Online gambling, also called Internet gaming, is the activity of wagering on sporting events or games of chance through the use of a computer network. It is legal in some states of the United States, the District of Columbia, most provinces in Canada, and many countries of the European Union. In addition, many online casinos and poker rooms are regulated by state governments. In the US, there are also a number of federally regulated online gambling sites.
Online gamblers are exposed to a large range of risk indicators, but many are unable to identify, interpret and act on these early warning signals. This may be partly due to the fact that research on risk indicators is often cross-sectional, meaning that causality cannot be determined and that self-reporting is susceptible to social desirability bias. Further research is also needed to determine whether game-specific characteristics play a role in problem development and/or maintenance.
The present study sought to explore the lived experiences of individuals who gamble online, including their experiences of harmful gambling behaviours. Interviews were conducted by two researchers – one a PhD candidate and the other a provisionally registered psychologist – with both non-treatment seekers (n = 20) and treatment-seeking gamblers (n = 9). The interviews were semi-structured, focusing on participants’ experience of changes to operator advertising, inducements, gambling products and financial transactions, as well as their relationship to the gambling environment. Participants’ comments, experiences and perceptions were analysed using grounded theory methodology.
Findings indicated that online gambling is a major form of recreation and entertainment, with participants spending substantial time in the virtual gambling environment. This was largely driven by the availability of online gambling on mobile devices. In addition, participants reported that they were attracted to online gambling by the plethora of free play offers and the ability to gamble without being detected or reprimanded by friends or family.
Gambling addiction can be a serious and debilitating condition that requires professional help. Those who are addicted to gambling need to admit they have a problem and seek help before the situation worsens. There are a number of different ways to seek treatment for gambling addiction, including inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs. Inpatient rehab programs require the patient to stay in a rehabilitation facility for a specified amount of time, usually 30 days or more. Outpatient rehabilitation programs allow the patient to attend classes and counseling sessions at a rehab center but do not have to live there.
Although a number of strategies exist for managing gambling problems, more research is needed to develop and test interventions for online gamblers. This should include examining how these approaches might be modified for the online context, such as through the use of brief, targeted online interventions and online self-exclusion tools. This would require cooperation between independent researchers, operators and regulators.