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Micro Betting Set for Huge Growth as Concerns Mount

Online real-time wagers on plays during sports events are expected to soar in the next few years, but gambling addiction experts are concerned.
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Sports wagering can trace its history back to ancient times when the Greeks bet on the outcome of the Olympics.

It has accelerated over the centuries to a point where today people can place bets through their mobile devices.

The Covid-19 pandemic boosted online sports betting dramatically. Goldman Sachs expects the market could reach $39 billion in annual revenue by 2033, up from about $900 million currently.

But betting on a game is more than a matter of who wins and who losses. People can now bet on specific events within a game.

Will the next batter in a baseball game get a hit? Will a football team get a first down in their next play.

It's called micro betting and supporters say it heightens the experience of gambling. 

However, gambling addiction analysts warn the rapid pace of wagering that micro betting offers can make a serious problem much worse.

Most people can agree on one thing: it’s going to be big.

'Enjoying the Excitement of the Moment'

“Micro betting will see huge growth in the U.S. and by 2024 will account for over 50% of all bets placed,” said Todd Kobrin, CEO, Oddsium, an all-in-one odds and bet placement app.

Kelly Brooks, CEO and co-founder of Quarter4, a sports betting artificial intelligence platform, said that “micro betting engages fans as well as bettors, due to the instant satisfaction of betting on live play-by-play events.”

“A fan who knows the game can be transformed into a micro-bettor that makes a quick and lower-risk bet while enjoying the excitement of the moment,” Brooks said. "Technology companies that produce in-game and event-based data are extremely valuable to sportsbooks, leagues and networks."

In August, DraftKings  (DKNG) , the online sports gambling company, announced a multi-year agreement with the sports tech company Simplebet to launch micro-betting across the DraftKings Sportsbook.

Neither DraftKings nor Simplebet responded to a request for comment, but during a November analysts call, DraftKings CEO Jason Robins said that “integrating micro-betting technology allows our customers to engage even further with the sports they love by betting play-by-play" throughout the event.

The rapid pace of micro betting has gambling addiction organizations concerned.

Keith Whyte, executive director for National Council on Problem Gambling, said that micro betting “shortens the lag between bet and reward, increasing the speed and frequency of gambling, which increases the risk of problematic behavior and negative consequences.”

An Australian study found that betting on micro events is a public health concern "because it turns sports betting into a continuous form of gambling on which bettors can bet rapidly and impulsively, and more easily chase their losses.”

Micro event bettors, the study said, "were likely to be “younger, well-educated and single, engaged in a wider variety of gambling activities; and to have high trait impulsivity.”

'Getting in the Zone'

“We found that there’s a very strong link between micro betting and gambling problems," said Alex Russell, associate professor, CQ University Australia in Sydney and one of the report's authors.

Russell, a member of the university’s Experimental Gambling Research Laboratory, said that out of roughly 1,800 people surveyed, about a third took part in micro betting.

Of those who did, 78% were classified as problem gamblers, and another 17% were at lower risk of problems, while only 5% didn’t experience any problems with their gambling.

In contrast, he said, among those who didn’t micro bet, only 28.7% were classified as problem gamblers.

Micro betting, Russell said, seems to appeal "almost exclusively to people for whom it is most dangerous.”

“This is not to say that micro betting causes problems,” Russell said. “The causes of gambling problems are complex. However, we definitely know that certain products are dangerous because of the way they work and are at least likely to exacerbate problems.”

Russell said that people can get “in the zone” with continuous gambling and “just keep betting, making it harder to keep track over how much you’ve spent, and therefore how much you’ve lost.”

“The other problem is that it promotes things like chasing losses,” he said. “Both of these things are dangerous, and the people who are most vulnerable are people who experience problems.”