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New Research from the Center for Gambling Studies Shows Trading Cryptocurrency is Problematic for Regular Gamblers
March 15, 2019

By: Krista Didzbalis '19

New research from the School of Social Work's Center for Gambling Studies reveals a link between trading cryptocurrency, an increasingly popular digital form of currency, and problem gambling. The study has been released in the journal Addictive Behaviors.person holding bitcoin

The study, the first to explore cryptocurrency trading among regular gamblers, included 876 adults who had gambled at least monthly in the past year and was collected through a cross-sectional online survey. The research suggests trading cryptocurrency is a new risk-taking activity for regular gamblers and is just as problematic and harmful as other forms of gambling. According to the study, there is a strong link between "crypto trading" and problem gambling.

“People who trade cryptos look very much like those who trade high-risk stocks such as margins and options. Therefore, those who like risky stocks are also more likely to jump into the cryptocurrency trading market compared to those who, for example, invest in stocks over the long term," says Lia Nower, director of the Center for Gambling Studies and co-author of the study.

Devin Mills, lead author and postdoctoral research associate at the Center for Gambling Studies, says, “For some people, trading cryptocurrency is seen as an investment opportunity. But there is an alarming proportion of people who are ‘gambling’ on these cryptocurrency markets as they would gamble on horses or sports or slots. And it has the potential to get them into significant trouble.”

The study also found that problem gamblers, likely due to their impulsivity and belief that they can "beat the market," are at an elevated risk of trading cryptocurrency more frequently. In fact, more than 75 percent of high-risk stock traders also trade cryptos. Gamblers trading both cryptos and high-risk stocks reported higher problem gambling and greater depression and anxiety symptoms than gamblers trading either only cryptos or only high-risk stocks. The two groups share similar demographics and gambling preferences, but also present additive consequences that will require further attention from gambling researchers and mental health professionals.

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