Why betting online worsens your odds

A click too soon.
A click too soon.
Image: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
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Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who amassed much of his $33.8 billion fortune from the practice of gambling, has launched a battle against internet betting. He claims that online betting is a danger to society since the internet makes gambling accessible to children and low-income adults.

But it turns out that online gambling isn’t a great way to profit from a bet.

In a new study, researchers from Milan’s Università Bocconi looked at more than one million online bets made on Italian league soccer games. They found that gamblers who placed their bets early had a greater likelihood of winning. Internet gambling, however, tends to be a last-minute activity.

The study found that as an event approached, the gamblers ran a greater risk of “information overload,” from stats on the web like player injuries, team rankings or recent scores. Last-minute betters weren’t able to analyze all the information properly and were more likely to make mistakes.

Online gambling comes with other hazards, too. A 2009 report from the Journal of Consumer Research found that the risk of addiction is much higher in online gambling, and players are less likely to notice when funds are running low, as they’re withdrawing from an online account rather than placing cash on a table. Online betting also tends to be a solitary activity, so internet gamblers don’t have friends to intervene like they might in a casino.

The internet is everywhere but casinos are not, and that also elevates the risk for online gamblers.