Crypto Trading and Problem Gambling: What Does Science Say?

holeyprofit Updated   
In discussions with BTC bulls in a couple of posts I've had here recently it occurred to me many of them show signs of problem gambling.

I mentioned this to them a few times and they told me BTC isn't gambling.

But from the perspective of someone who's been in trading a long time, I think we'd define their attitude to risk as "Problem Gambling".

Curious about this, I decided to dig into the scientific literature on this. What have studies on crypto traders and links with problem gambling shown?

Here's some summaries, simplified down to ELI5's. I'll also include the full name of the paper, journal it was published in and date of publication which will make them easy to find if you want to read the full studies. I won't source link so as to be respectful of TradingView's rules on external links.


Addictive Behaviors
Volume 122, November 2021, 107021
Addictive Behaviors
Cryptocurrency trading, gambling and problem gambling
Paul Delfabbro a, Daniel King b, Jennifer Williams c, Neophytos Georgiou


In simple terms, this study looked at people who frequently engage in sports betting, crypto-currency trading, or both, totaling 543 participants. The goal was to understand if there's a connection between gambling behavior and the intensity of crypto-currency trading. The findings revealed that individuals involved in both activities showed higher rates of problem gambling, and their scores on a problem gambling scale were related to the intensity of crypto-currency trading. This suggests a potential link between gambling tendencies and how people approach crypto-currency trading, indicating a need for further research on how gambling history might influence investment decisions in the crypto market.

Introduction Summary:

This introduction discusses the relationship between gambling and speculative activities like share-trading and crypto-currency trading. While traditional long-term investments are considered skill-based, certain activities, particularly day-trading, share characteristics with gambling. Studies indicate overlaps in demographics and behaviors between day-traders and gamblers. The focus has extended to crypto-currency trading due to its speculative nature, marked by high volatility and impulsive decision-making. Some individuals show signs of addiction, leading to concerns about the addictive nature of crypto-currency trading. A previous study found associations between gambling, problem gambling, and crypto-currency trading, prompting the current study to delve deeper with refined measures, examining the intensity of crypto-currency trading in relation to gambling and problem gambling. The hypothesis suggests that engagement in skill-based gambling and higher problem gambling scores would correlate with increased intensity in crypto-currency trading. The study aims to replicate and expand upon previous findings, emphasizing regular or monthly gambling and sports-betting as the most comparable forms to crypto-currency trading. The predictions align with the idea that diverse activities indicate a stronger interest in gambling and speculation.

Discussion Summary:

The discussion affirms the correlation between gambling risk and heightened involvement in cryptocurrency trading, aligning with Mills and Nower's (2019) previous findings. Individuals regularly participating in cryptocurrency trading are more inclined to partake in diverse forms of gambling, displaying elevated Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) scores compared to the general population. Notably, problem gambling rates in population samples typically range from 0.5% to 2.0%, as referenced by Delfabbro and King (2021).

Science Direct. Public Health.
Longitudinal perspective on cryptocurrency trading and increased
gambling problems: a 3 wave national survey study
A. Oksanen*
, H. Hagfors, I. Vuorinen, I. Savolainen

Abstract Summary:

The study investigates the association between cryptocurrency trading and excessive gambling over time, with a focus on the potential risks for offshore gamblers. Using a population-based longitudinal survey of Finnish individuals aged 18-75, conducted at three intervals, the research analyzes the predictive role of cryptocurrency trading in excessive gambling. The findings indicate a rise in cryptocurrency trading's popularity, with within-person changes in trading predicting increased instances of excessive gambling. Cryptocurrency traders, in general, exhibited a higher prevalence of excessive gambling. The study emphasizes the heightened risk of excessive gambling among offshore online gamblers engaged in cryptocurrency trading, suggesting policymakers and counselors should be aware of these risks associated with cryptocurrency trading.


The introduction highlights the growing popularity of cryptocurrency trading, facilitated by accessible online platforms. Cryptocurrency trading is likened to an online gambling-like activity due to its high volatility, focus on short-term gains, and associated risks. Previous studies have shown associations between cryptocurrency trading and excessive gambling, gaming, and internet use. The research aims to analyze the potential impact of cryptocurrency trading on gambling problems, particularly within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which may have influenced a shift from traditional gambling to speculative trading. The study also explores the relationship between cryptocurrency trading and offshore gambling, emphasizing the potential risks associated with offshore gambling sites. The investigation addresses whether cryptocurrency trading predicts gambling problems over time, focusing on within-person changes. The research questions inquire about the predictive role of cryptocurrency trading in excessive gambling and its association with offshore gambling. This study is presented as the first longitudinal analysis of cryptocurrency trading's impact on excessive gambling.

