Online Gambling - Online Gambling Addiction: Internet Gambling and Disordered Gambling

Online Gambling - Online Gambling Addiction: Internet Gambling and Disordered Gambling

Online gambling has rapidly expanded in recent years, transforming the landscape of traditional gambling and raising significant concerns about its potential impact on individuals and society. With the proliferation of internet-enabled devices, individuals now have unprecedented access to a vast array of gambling opportunities from the comfort of their homes.

This paradigm shift in gambling behavior has prompted considerable research attention, particularly regarding the relationship between online gambling and the development of gambling disorders. Understanding the complexities of online gambling behavior, its risk factors, and its potential consequences is paramount in addressing the challenges posed by this evolving phenomenon.

In this article, we delve into the intricate dynamics of online gambling addiction, focusing on internet gambling and disordered gambling, to provide insights into the multifaceted nature of this issue and explore avenues for prevention and intervention.

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Exploring Online Gambling Addiction

Internet gambling, also known as interactive remote or online gambling, encompasses a broad spectrum of betting and gaming activities facilitated through Internet-enabled devices such as computers, smartphones, tablets, and digital TVs. This mode of gambling, propelled by technological advancements and the widespread availability of the Internet and connected devices, distinguishes itself from traditional in-person or telephone-based gambling. It offers a convenient and largely automated platform for individuals to engage in wagering activities privately, at their convenience, and from any location with high-speed Internet access.

The allure of internet gambling lies in its features such as the ability to place large wagers, engage in continuous gambling sessions, receive rapid feedback, and access a plethora of betting options instantly. However, concerns have been raised regarding its potential to foster excessive gambling behaviors.

In light of empirical evidence drawing parallels between gambling disorders and substance abuse, the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) introduced a new classification of Non-Substance Behavioral Addiction, with disordered gambling as its inaugural inclusion. This recognition underscores the need to investigate other behavioral addictions, such as ‘Internet gaming disorder,’ currently listed in the DSM-5’s section 3.

Mounting evidence linking distress and dysfunction to excessive internet use, particularly in gaming contexts, prompted the DSM-5 Taskforce to advocate for further research into these behaviors. Given the similarities between excessive internet gambling and gaming behaviors, and their potential for harm, pathological internet gambling deserves special attention.

This paper provides an overview of existing research and highlights new findings pertinent to adult internet gambling addiction. A comprehensive review of the literature sheds light on significant trends and developments in the study of disordered internet gambling.

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Engaging in Online Gambling

The landscape of internet gambling is rapidly expanding, marked by increasing popularity, market expansion, and a diverse array of available products. In 2013, the global online gambling market was valued at €6.1 billion, with an anticipated annual growth rate of 10.1% by 2018.

Online gambling constituted 8-10% of the total global gambling market in 2012, and this share continues to rise. Among online gambling products, wagering dominates with 53% market share, followed by casino games (25.4%), poker (14.2%), and bingo (7.4%).

Across the globe, more jurisdictions are legalizing and regulating internet gambling, acknowledging the challenges of prohibition enforcement and recognizing the benefits of regulation.

Regulation allows for the implementation of harm minimization measures to protect consumers and generates taxation revenue. While internet gambling prevalence remains relatively low, participation is escalating, especially in jurisdictions with access to regulated sites.

For instance, in Australia, internet gambling prevalence surged from less than 1% in 1999 to 8.1% in 2011 following legalization. Similarly, in the UK, approximately 16% of respondents engaged in online gambling in the previous four weeks, compared to just 6% in 2007, excluding online lottery ticket purchases, which may have boosted participation rates.

With the proliferation of online platforms for entertainment and recreation, including mobile devices, internet gambling is poised for continued growth. Convenience and accessibility are the primary drivers behind its popularity, along with perceived advantages such as better value for money, faster gameplay, diverse betting options, and the comfort of gambling from home.

However, internet gambling represents a paradigm shift in gambling behavior, raising concerns among stakeholders. Some drawbacks cited by internet gamblers include the ease of spending money online, excessive convenience, and worries about account security.

Additionally, there are concerns that the accessibility of internet gambling may fuel excessive gambling, especially among tech-savvy youth, potentially increasing the prevalence of disordered gambling. Consequently, there are calls for either prohibition or regulation of internet gambling to mitigate associated harms.

