Online Gambling and Gambling Problems
Online gambling is a form of electronic gaming in which a person can place bets, wagers or other types of bet on events occurring via the internet. This type of gambling can include sports betting, lottery tickets, keno, casino games and online poker. Despite the popularity of this activity, there are some concerns about its safety and legality. In the United States, there are laws governing the activity, and some state governments have banned it altogether. Others have imposed strict regulations on the activity. In addition, players must be aware of the potential for cybercrime when gambling online.
A number of studies have linked Internet gambling to gambling problems. However, most of these studies have been cross-sectional and rely on self-report. As such, they do not allow for causal inference and do not distinguish between those who have and do not have gambling problems. Moreover, the association between Internet gambling and gambling problems has been largely based on behavioural data from one European gambling site. However, this does not necessarily generalize to other gambling sites and behavioural measures are also influenced by individual player characteristics.
The present study recruited participants through a survey embedded in an introductory psychology class at two large Canadian universities. The survey screened for disordered gambling and participants who reported gambling behaviour were invited to participate in a focus group. The participants were young adult online gamblers who had started gambling in the past year. Three focus groups were conducted with a total of 21 young adults. Participants in the focus groups indicated that social casino gaming was a common gateway to gambling and several of them had transitioned from playing for fun to real money gambling. The majority of these transitions happened within a short period of time. Incentives (e.g., sign up bonuses) were important drivers of the transitions.
The results of this research suggest that a combination of social and financial incentives are effective at driving individuals from social casino gaming to gambling. This suggests that interventions should be targeted at both social and financial aspects of the Internet gambling environment. In addition, more research is needed to examine the role of game-specific features in predicting gambling problems. In addition, brief and in-depth online treatment programmes may be appropriate for Internet gamblers. Finally, responsible gambling policies should be enhanced to include provisions for online self-exclusion. This will require cooperation between independent researchers to design, evaluate and verify strategies, operators to enable access to player account data, and regulators to ensure the implementation of procedures and practices that support responsible gambling. It is also important that a system of monitoring be established for the collection and dissemination of behavioural risk indicators. This will reduce the likelihood of harms sustained by Internet gamblers.