The study surveyed Finnish individuals aged 18-75 years at three time points: April 2021 (T1), October to November 2021 (T2), and April to May 2022 (T3). Of the original T1 respondents, 66.80% participated in T2 and T3. The participants were representative of all areas of mainland Finland, with varying percentages from different regions.

Non-response Analysis:
A comparison between those who responded at all three points and the original T1 respondents revealed that the final sample was, on average, older. There were no major dropouts based on gender, geographical area, income, education, marital status, or occupational status. The mean rate of excessive gambling based on the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) was lower in the final sample than in T1, aligning the final sample more closely with general population estimations.

Data Quality Checks:
After each phase of data collection, the researchers conducted integrity and quality checks on the data. These checks included attention, patterned-response, rapid-response, and nonsensical-response checks. Open-ended comments from participants were also reviewed for potential biases or problems with the survey.

Ethical Considerations:
The Academic Ethics Committee of the Tampere region approved the study, ensuring compliance with ethical standards, the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity, the General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union, and fundamental ethics principles.


Dependent Variable: The study used the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) to assess excessive gambling, with higher scores indicating more severe excessive gambling. The PGSI had excellent internal consistency at all points.

Independent Variable: Cryptocurrency trading was the main independent variable, measured by participants' frequency of trading in crypto markets within the past 6 months.

Other Measures: The study also included measures for onshore and offshore online gambling, excessive gaming, excessive internet use, excessive alcohol use, and psychological distress. These measures were assessed through various standardized scales.

Background Information:
Sociodemographic variables, such as age, gender, education, income, marital status, and employment status, were considered as control variables in the analysis.

This detailed explanation of the study's methodology provides transparency and ensures that the research adheres to ethical standards and maintains data quality.


Cryptocurrency Trading Trends:

In T1, 5.28% of participants traded cryptocurrencies. Over time, this increased to 6.26% in T2 and 7.34% in T3.
The fixed-effects change of cryptocurrency trading between T1 and T3 was statistically significant (P = 0.004).
Onshore and offshore online gambling did not show significant increases over time.
Hybrid Models:

Cryptocurrency trading had both within-person and between-person effects on excessive gambling.
Within-person effect: Increases in cryptocurrency trading associated with increased PGSI scores.
Between-person effect: Cryptocurrency traders had higher average PGSI scores than non-traders.
Full models adjusted for confounding factors:
Within-person effect of cryptocurrency trading on excessive gambling remained significant (B = 0.94, P = 0.002).
Between-person effect was no longer significant due to other predictors.
Offshore online gambling and excessive gaming had within-person and between-person effects on excessive gambling.
Excessive internet use had a within-person effect, while onshore online gambling had a between-person effect.
Offshore Gambling and Cryptocurrency Trading:

Among offshore gamblers, the proportion trading cryptocurrencies increased over time.
Interaction analysis showed that offshore online gambling and cryptocurrency trading interacted, indicating stronger excessive gambling among cryptocurrency traders who gamble offshore.


Cryptocurrency trading increased in popularity over time.
Cryptocurrency trading had a robust within-person effect on excessive gambling, suggesting an association between the two.

Offshore online gambling showed strong effects on excessive gambling, with both within-person and between-person effects.

The combination of offshore gambling and cryptocurrency trading was associated with more severe gambling problems.

Cryptocurrency trading, with its potential for fast and large gains, may attract users with risk-seeking behavior, leading to action-oriented gambling.

Offshore online gambling poses significant risks for excessive gambling, surpassing regulated onshore online gambling.

The study calls for attention to the potential harms of offshore gambling and the association between cryptocurrency trading and excessive gambling.
The role of cryptocurrency trading and offshore gambling should be closely monitored for consumer protection.

Limitations and Strengths:

The study is limited to participants from Finland, and cross-cultural contexts should be explored in future research.
Self-reported measures and voluntary participation might introduce bias.
Strengths include a longitudinal sample and a low dropout rate, making it the first longitudinal study on cryptocurrency trading's effect on excessive gambling.