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Online Gambling: Exploring the Relationship Between Internet Gambling and Problem Gambling

Online Gambling - Online Gambling: Exploring the Relationship Between Internet Gambling and Problem Gambling

Understanding the Impact of Internet Gambling Features on Problem Severity

Research indicates a nuanced relationship between the availability of gambling opportunities and the prevalence of related issues, suggesting that the ease of access provided by internet platforms may exacerbate or precipitate gambling problems.

Internet gambling presents distinctive characteristics that may heighten risks for harm, particularly among vulnerable demographics. Unlike traditional venues, internet gambling offers constant availability, unrestricted access, and the ability to engage in uninterrupted betting sessions in private settings, facilitated by the interactive online environment.

The use of digital currency forms, such as credit cards and e-wallets, has been linked to increased gambling activity and losses, especially among individuals with gambling problems, who may perceive digital transactions as less tangible.

Surveys indicate that 19-28% of online gamblers find it easier to overspend online, with 15% considering internet gambling more addictive than its land-based counterpart.

The immersive nature of internet gambling is evident in reports of disrupted sleep and eating patterns among online gamblers, particularly those experiencing gambling-related issues.

Data from gambling treatment services suggest that while internet gambling currently contributes modestly to gambling problems among help-seeking individuals, its impact is growing.

Surveys reveal that online problem gamblers are less likely to seek formal assistance compared to those engaged in land-based gambling, indicating potential underrepresentation of internet gambling-related issues in treatment-seeking populations.

This trend is expected to escalate as internet gambling participation increases and problem severity intensifies over time.

Examining the Interplay Between Internet Gambling and Gambling Issues

Initial apprehensions surrounding the adverse impacts of internet gambling are grounded in empirical findings indicating higher levels of problem gambling severity among internet gamblers compared to their non-internet counterparts. For instance, in a nationally representative survey in Australia, the prevalence of problem gambling among non-internet gamblers was 0.9%, whereas among internet gamblers, it soared to 2.7%, a threefold increase.

Additionally, a significant disparity was observed in the classification of non-problem gamblers, with less than 60% of internet gamblers falling into this category compared to over 80% of non-internet gamblers.

Moreover, the average Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI) score among internet gamblers was markedly higher than that of non-internet gamblers, with 16.4% of internet gamblers classified as either moderate or problem gamblers, compared to 5.7% among their non-internet counterparts.

However, establishing a causal link between internet-related gambling issues and participation remains challenging, as most longitudinal studies lack sufficient internet gambling samples for meaningful analyses.

Despite some indications of a positive correlation, the relationship between internet gambling participation and gambling issues remains inconclusive. Certain studies have reported comparable rates of gambling problems among internet and land-based gamblers.

Moreover, evidence suggests that very few internet gamblers exclusively gamble online. Further analyses of prevalence studies controlling for demographic variables and gambling engagement have revealed that internet gambling participation does not independently predict problem gambling severity.

For example, in a nationally representative survey, although internet gamblers exhibited a higher likelihood of being at risk or experiencing gambling problems, controlling for other variables nullified the predictive power of internet gambling participation on problem gambling severity. Similarly, a study utilizing data from the 2007 British Gambling Prevalence Study found no significant relationship between gambling formats (including internet gambling) and problem gambling when accounting for gambling involvement.

This underscores the importance of controlling for confounding factors.

Moreover, prevalence studies cast doubt on the notion that internet gambling escalates problem gambling rates. Despite a surge in internet gambling participation in various jurisdictions, evidence supporting an increase in the prevalence of problem gambling remains scarce.

An analysis across 30 European jurisdictions failed to identify any association between prohibitions against online gambling, gambling licensing systems, the extent of legal gambling opportunities, and the prevalence of gambling disorder.

Assessing the Influence of Internet and Land-Based Gambling on Gambling Disorders

Emerging evidence suggests that internet gambling not only predicts gambling issues but also, when controlling for other factors, individuals who gamble online may exhibit lower rates of gambling problems. Studies focusing on internet-only gamblers reveal lower rates of gambling issues compared to those who solely gamble offline or use both online and offline modes.

Notably, individuals engaging in both online and offline modes demonstrate the highest risk of harm, likely attributable to their greater overall gambling involvement.

The relationship between internet use and gambling problems is likely mediated by land-based gambling activities. Research combining actual internet gambling account data with self-reported gambling problems indicates that gambling involvement, measured by the number of games played and betting days in the past year, predicts gambling problems among internet gamblers.

This aligns with existing literature suggesting that gambling disorder correlates with high levels of involvement in terms of expenditure, time spent, frequency, and variety of gambling forms. Thus, highly involved gamblers, including those with existing gambling issues, are more inclined to engage with internet modes.

