Online gambling has become a global phenomenon. Millions of people gamble daily on various platforms. Some see it as a fun and entertaining activity, while others consider it a threat to their health and well-being. The morality of online gambling is still in dispute, but laws ensure that reputable bodies regulate the activities.
In some countries, such as the UK, gambling is legal on a federal level, while in other jurisdictions, it is limited to the states. States regulate sports wagering, and some permit players to place wagers on poker or casino games. However, Internet sports betting is not yet legal in most of the territories, and there are few signs that it will be anytime soon. Therefore, regulation needs to evolve to understand the impact of Internet gambling.
There is evidence that the Internet attracts problem gamblers. This is supported by studies that show that over half of problem gamblers attribute their problems to internet gambling. Moreover, one third to one half of these problem gamblers have had problems in the past. These findings may help researchers to develop a treatment and prevention approach for problem gamblers.
Research into gambling problems is based on self-report, but the accuracy of reporting can be debatable. Furthermore, the results of single studies cannot predict the emergence of gambling problems. Instead, research should use a wide range of player accounts, and algorithms to detect risky behaviours. Most gambling sites have self-exclusion programs that allow players to block themselves from gaming sites. For those that do not wish to restrict themselves from gambling, it is often possible to find an offshore site where they can play.
Although most studies are cross-sectional, some researchers have found that gambling involvement is correlated with problem gambling. In particular, LaPlante and colleagues discovered that high involvement in Internet mode of gambling was related to higher risk of problem gambling. They also found that low involvement in Internet gambling was not necessarily a risk factor for gambling problems. Several factors might play a role, including the type of gambling, its format and the person’s overall risk-taking behaviour.
As such, more research is needed to understand the relationship between gambling and gambling disorders. A few factors need to be considered, including the game-specific characteristics that may be causally linked to the emergence of gambling problems, as well as the extent to which an Internet gambler’s participation in gambling is predictive of the onset of a problem.
Although research is still at an early stage, it appears that a significant number of problem Internet gamblers have experienced problems in the past. Moreover, some of these individuals report that they have preferred land-based gambling over online gambling, and they might have already had a problem before they started gambling. Hence, prevention and treatment strategies for problem Internet gamblers should be reviewed.
While there is an increased number of Internet problem gamblers, there are a number of other Internet gamblers who are not at risk for gambling disorders. One third to one half of these problem gamblers also have a problem in a land-based form of gambling.