Online Gamblers May Set Higher Deposit Limits When a Site Gives Them Pre-Set Choices

Person making an online purchase with a credit card

Don’t put ideas in my head

Any online poker or online gambling site worth a lick allows player to set deposit limits. The reason is obvious: deposit limits lower the ceiling on how much a person can gamble and thus help people avoid losing money they can’t afford to lose. It’s a problem gambling prevention measure. Good stuff. Interestingly, though, a study by the Behavioral Insights Teams (BIT), commissioned by the UK’s GambleAware charity, found that the way some gambling sites setup their deposit limit systems can actually lead to people setting higher limits they might otherwise set.

Allow me to explain. Some deposit limit pages give customers a drop-down list from which they can select a specific limit, often on a daily, weekly, or monthly time frame. They usually also provide a text box to customize the limit, but the drop-down list provides a quick and easy way to choose a limit and move on.

It is that drop-down list mechanic, as standard as it may be, that is the issue. BIT found that players who only have the option of blank text box in which to set a custom limit appear to set lower deposit limits than those who are given pre-set options.

BIT calls this the “anchoring” psychological phenomenon, in which prior information affects a later choice. In this case, the information provided in the drop down list steers them towards one of the pre-set options and away from setting a limit that they truly want.

Side note: I mentioned this to my wife and she said she experiences anchoring when donating to charities online. She said sometimes she will have a dollar amount in mind, but when given options by the site, she tends to select a higher amount. We’ll pretend it’s because she doesn’t realize how generous she is until she sees the dollar amounts, rather than her just being naturally cheap until she is presented with options.

No pre-set choices led to massive drop in deposit limits

BIT invited 45,000 bet365 customers who had not already set deposit limits to join the study, though only 1,731 did. They were split into three groups. The first was the control, the “business-as-usual” (BAU) group, which used the regular drop-down option with denominations from £5 to £100,000 The second was the “Lower Anchors” group, which was the same as the control, except their highest denomination was only £250. The final group was “No Anchors,” which had no drop-down list whatsoever, just an empty text box.

The basic median and mean numbers that people ended up choosing were heavily skewed by players who chose very high limits, so BIT used some math razzle dazzle – log transformations and regression analysis – to turn the results into something useful.

What it found was that those in the Lower Anchors and No Anchor groups selected deposit limits that were about 45% lower than those in the control group. The control average was estimated at £1,601.10, while the Lower Anchors and No Anchor averages were £866.50 and £866.55, respectively. Though the sample size was small, the researchers determined that this result was statistically significant.

Customers in the control group removed their deposit limit within 30 days 14.7% of the time. 15.9% of Lower Anchors players did so, while 18.6% of No Anchor players removed their deposit limit. It seems like a big difference to me, but BIT says it is not significant.

Additionally, BIT looked at how much the customers actually ended up depositing. The BAU, or control, group deposited an average of £445.96. The Lower Anchors group deposited £426.37. And finally, the No Anchors group deposited £360.78. BIT said that the differences were not statistically significant, but it did add that the approximate £1,020 difference between the No Anchor and control group is close to what a typical family would need in a year to cover an unexpected expense, implying it could be of real world significance.

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