Online gambling is the practice of placing wagers on various types of games and events via a computer or mobile device. It is an increasingly popular form of recreation, with more than seven hundred websites offering a range of opportunities to place bets on different sports and races. The industry has generated billions of dollars in revenue worldwide, and is a growing concern for consumer protection and regulatory oversight.
Online Gambling – A Risky Business
In many jurisdictions, online gambling is illegal. However, a number of countries permit legal access to regulated online gambling services . Some governments have banned certain forms of Internet gambling, while others regulate it and require harm minimization measures to protect consumer safety. The United States has a federal law, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), that prohibits banks and other financial institutions from assisting in the conduct of illegal gambling operations. Moreover, it is against the law to provide online gambling services without a license.
While online gambling is a highly profitable industry, it also carries the risk of fraud and money laundering. Fraudsters are constantly finding new ways to steal money, and the online gambling industry is no exception. Typical scams include gnoming and chip dumping, both of which involve using multiple accounts to win or lose in head-to-head poker games. Additionally, some operators process payments fraudulently and use them to increase their revenues.
The Effect of Online Gambling on Problem Gamblers
A large body of research has shown that the increased availability and ease of access to Internet gambling can contribute to problems with excessive or impulsive betting, loss-chasing and persistence. These behaviours are particularly prevalent in people who already have gambling problems and may be a source of exacerbated or undiagnosed problem gambling. The findings from this research are useful in understanding the role of online gambling in problem gambling and the importance of regulating online gambling products, advertising and practices to ensure safer and more responsible gambling environments for problem gamblers.
Changes in the online gambling industry over the last decade have been significant. These include an increased prevalence of online gambling, the emergence of new types of bets, and changes in online and mobile access. The study aimed to explore the perceptions of treatment- and non-treatment-seeking Internet gamblers regarding these changes, and how these may influence their gambling behaviours. The study was carried out using semi-structured telephone interviews with 30 treatment- and non-treatment-seeking internet gamblers in five Australian states.
Participants were self-selected, and interviewed on a voluntary basis. The sample comprised a mixture of males and females, aged 32 to 87 years. The majority of participants mainly gambled on sports and races, with a minority gambling on online slots or online poker. The participants largely gambled on their smartphone, with some of them having played for up to 10 years.
The findings from this study indicate that a range of factors are associated with behavioural changes in Internet gambling over the past decade, including an increasing prevalence of online gambling, the proliferation of advertising and inducements to support online gambling, and new types of bets. The majority of treatment-seeking participants reported a negative impact from these changes, and were more likely to describe harmful gambling behaviours such as impulsive gambling, loss-chasing and persistence. The findings suggest that harm minimisation features should be incorporated into online gambling products, advertising and practices to protect consumers from harmful gambling behaviours.