In a new paper, Dr. Sally Gainsbury explores the relationship between online gambling and the newly defined medical condition of “disordered gambling.” She concludes that “internet gambling does not cause gambling problems in, and of, itself,” debunking the arguments presented by the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG), which presents online gambling as the “crack cocaine” of gambling.
Her paper, ‘Online Gambling Addiction: the Relationship Between Internet Gambling and Disordered Gambling,” was published in April by the Centre for Gambling Education & Research, Southern Cross University, Australia.
It consists of a thorough review of the research so far conducted on the subject, and suggests that as yet the relationship between live and online gambling is not well understood, and that further research is needed.
Problems Begin with Live Gambling
One of her key findings is that problem gambling appears to manifest itself primarily in live gambling, and that problem gamblers then become internet gamblers. Studies which fail to account for this can give a misleading impression of the role internet gambling plays in problem gambling.
“Evidence is emerging that Internet gambling is not only not predictive of gambling problems,” she reports, “but that when other variables are controlled for individuals who gamble, online may have lower rates of gambling problems.”
Dr. Gainsbury notes that even though the research shows that internet gambling does not appear to be a significant cause of disordered gambling, the “use of Internet gambling is more common among highly involved gamblers and for some Internet gamblers, this medium appears to significantly contribute to gambling problems.”
Increased Prevalence Could Show New Problems
In addition to the conclusions which exonerate—at least to an extent—internet gambling from blame for problem gambling, there are other sections which warn operators that they should not be complacent. The research done to date has not been comprehensive, and as internet gambling prevalence increases, more problems may be identified.
There are several pieces of research which indicate that internet gambling may exacerbate problems, or have causal links to problem gambling in sub-groups within the market.
Dr. Gainsbury’s work is a very welcome contribution. She clearly takes a scientific rather than political approach to her research, a practice that not all gambling research follows. It might be a good idea for the online poker industry to provide the access to hand and game histories that she believes further research requires, and act on her recommendations for further developing in-house responsible gaming measures.