New Research Says Online Gamblers Play Less If They Set Their Own Deposit Limits Rather Than Being Offered a List of Choices

Author Thomas Wolf
January 23, 2021 3 min read

Offering online gamblers a blank box to put in their own deposit limits, as opposed to pre-set options provided by the operator, can cut total gambling spend by an average of 40%, says a new paper from the UK’s Behavioral Influence Team (BIT).

According to the team, this effect is down to the psychological Anchoring Bias.

Anchoring is a known and studied bias in behavioral science. It demonstrates that initial information in a given decision process (in this case, the proposed deposit limits) can influence the outcome heavily – even if other options or contradicting information become available later.

Some online casinos start the list of possible deposit limits at the very highest option. In the UK, this is often around £100,000 ($137,830) a month.

Seeing such a high option can make gamblers feel like this is a reasonable deposit level, even though only a very small percentage of players actually spend this much.

Of course, this isn’t saying that they’ll be influenced to choose the highest deposit limit. But it does seem that having such a high limit on the list can make gamblers feel more comfortable upping their usual level.

Seemingly Superficial Changes

“This report shows how seemingly superficial changes to the way that gambling sites offer deposit tools, if implemented across the industry and for all customers, will deliver large benefits to individuals who gamble and society as a whole, without constraining customer choice”

Rosanna Barry, BIT.

The Behavioral Influence Team is a Social Purpose Company backed by the UK Government’s Cabinet Office. This particular study was also partly funded by problem gambling awareness charity GambleAware.

The trial tested 1,700 online gamblers in the UK who were asked to set up a deposit limit when signing up at a new online casino.

Some, known as the control group, used the current standard practice dropdown menu at the casino. Others used a similar dropdown menu but started at the lower end and with the very top suggestions removed (although players could still set it that high themselves if they wished).

The last group was given a blank box and asked to set their own limits.

At the end of the study, players with the blank box method of setting their deposit limits went (on average) for a 46% lower deposit limit than the control group.

That’s a huge effect for what is only a “seemingly superficial change,” as the researchers put it.

Even the group with a lower set of options chose, on average, a 40% lower limit.

This suggests that the mere act of including $100,000-plus limits as an option is the biggest motivating factor that leads to players choosing a higher limit.

What Actually Works

Such studies are going to be more important than ever as countries set up legalized markets and update their gambling regulation for the modern era.

As we’ve been reporting on for what feels like years, the UK is finally getting its review of the decades-old 2005 Gambling Act into gear.

Small changes that can have a considerable effect on problem gamblers are great news for the perception of the industry and for gamblers themselves.

“This is an important study that uses experiences from real consumers to find what actually works to reduce the harms that can come from gambling,” said the Gambling Commission’s Director of Research and Policy, Tim Miller, in a statement.

“This is an important study that uses experiences from real consumers to find what actually works to reduce the harms that can come from gambling”

Gambling Commission’s Director of Research and Policy, Tim Miller

For the latest updates on potential changes to online gambling regulation across the globe, plus much more from the online casino world, keep checking our pages.

Author Thomas Wolf


Thomas Wolf

384 articles

Thomas Wolf is our editor in chief. With an extensive background in online gambling (both working for casino operators and game studios) as well as an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, he's a proper authority on online casinos. When not running the day to day operations or reviewing new operators Thomas is a blackjack aficionado with some seriously big wins recorded at land-based casinos in both Las Vegas, Monaco and Macau.

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