Experts say sports betting is becoming a normal social practice, but could potentially lead to peer pressure and risky gambling behaviour.

A study into sports betting – the fastest growing segment of the wagering market – has identified the activity’s ability to lead people to gamble to ‘fit in’ with social groups.

The study, funded by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, identified that sports betting is becoming embedded as a normalised and regular social practice among young adults.

But while many consider ‘putting on a punt’ to be just a harmless fun, it carries deep social and personal risks.

Dr Ross Gordon from Macquarie University and Dr Lauren Gurrieri from Swinburne University conducted focus group research with young adults aged 18 to 30 years old who were sports betting consumers, and found that they were often highly aware and engaged by sports betting brand activities.

The research also found that consumers of sports betting effectively form lifestyle consumption communities, which sees social ties and connections form between people that bet on sport.

The sociality and passion of being interested in sports (and sports betting) were found to be important factors that attract people to a lifestyle in which they bet on sport.

As sports betting becomes more socialised there are obvious concerns about what effect this may have on individuals, communities and society.

Dr Gordon said: “This raises concerns that the social side of sports betting could lead to some people engaging in risky gambling, or feeling social pressure to gamble.”

Further research will observe whether rates of problem and pathological gambling rise as the market for sports betting increases. This is foreshadowed in the current research, which highlights how some of the behaviours hint at problematic gambling consumption, social harm, and potential pathways for compulsion.

Dr Gurrieri commented: “If more people bet on sport, and bet more often, this may have negative impacts on themselves, their friends, families and society.”

The full report is available here.