However, not all highly involved gamblers experience gambling-related problems, highlighting the inadequacy of a single gambling index to predict issues accurately.

Moreover, internet gambling involvement appears more common among gamblers with existing problems than non-problem gamblers. Studies indicate that a considerable proportion of internet gamblers attribute their issues to land-based gambling, with many reporting pre-existing problems before transitioning to online gambling.

Notably, sports betting emerges as a significant factor associated with moderate to severe gambling problems among internet gamblers, a trend distinct from land-based gambling contexts, particularly evident in the Australian context where sports wagering is legally accessible online.

Conversely, for some internet problem gamblers, online gambling serves as the primary instigator of issues, with a notable portion attributing problems specifically to this mode. This underscores the complex interplay between internet gambling and problem gambling, where online activities exacerbate existing issues for some individuals while serving as the initial catalyst for others.

However, the majority of studies in this domain are cross-sectional, limiting causal inference, and are reliant on self-reported data susceptible to biases.

As internet gambling gains traction, longitudinal research is crucial to elucidate the causal pathways and assess the evolving landscape of gambling behavior. Recognizing the heterogeneity within internet gambling populations, future research should integrate online and offline gambling behaviors comprehensively to better understand the dynamics of gambling-related problems in the digital era.

Understanding Risk Factors for Internet Online Gambling Problems

Online Gambling - Understanding Risk Factors for Internet Online Gambling Problems

Personal Variables

Socio-demographic Variables

Analysis of demographic variables suggests that individuals experiencing problems with internet gambling do not significantly differ from those with land-based gambling issues. However, certain risk factors associated with internet gambling problems have been identified, including being male, younger adults, and belonging to culturally diverse backgrounds.

The consistent correlation between problematic internet gambling and younger age underscores the vulnerability of this demographic to the harms associated with online gambling, highlighting the need for further research and harm minimization efforts in this area.

Moreover, identified risk factors are not universally applicable. For instance, while some studies suggest that problem internet gamblers are younger, less educated, and carry greater debts, others have found no significant differences in education or income between internet and non-internet problem gamblers. Additionally, findings from various studies regarding socio-economic status and educational levels among internet gamblers are inconclusive, indicating the complexity of these associations and the need for more nuanced investigations as internet gambling becomes more prevalent and accepted.

Physical and Mental Health Comorbidities

Studies have consistently reported higher rates of health and mental health comorbidities among internet gamblers compared to non-internet gamblers. These include higher rates of smoking, alcohol consumption, substance abuse or dependence, and mood disorders. Additionally, internet gambling frequency has been linked to poorer physical and mental health outcomes, independent of overall gambling frequency. Moreover, irrational thinking patterns and erroneous cognitions significantly predict problem gambling severity among internet gamblers, mirroring findings from studies on offline gambling behavior.

Furthermore, internet problem gamblers exhibit higher rates of drug and alcohol use compared to non-problem gamblers. This association with risky behaviors suggests a propensity for impulsivity among individuals at risk for gambling problems. However, the relationship between internet gambling, gambling problems, and other mental health issues remains complex and unclear, with studies yielding conflicting results.

Overall, existing studies have yet to define specific personal or behavioral risk factors that reliably distinguish between internet and non-internet problem gamblers. While some evidence suggests that these groups represent partially distinct cohorts, the heterogeneous nature of each group complicates the identification of specific risk factors. Furthermore, the causative links between identified associations and the direction of any relationship with problem online gambling remain unclear. Future research, particularly longitudinal studies, is needed to elucidate the mechanisms underlying these relationships and inform targeted intervention strategies for internet gambling problems.

Understanding Gambling Behaviors

Intensive gambling involvement is recognized as a key predictor of gambling problems, irrespective of whether gambling occurs online or offline. Furthermore, certain gambling-related behaviors serve as potential indicators of risky internet gambling. Engaging in online gambling on unregulated sites and utilizing multiple accounts and various online activities have been linked to higher levels of gambling problems.

It’s plausible that unregulated sites attract individuals predisposed to problems, while the use of multiple accounts and activities reflects heightened gambling involvement, a well-established risk factor for harm.

Analysis of player accounts, including those displaying potentially risky behaviors or those closing accounts due to stated gambling problems, has enabled the identification of problem gambling markers, including early predictors.

These predictors include engaging in multiple online gambling activities, high betting variability, frequent betting, high overall stakes and net loss, increasing bet size and losses, chasing losses, and fluctuating wagering size intervals. Notably, participation in live-action sports betting (in-play) emerges as an independent predictor of problem gambling severity, potentially appealing to highly impulsive individuals predisposed to disordered gambling.

