Are online gambling bonuses socially responsible?
Posted Sep 01, 2014
• Players receive a 10% cash bonus on an initial deposit of $20 or more (however, the bonus and deposit combined must have a 15 times rollover. A ‘rollover’ refers to the amount of times an online gambler must wager a certain amount during a promotion)
• Players receive a 100% match-up bonus on deposits (up to $225) (however, the bonus and deposit combined must have a 12 times rollover)
• Players receive $100 free on initial deposit (however, the bonus and deposit combined must have a 20 times rollover)
• Players receive 100% deposit bonus of up to $200 (however, the bonus and deposit combined must have a 40 times rollover)
• Players receive 100% first deposit bonus up to £50 in free chips and players must deposit a minimum of £10 (however, bonus must have a 15 times rollover)
Dr. Jonathan Parke and I have noted that in gambling there is a fine line between customer enhancement and customer exploitation particularly when it comes to facilitating new clientele and repeat patronage. Given the political sensitivities around the liberalization of gambling, the perception of what others think about a particular practice are sometimes given more weight than what it actually means in practice. However, irrespective of whether something is introduced in a socially responsible way and/or introduced into an environment with an embedded socially responsible infrastructure, there is always the possibility of a ‘PR own goal’ that may do more financial damage in the long run to the online gaming operator.
Given there is little empirical research on the effect of bonuses on vulnerable and susceptible gamblers, the implications relating to social responsibility are, at best, speculative. There are some academic writings on the use of bonus promotions in offline gambling environments but these are based on observational anecdotes rather than empirical research. For instance, Dr. Jonathan Parke and I noted that the frequency of bonuses in offline gambling environments varies (depending the establishment) but can occur hourly, daily, weekly, or seasonally. They reported that such bonuses are often used to entice the consumer in several retail environments. What make them especially appealing in a gambling environment are the obvious similarities of the structural characteristics of such bonuses and gambling events in general (e.g., risk, uncertainty, interval-ratio reinforcement etc.). Furthermore, the appeal is strengthened since gamblers feel they are “getting something for nothing”.
In relation to the use of promotional bonuses, there are two basic issues that arise. The first one is whether bonuses should be offered by online gaming companies if they are perceived by some to be ideologically incompatible with being socially responsible. The second is whether some types of bonus are less socially responsible than others. In the absence of empirical evidence, it could be argued that general bonuses that target potential adult online gamblers irrespective of play frequency and/or type, are acceptable within online gaming environments that have a good social responsibility infrastructure. However, bonuses that reward the biggest spenders could be argued to be much less socially responsible. Although this model is well accepted in most commercial environments (i.e., loyalty reward schemes), gambling is a commercial activity that can result in problems for the heaviest gamblers.
References and further reading
Griffiths, M.D. (2001). Good practice in the gaming industry: Some thoughts and recommendations. Panorama (European State Lotteries and Toto Association), 7, 10-11.
Griffiths, M.D. (2008). ‘Foot in the door’: Player enhancement or player exploitation? World Online Gambling Law Report, 7 (7), 15-16.
Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Internet gambling, player protection and social responsibility. In R. Williams, R. Wood & J. Parke (Ed.), Routledge Handbook of Internet Gambling (pp.227-249). London: Routledge.
Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2002). The social impact of internet gambling. Social Science Computer Review, 20, 312-320.
Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2003). The environmental psychology of gambling. In G. Reith (Ed.), Gambling: Who wins? Who Loses? pp. 277-292. New York: Prometheus Books.
Griffiths, M.D., Wood, R.T.A. & Parke, J. (2009). Social responsibility tools in online gambling: A survey of attitudes and behaviour among Internet gamblers. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 12, 413-421.