The recent increase in online gambling options may spell trouble for many individuals who might have never opted to drive to a casino. The accessibility of online gambling makes it appealing for a portion of the population for whom convenience is an important factor in decision-making.
Several provinces in Canada have introduced the idea of implementing government-run online gambling establishments. The concept has had mixed reception across the national population. A recent study by researchers at the University of Calgary indicates that there is reason for concern when introducing state-run gambling online.
Led by professor David Hodgins, the study examined the effects of gambling using online sites. The study determined that the introduction of increased online gambling could result in higher rates of gambling addiction in Canada.
Hodgins explains that online gambling provides a new way for people to access gambling in way that is extremely convenient. The result is that many people who would never gamble otherwise may be introduced to the activity.
To support this idea, Hodgins says that there is already evidence of increased gambling addictions where there is increased accessibility to gambling. For instance, provinces that have Video Lottery Terminals in drinking establishments exhibit a higher level of addiction than those provinces that do not allow the terminals. Accessibility is one of the main factors involved in the development of a pathological gambling problem.
Accessibility may be even further emphasized through the use of phone applications that give gamblers the ability to visit their favorite sites at any time, and at any place.
Hodgins is also concerned that the nature of a government-run gambling program adds to its perception as a normal activity. Online accessibility to gambling in general has already increased the normalizing of gambling, but government-run sites may add to the problem.
British Columbia and Quebec have already introduced government gambling programs online, but other provinces have held back. There have been reports that the expected social consequences associated with gambling addiction have caused the provinces to opt out of a government-sponsored gambling program.
Hodgins’ study indicates that pathological gamblers are found to have an increased risk for other addiction problems, such as those related to alcohol and drugs. In addition, those with pathological gambling disorder were also more likely to be diagnosed with other mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety.
Most Canadian provinces have programs in place to treat those with a gambling addiction, but Hodgins warns that government-run online gaming may introduce an epidemic and provinces may not have the resources to treat the high number of individuals needing help.