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Skill-Based Gambling Preferred by Higher IQ People, Research Finds

The results of a new study might give gaming operators new data for targeting potential clients, or possibly, give regulators more data to introduce controls. Research shows that people with a higher IQ tend to lean more toward skill-based gambling when selecting gaming options.

The study and its results appeared in a recent edition of the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. Led by the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Liverpool, the research specifically targeted online horse racing. It wanted to learn if there was a link between IQ, or the measurement of intelligence, and betting preferences.

The researchers determined that there appears to be a clear connection. Although the study focused on horse race betting, it’s possible that the same conclusion could extend into other areas of betting as well.

High IQ Bettors Stand Apart

Academics from the two universities dove into the world of betting by exploring data on more than 15K Finnish men. All of the subjects were part of Finland’s military, which includes an IQ test as part of the entrance exams. No data on females was included, since Finland only requires that men serve in the military.

Using that data as a base, the researchers aggregated data on the individuals’ online gambling habits, which they combined with income, socioeconomic status, and education data. All of that information came from Statistics Finland, the country’s official statistics entity.

After compiling all of the information and scrutinizing the results, the academics began looking for possible connections. Ultimately, a pattern emerged, showing that those with a higher IQ prefer skill-based betting options.

As opposed to chance-based gambling, such as slot machines and lotteries, skill-based gambling requires analysis and deductive reasoning. This includes things like horse racing and poker. For both, consumers can improve their interaction through education, practice, and training.

Citing a previous study from 2021, the researchers also pointed out that “betting is a bundled good, which provides a source of enjoyment, related to the thrill of wagering and rooting for one’s choice, as well as the potential for making financial gains.”

In other words, individuals target skill-based options for its entertainment value and enjoyment, not as a means of financial gain. This is a theory also supported by other studies over the years.

IQ Only One Factor

A high IQ isn’t necessarily a clear indication of higher intelligence. Directly, it means the individual has better reasoning and problem-solving capabilities. In fact, on some levels, using IQ alone to gauge abilities can lead to issues.

There is also emotional intelligence (EI), which measures the ability to perceive and control emotions. A low EI can be devastating for a poker player trying to understand tells and bluffs at the tables.

Some studies have also shown that a high IQ could be linked to depression and isolation. These two traits are common with problem gamblers.

In general, those with higher IQs tend to be more successful professionally. They are better in the decision-making process, which also lends itself to skill-based betting. Still, as the recent study points out, “intelligence contributes to a person’s ability to successfully execute rational plans … but its role in gambling-related decisions remains largely unknown.”


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