a foreseeable loss. The cash out functionality has rapidly become popular among sports bettors that bet in-play (i.e., during the game on things such as soccer matches and horse races) as a way of maximizing value on the bets they have made.

Industry voices such as David O'Reilly, from Colossus Bets, have identified four major benefits of cash out features for bookmakers: i) reducing the volatility of the operator's revenue; ii) increasing the recycling of player returns, with more players banking smaller amounts; iii) enabling players to avoid their “near miss” frustration; and iv) improving the player engagement with the platform by introducing a mechanism that promotes constant checking.3 However, for sports bettors, cashing out strategies might typically involve cutting down the profit while being ahead but rarely reducing the loss when going behind.4 In this regard, cashing out does not appear to differ greatly from other new Internet-based betting forms (e.g., so-called “exotic” or multiple bets), which have been found to possess, in general, higher expected losses for gamblers and greater profit margins for operators.5

However, beyond the feature's financial rationale, cash out affects the nature of sports betting in more meaningful ways. It is, arguably, a game-changer, that leads (along with other new features such as “edit my acca,” in which specific bets can be removed from “accumulator” bets) to the transformation of sports betting from a discontinuous to a continuous form of gambling.6 Here, our contention is that cash out is a key component of the contemporary bettor-bookmaker interaction, and that the widespread adoption by devoted sports bettors merits a closer look into the implications of such an interaction from a problem gambling perspective. Such an examination also suggests that regulators and policymakers need to think about how to protect gambling consumers from the potential harm caused by this new type of betting.

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