Increasingly, people are using online platforms for both entertainment and recreational activities. This newfound capability has created a need for research to determine the impact of gambling on the individual and the broader society. However, most studies of Internet gambling are cross-sectional. This may overestimate the true public health implications of the practice. There are also many loopholes in the legislation that governs online gambling, which can make obtaining a license difficult. Fortunately, there are jurisdictions that have taken steps to regulate the practice. In some cases, these laws can be used to enhance consumer protection and generate taxation revenue.
For many gamblers, the most obvious advantage of gambling online is the convenience. Whether it’s placing a wager on the sports or casino, the option to play whenever and wherever is a plus. Some sites even lure users in with promotions and bonuses to get them to stay a while. The problem, however, is that these promotional offers often sound too good to be true. A few sites even advertise free games so that users can “practise” before risking their own money. This won’t translate into winning real money.
The first site to provide an online gambling venue for the general public was the Liechtenstein International Lottery. It was a precursor to the modern online casino. In 1997, there were only fifteen websites that offered internet-based gambling, but by 2001, there were more than 200. During that same year, revenues from online gambling exceeded $830 million. This number increased to over $21 billion in 2008.
Despite the growing popularity of online gambling, there are still many questions about the prevalence of problems associated with the practice. Some studies have found that a majority of problem gamblers attribute their gambling problems to the Internet. Other research has found that some gamblers are not susceptible to Internet-related gambling disorders, but rather, have other problems that contribute to their addiction.
Identifying the most significant characteristics of online gamblers at risk for gambling problems is a daunting task. Many factors must be considered, including the nature of the gaming activity, the specific types of players involved, and their financial situation. Other variables should also be examined, including how the behavior of Internet-based gambling may be integrated with offline gambling. The most important question is how gambling affects the mental health of gamblers.
One indicator of the magnitude of a gambling problem is the number of gamblers who are able to accurately report their problems. This is a difficult measure to assess, since the accuracy of self-report depends on the gambler’s own ability to report accurately. In addition, the magnitude of the smallest possible indicator may not be appropriate for all online gamblers. Other indicators of gambling problems are more common, and may be less sensitive to the nuances of online gaming.
Moreover, there are few online operators that have implemented measures to identify risky players. Some use algorithms to detect risky players. Others send emails to their users with promotions or offers to keep them on their sites.