The proliferation of Internet gambling over the last fifteen years has re-shaped the gambling landscape. Increasing access to wireless devices has facilitated rapid bets and wagers. However, the ubiquity of internet usage may amplify disordered behavior. Fortunately, regulation can help protect consumers while generating tax revenues. In fact, several jurisdictions are now legalizing internet gambling. This paper will review the research on Internet gambling to date and highlight the most important findings.
Despite the popularity of Internet gambling, there has been little research on the prevalence of problem gamblers. It is therefore not surprising that the most significant research on Internet gambling has been cross-sectional. Moreover, most studies have been conducted on a small sample of Internet users. A more comprehensive literature review was necessary to identify the more noteworthy developments.
One interesting observation is that most gamblers who report having problems have had these before they began gambling on the Internet. Additionally, most Internet gamblers say they have easier access to money. Still, no single index is available to accurately measure gambling problems.
Various surveys have been conducted to measure the frequency of gambling-related behaviors. Some have suggested that Internet gamblers are more likely to engage in activities such as self-harming, gambling addiction, drinking, and drug use. These behaviors may represent symptoms of problem gambling and may serve as a warning that the Internet is not a safe place to be. Nevertheless, most of these studies have had mixed results.
Another study investigated the prevalence of online gaming and found that more than one third of problem Internet gamblers reported having a problem before they started gambling on the Internet. Among these, most Internet gamblers reported that they attributed their problems to land-based forms of gambling, such as casinos or slot machines.
While the number of gamblers who reported the most notable behavior is small, the study suggests that the most effective gambling intervention is not always the most expensive or most sophisticated. Rather, it might be a well-regulated and supervised site that offers high-quality consumer protection.
Finally, it is also worth noting that the most prominent gambling-related benefit of using the Internet is convenience. Specifically, Internet gambling provides a number of advantages including ease, speed, and greater value for money. Moreover, the ubiquity of wireless devices enables people to participate in Internet-based gambling from almost anywhere in the world.
Regardless of the fact that Internet-related gaming is not as prevalent as it was a few years ago, it is still a growing industry. More than six percent of the British population played on the Internet in 2007, not counting lottery tickets purchased on the web. Although the overall participation in Internet-related gambling appears to be relatively small, this figure is expected to grow in the coming years.
Considering the growth of Internet-based gambling, it is not surprising that state officials have expressed concern that it may be used to illegally re-route gambling into their jurisdictions. Consequently, federal prosecutors have warned PayPal and other financial institutions that they could be facing prosecution for taking deposits or accepting financial instruments for illegal Internet bets.