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Player motivation: why do players bet?


A sports betting provider lives from its customers – because where there is no customer, there is no bet. But in order to be able to convince the customers of your own offer, it is important to know and understand the player motivation and why they bet.

In this context, the main question is what makes sports betting so fascinating – in short: what motivates sports betting customers to bet? Because only with this knowledge can the strategy of a betting company be successfully oriented towards growth.

The following article aims to explain the basics of player motivation and shed more light on factors relevant to the context of sports betting.

player motivation


In everyday usage, the term “motivation” is often used to explain why a person does something. Psychologists describe as the process that stimulates, guides and sustains goal-oriented human behavior.

In a nutshell, motivation is the driving force that makes us act – be it having a glass of water to quench your thirst or signing up with a sports betting company to place a bet on your favorite team.

A distinction is made between two different forms of motivation:

  • Extrinsic motivation arises outside of the individual and often includes rewards such as awards, money, social recognition, or status gains.
  • Intrinsic motivation emerges from within the individual, such as enthusiasm, passion, or personal challenge.

Unlike intrinsic motivations for sports betting (e.g. betting out of enthusiasm), which are associated with harmonious passion and tend to have positive consequences for the individual, extrinsic gambling motivations (e.g. money) are related to an obsessive passion. These in turn can have negative consequences such as addictive behavior.

While every sports bettor has different motivations for placing bets, the chance of winning can clearly be postulated as a universal betting motivation. Other common motivations include social gain, intellectual challenge, enthusiasm, escape from problems, entertainment / fun, or the demonstration of competence.

Meanwhile individual motivations for sports betting vary primarily depending on the player demographics (gender, education, culture, income …) and the various characteristics of the betting activity.


For men, the main motivation to bet is the demonstration of skills, competition and excitement. In men, too, tendencies towards extrinsic motivations such as winning money, surpassing others and proving their own abilities can be recognized and thus reflect characteristics of the traditional male gender role (Svensson et al., 2011).

The betting motivation of women, on the other hand, is more intrinsic. Women tend to bet to escape boredom, loneliness and negative feelings, as well as to cope with everyday problems or a stressful life (Grant & Kim, 2002; Walker et al., 2005).

These different motivations are also reflected in gender preferences for different gambling activities. For example, men tend to prefer strategy-based gambling. This describes activities that involve an element of skill (e.g. card games, sports betting, horse betting), while women tend to prefer games of pure forms of luck such as slot machines, keno and bingo (Grant & Kim, 2002; Potenza et al., 2001).

In the following, some sources of motivation will be examined in more detail.

Demonstration of competence

In a study by Lamont & Hing (2018), the male study participants largely expressed their desire to prove their competence in sports betting. Victories can evoke a sense of achievement and / or a sense of satisfaction resulting from the feeling of having “beaten” the system. This would not only strengthen the ego of the players, but also strengthen their own identity as a sports bettor. In other words motivation is particularly relevant with regard to the social functions of sports betting.

Social functions

Above all, the social functions of sports betting must not be disregarded. Sociability and social interaction play an important role, especially in cultures where sports betting is socially accepted. Many young men reported that sports betting usually takes place in the social environment in the company of male friends in pubs or betting shops (Lamont & Hing, 2018).

Sports fans also have a significantly increased motivation to place bets in order to “support” their own team with a bet and to be more involved in the process of the event. For this reason, many betting providers use sporting events as marketing opportunities and to acquire new customers. In two experiments, Blank, Loveland & Houghton (2020) found that players who bet on the home team and lost reported lower fan engagement than players who did not bet. Conversely, a winning bet on the home team does not increase fan engagement.


Winning money through sports betting is an important motivation for most bettors. With a higher degree of experience and competence, many players even use sports betting as additional income, whereby in the survey by Lamont & Hing (2018) numerous participants perceived sports betting winnings as “easy money” in the sense of financial gain without effort. Especially in lower income groups and poorer cultures, sports betting is strongly motivated by the hope of achieving an improved lifestyle. Trying to make up for previous losses by betting again can also be a powerful incentive in this context.


The player motivation of the habit influences betting behavior mainly in that it encourages the placing of bets without strong reflection. By making sports betting an integral part of everyday life (especially in combination with the pursuit of sporting events), a routine is created that acts as a strong motivator. Above all, mobile betting options, e.g. on smartphones, enable players to easily integrate sports betting into their everyday lives regardless of location.


Knowing the player motivation of your own target group is essential for sports betting providers. Although the motivation for sports betting varies from player to player, there are still some basic research insights that betting providers can draw upon.

While the chance of winning is a universal incentive, gender differences in motivation must be taken into account. Currently, the vast majority of betting customers are still male. While social factors have a significant influence on this imbalance, the question still arises whether female target groups have simply not yet been properly addressed by betting providers – triggered by a lack of understanding of their betting motivation.

The analysis and research of the motivation of their target groups could thus offer betting providers a powerful tool in the successful planning of their marketing and corporate strategies and even allow them to open up completely new target groups.

Read also: What sports betting customers really want


Blank, A. S., Loveland, K. E., & Houghton, D. M. (2021). Game changing innovation or bad beat? How sports betting can reduce fan engagement. Journal of Business Research, 134, 365-374.

Grant, J. E., & Kim, S. W. (2002). Gender differences in pathological gamblers seeking medica- tion treatment. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 43(1), 56–62.

Lamont, M., & Hing, N. (2020). Sports betting motivations among young men: An adaptive theory analysis. Leisure Sciences, 42(2), 185-204.

Lee, C. K., Chung, N., & Bernhard, B. J. (2014). Examining the structural relationships among gambling motivation, passion, and consequences of internet sports betting. Journal of Gambling Studies, 30(4), 845-858.

Potenza, M. N., Steinberg, M. A., McLaughlin, S. D., Wu, R., Rounsaville, B. J., & O’Malley, S. S. (2001). Gender-related differences in the characteristics of problem gamblers using a gambling helpline. American Journal of Psychiatry, 158(9), 1500–1505.

Svensson, J., Romild, U., Nordenmark, M., & Månsdotter, A. (2011). Gendered gambling domains and changes in Sweden. International Gambling Studies, 11(2), 192–211.

Walker, G., Hinch, T., & Weighill, A. (2005). Inter- and intra-gender similarities and differences in motivations for casino gambling. Leisure Sciences, 27(2), 111–130.

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