United States

Australian Study Finds Online Gaming Does Not Increase Problem Gambling

Will Adelson have to eat his words about Gaming and Problem Gamblers?

A common theme in legal US online poker news this year has been Sheldon Adelson’s attempts to thwart internet gaming and protect his Las Vegas Sands empire. Lacking any legitimate data, one of his biggest points is that online gaming will cause an increase in the amount of problem gamblers. Adelson may be forced to eat his words, though, since a new Australian study cites insufficient evidence linking internet gaming to an increase in gambling addiction.

Commissioned by Gambling Research Australia, the “Interactive Gambling” study is believed to be the largest of its kind. The authors conducted 15,000 phone interviews, 4,500 online surveys and 50 face-to-face interviews, mostly in Australia, which is considered the world’s biggest per-capita gambling country.

Out of the 19,550 gamblers interviewed, the study found that only 31 had sought help for a gambling problem (0.16% of the respondents). You can see the other interesting findings from Interactive Gambling below.

Online Gaming doesn’t increase Problem Gambling – With a Catch

As alluded to before, the most encouraging conclusion from the study is that “there is currently insufficient evidence to conclude that interactive gambling is causing higher levels of gambling problems.” However, the study did add that it’s “possible that related problems might increase over time with increased participation.”

While the latter thought doesn’t totally clear online gaming of promoting addiction, the study adds, “for a substantial proportion of interactive gamblers experiencing difficulties, these problems are related to non‐interactive modes.” So despite what Adelson preaches about the internet encouraging certain players to bet themselves into bankruptcy, this research concludes that the problem starts at land-based casinos.

Large Number of Gamblers Think Sites Have a Doomsday Switch

Attitudes towards internet gaming are far more progressive today than they were when the activity became available in the mid-1990s. But as the Interactive Gambling study shows, maybe the attitudes aren’t progressive enough. 37.6% of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed that “online gambling sites have an on/off switch that can turn the software in favor of the operator.”

Poker Players less likely to become Addicted

Of the 31 interview subjects who sought help for gambling, just two of them were poker players. There’s a distinction with this subject when it comes to live and online poker, though. 4.8% of the live players reported feeling like they had a problem with gambling compared to 9.8% of the online players. Still the fact that just two out of 19,550 gamblers felt they needed to seek help for problem poker bodes well for the game.

Overall, Interactive Gambling research shows that online gaming isn’t the destructive “cancer” that Adelson describes it as. Sure, some of the findings weren’t so encouraging, such as the Doomsday switch belief and 9.8% of online poker players believing they may have a problem. But the general takeaway here is that internet gaming isn’t any more likely to create addiction than live gaming.

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