The findings from this three-wave longitudinal study provide evidence that cryptocurrency trading predicts excessive gambling. Moreover, when combined with offshore online gambling, cryptocurrency trading is associated with more severe excessive gambling. This suggests that cryptocurrency trading should be regarded as a highly risky activity for online gamblers. Despite its speculative nature, cryptocurrency trading is aggressively marketed to consumers, potentially exacerbating existing issues with gambling. Policymakers and counselors are urged to be cognizant of the risks associated with cryptocurrency trading and take appropriate measures to address and mitigate these risks.


These are only two of various studies that could be cited.

If you'd like to investigate further you can use Google Scholar to run search terms related to "Crypto problem gambling" and it will return searches only for peer reviewed papers publish in science journals.

References to crypto and problem gambling can be found in some of the most respected journals on addiction and mental health.

Below are the threads referenced in the start of the post.

Bitcoin bulls say it's not gambling because they know the future outcome. This entirely ignores the fact BTC has always correlated with US equities.

Whatever is it they think they know about BTC, it's not stopped it dropping while US equities did. Not once ever.

Based on the available evidence, this is the most likely thing to happen. As equites go, so does BTC.

Things would be really interesting if these decoupled, but there's no reason at this point to believe they will.

If the correlation sticks, people all in BTC are all in on the SPX. We should call things are they are.

The comments are a mess here. I'll try and do one catch all reply.

>Another way to gain likes likes and followers just like noble. I’m not falling for this.

This, and comments like it, if you think someone is attention seeking - ignore them. It really ruins their day. Don't comment to tell them you're ignoring them. That's all part of the attention seekers trap. Rise above it. They'll get bored.

>When the bears are scared out of their wits and start posting nonsense
>Imagine the relief this guy will feel when he finally hits one of his shorts. Hang in there buddy, you’ll get it eventually.

This, and similar comments: On a thread like this there are a couple options. You can explain why you think what you're doing isn't gambling. Or how it is gambling but it's not problem gambling - or you can just assume anyone who has any losing trades in the market is having a meltdown.

But this would not seem the logical thing to assume if you didn't have problems with your exposure.

>You have analysis paralysis, never bought any crypto, and are now telling us that we have a problem because you are missing out.

I've noticed the flow path of BTC bulls goes like this:

Is this person not eternally optimistic?
> No.
Probably shorted low and has missed everything ever.

At this point I've posted my forecasts of the low too many times to care about posting them again. The idea something can be up 1,000% in recent and someone might not have bought it and took profit and then have a different opinion on it seems to have logical flaws.

Not something you'd expect on a trading site.

>90% of traders are losing money. Imagine if you went to doctors who said they have 90% failure rate... and it only happens in financial markets. Markets are not random nor casino.

90% of traders lose so trading isn't gambling.

Tbh, I've read a few of this person's posts and I am not fully convinced it's not well done satire.

>One could also argue that people who constantly buy/sell stocks have problem gambling issues. This is not unique to Bitcoin.

I think we're all gambling. We have different betting sizes and awareness levels and this where we sperate professional gambling, recreational gambling and problem gambling.

It's all gambling. Betting money on an outcome influenced by chance.
All objections so far have taken the theme of;

"Shh. BTC is 100% going up so this is wrong"

"Shh, You're only saying this because you're a bear".

No one has actually directly tackled the issue of problem gambling.

They just express their certainty of future price directions.
My only goal with these posts is to make it clear BTC is a speculative bet which may or may not work out.

You'd think this would not need to be said, but it clearly does.

People are telling complete strangers online to put all their money into BTC and hold.

This is illegal and ethically a mess.

When it comes to opinions on price, my opinion can change at any time based on what price does. I've no static opinion.

In terms of bets I have on it, if BTC went to zero tomorrow it'd not change my life in anyway.

Most of my exposure at this point is puts on related stocks and spot shorts in ETH.

BTC can go to $1 or $Billion tomorrow and it won't affect my life ... I just see how a drop would negativity affect others.

I think it's important the counter points are made.

A lot of people don't want to do this because if they make a bearish case they'll get instantly bullied before price moves and if they're wrong people will go on about it endlessly.

People don't want the hassle, which makes sense

I don't care. I've been called names on the internet before. I survived.


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