Nowadays you don’t have to get dressed and drive to a casino to bet money on games. Instead, online gambling makes it as easy as a mouse click. The ease of online gambling has led some to wonder whether the physically present (offline) or the online gambler is more at risk to become addicted to gambling. The sheer preponderance of Internet gambling sites world-wide makes it an important question. In 1995 there were 15 Internet gambling sites but by 2010 the number of sites had grown to 2,358.
A Concordia University study decided to take this question head on by creating a comparison between online and offline gamblers. Researchers turned to a 2009 survey conducted in Quebec, Canada. Based on that survey, this study selected over 8,000 offline gamblers and over 100 online/offline gamblers. Both sets of gamblers were requested to self-report several facts related to their gambling:
- How often did they gamble by the week/month/year?
- How much time did they spend gambling at each instance?
- How much money did they spend on gambling at each instance?
The study revealed that online gambling seems to present a greater danger of addiction over offline gambling in several arenas. To start with, online gamblers reported playing a wider variety of games. Online gamblers reported spending greater sums of money and spending larger amounts of time engaged in gambling compared to offline gamblers.
To further exacerbate the problem, the researchers also discovered high rates of alcohol consumption and marijuana use associated with online gambling. The end result was a picture of online gambling as an at risk atmosphere not just for gambling addiction but for other risky behaviors and addictions as well. Researchers said that it was impossible to tell if online gambling leads to problem behaviors or if already addicted people tend more towards online gambling.
Other research that is less formal than the Concordia study, has sought to glean information from study reviews. This informal research into online gambling reveals a few more interesting facts about the online gambler. For one thing, those most likely to engage in online gambling are young, single, well-educated males. Among young adult students who gamble online, between 18 and 77 percent will become addicted. Among teens that are online gamblers, between 8 and 25 percent will become addicted. Overall, 12 to 23 percent of those who engage in online gambling will go on to become addicted with 5 to 20 percent becoming pathological in their addiction.
Other possible contributing factors may be socio-demographic status or race. Many of those who gamble online say they prefer to do so because it offers convenience and anonymity. Other hallmarks of the online gambler are high impulsivity, the presence of emotional struggles and poor coping skills. Certainly more research needs to be done to discover at risk populations, but equal attention also needs to be given to preventive measures which could curb the disturbing trend.