In addition to behavioral indicators, online operators can glean risk-related information from customer interactions. Analysis of customer communications has identified risk markers predictive of account closures due to stated gambling problems, including expressed doubts about game results, requests for account reopening, financial transaction queries, and the frequency and tone of communication.

Automated text analyses aided by human assessment have shown promise in identifying anger, urgency, and justifications for demands or actions, which predict self-exclusion.

However, single, unequivocal indicators of problems are rare, necessitating the use of algorithms to detect interactions between multiple risk indicators. Further research is warranted to elucidate whether game-specific characteristics contribute causally to the development of gambling problems.

Additionally, research should encompass diverse player accounts, as much of the existing research is derived from a single dataset, potentially limiting generalizability. Proactive identification, detection, and response to early risk indicators hold promise in mitigating gambling-related harms among internet gamblers.

However, the limited sharing of data by online operators for research purposes and the lack of regulatory mandates for risk detection underscore the need for operator-initiated action in addressing gambling-related harms effectively.

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Conclusion: Online Gambling Addiction: Internet Gambling and Disordered Gambling

Collectively, the evidence synthesized in this review suggests that internet gambling itself is not inherently causative of gambling problems. However, it is evident that internet gambling is more prevalent among highly involved gamblers, and for some individuals, this mode of gambling significantly contributes to the development of gambling problems.

Internet gamblers constitute a diverse group, and the impact of online gambling on gambling problems is influenced by various individual, social, and environmental factors. As internet gambling continues to evolve and attract greater participation, particularly among tech-savvy youth, it is anticipated that associated problems will arise.

Therefore, research and regulation must adapt to better understand the influence of online gambling on the occurrence and experience of gambling disorders.

Distinct differences are observed between internet and land-based gamblers experiencing problems, suggesting a need to revisit theoretical models of gambling and problem gambling to incorporate the emergence of internet gambling. Further research is warranted to identify the characteristics that may predispose online gamblers to gambling-related problems, enhancing our understanding of the development of gambling issues.

Efforts are needed to mitigate the risk of individuals transitioning to disordered gambling. The internet provides a conducive environment for implementing responsible gambling measures, including player-focused tools and resources such as expenditure tracking and self-set spend limits. Operators can also employ strategies like targeted notifications based on play patterns to identify and intervene in risky behavior. Collaboration between researchers, operators, and regulators is crucial to design, evaluate, and implement effective responsible gambling policies.

Treatment and prevention strategies must be adapted to cater to internet gamblers, including brief online interventions and comprehensive online treatment programs. Development of online self-exclusion programs allowing individuals to exclude themselves from multiple gambling sites simultaneously is imperative.

These findings hold significance for policymakers, underscoring that internet gambling itself is not inherently harmful. Clinicians should also recognize the impact of different gambling patterns and modes of access on gambling-related harm. Further research is needed to identify protective factors within online gambling environments that may mitigate harm among internet gamblers, such as lower bet sizes, the ability to track gambling activity, and access to responsible gambling resources.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Online gambling refers to wagering and gaming activities conducted over the internet, accessible through various devices like computers, smartphones, and tablets.

The legality of online gambling varies depending on the jurisdiction, with some regions regulating and licensing online gambling platforms while others prohibit it altogether.

To stay safe while gambling online, it’s essential to choose reputable and licensed gambling websites, set limits on spending, and avoid chasing losses.

Yes, like traditional gambling, online gambling can lead to addiction for some individuals, characterized by compulsive behavior and negative consequences.

Yes, most jurisdictions have age restrictions for online gambling, typically requiring individuals to be at least 18 or 21 years old, depending on the local regulations.

Signs of online gambling addiction may include spending increasing amounts of time and money on gambling, neglecting responsibilities, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms when unable to gamble.

Help for online gambling addiction is available through various resources, including support groups, counseling services, and specialized treatment programs tailored to address gambling-related issues.

Yes, many online gambling platforms offer responsible gambling tools such as self-exclusion options, deposit limits, and reality checks to help users manage their gambling behavior.

While some individuals may win money through online gambling, it’s essential to recognize that the odds are typically in favor of the house, and gambling should be viewed as entertainment rather than a reliable source of income.

If you suspect someone you know has a problem with online gambling, encourage them to seek help from professional services and offer your support and understanding as they navigate their recovery journey.

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