Paf urges industry to adopt mandatory deposit limits

17 February 2020

Online gambling operators should introduce mandatory deposit limits in order to better protect their customers from gambling-related harms, according to new research backed by Åland Islands-based Paf.

Conducted by Stockholm University researcher Ekaterina Ivanova, the study looked at gambling, gaming limits, gaming behaviour, attitudes towards gambling tools and the likelihood of predicting gambling problems.

The primary aim of the project was to analyse how useful deposit limit tools are to players, as well as of these tools were likely to help prevent them developing gambling problems.

The research focused on 4,328 randomly selected customers who created a new account with Paf in 2016 and played slot games. Players were split across four categories depending on when they were informed about deposit limits: during sign-up, when making their first deposit, after their first deposit and no prompt.

According to the findings, 45.0% of customers in the pre-registration group set a deposit limit when joining, compared to 38.8% when making their first deposit and 21.9% after. However, just 6.5% of customers who were not promoted opted to set a limit.

Ivanova also found that player net loss – based on the amount spent minus any money won during the first 90 days of play – was higher among players who set a deposit limit when not prompted to do so. Net loss was also high with players in the other three groups who had either increased or removed their limits.

However, Ivanova said that the main issue highlighted during the research was how easy it was for players to remove limits after the seven-day cooling down period that is required after increasing or removing limits. In addition, Ivanova noted that intervention over such tools was very non-invasive.

Since the research period, Paf has introduced a new system whereby customers must set deposit limits before being able to play online. Ivanova said a wider roll-out of this scheme by operators across the industry would offer better protection to people gambling online.

“Voluntary gaming limits just don’t seem to produce a desirable effect, all of the collected research supports this fact,” Ivanova said. “We are falling behind with both prevention and treatment from a public health perspective.

“My colleagues would agree that gambling problems are not taken as seriously as, for example, alcohol abuse. This attitude is reflected, in return, on those affected by gambling – where it can still be seen more as a character problem for those people rather than a disease.

“It is absolutely essential to prove that gaming responsibility tools have an effect and show how they make that effect. Otherwise the gaming companies can continue to market themselves as responsible, even though their tools are poor.”

Paf’s deputy chief executive and chief responsibility officer, Daniela Johansson, added: “We are proud to have contributed to taking the research into gaming responsibility one step further. The research can help us all gain a better understanding of the tools and methods that are proven to provide better gaming responsibility.”

In June 2018, Paf introduced a €30,000 (£24,995/$32,514) loss limit, the first-ever annual hard cap on the amount any player can lose introduced by a private gambling company, though similar caps have been introduced by lottery operators. At the time, Paf said it would lose around 5% of its income because of the measure.

Last October, Paf lowered this limit to €25,000, saying that while the original loss limit had been successful, research has found that the lower figure would prove more effective.