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Study Suggests Online Gambling Not a Growing Problem

There are varying opinions when it comes to the prevalence of gambling addictions, especially when comparing those who gamble publicly, such as at a casino, and those who choose to conduct the activity more privately, such as online gaming in their own home.

Previous research suggests that online gambling is the bigger problem as those suffering with the addiction engage in activities out of sight. These individuals also tend to not believe they have a problem or if they do, fail to report the problem to a professional who may be able to help.

New research out of Harvard Medical School’s Addictions Department and the European gambling group bwin are challenging the assumption that gambling activities and addiction has grown in recent years. According to the findings of these two groups, gambling addiction has remained virtually static over the past few decades in the face of consistent and major increases in online betting.

This study looked primarily at the connection between the increasing accessibility of gambling and its impact on addiction. The main purpose of the study was to try and identify how a gambler becomes an addict, how addiction to gambling can be prevented and the major steps necessary to prevent gambling addictions.

Researchers highlighted that some industry reports show a decline in problem gambling. When compared with statistics gathered in the 1970s, gambling today has gone from 0.7 percent to 0.6 percent. Dr. Howard Shaffer, director of Harvard Medical School’s Addictions Department, highlighted such findings clash with the common belief that online accessibility would increase gambling addictions.

“In this research we provide additional evidence in support of our previous research showing that most subscribers who gamble on the Internet do so moderately,” Shaffer said in his report. “In fact, correlation analyses indicated that as Percent Lost increased, Duration, Total Gambling Sessions, and Total Amount Wagered all decreased, suggesting that individuals moderated their behavior based on their wins and their losses — exhibiting rational betting behavior.”

Researchers identified two subgroups based on data from 3,445 bwin customers over a two-year period. The average age of the group was 27.9 years old and 95 percent of the sample was male. Roughly 95 percent of the sample bet a median of €13 at each of two poker sessions per week during a six month period. A smaller subgroup of 5 percent involved poker players who bet €89 at each of 10 sessions per week over 18 months.

“In our intention to replace speculation with scientific evidence, this study takes us a big step closer towards understanding the behavior of online poker players,” said Manfred Bodner, Co-CEO of bwin. “Ultimately we are interested in developing algorithms capable of identifying behavioral patterns or identifying risk patterns associated with disordered gaming.”

One problem that could be argued with this study is that problem gamblers tend to be in their late 30s and into their early 40s. By studying a sample of men in a younger age bracket, it could skew the results of the overall population. Additional research must continue on this subject in order to identify true risk and prevalence.

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