Online gambling is the process of wagering money or other value on a game of chance or event for the opportunity to win a prize. The game may be played for free or for real money and winnings are typically deposited into the player’s account or paid by check. A large proportion of people who gamble online play for real money. The games available vary from poker to sports betting to casino games and are accessible via desktop computers, mobile phones or tablets.
The development of new technologies has made online gambling more prevalent and increasingly popular. Unlike traditional casinos, online gambling sites offer players an easy and convenient way to place bets and receive winnings from the comfort of their homes. Some online gambling sites even provide live chat support and customer service. However, it is important to note that gambling is not without its risks and the prevalence of online gambling should be monitored.
Despite being relatively unregulated, the online gambling industry is hugely profitable and continues to grow. In fact, in 2012 alone, it was reported that revenues from online gambling were over $20 billion, and this number is expected to continue to rise.
Although the majority of Internet users are not harmed by online gambling, some individuals have reported problems. Problems can include the loss of control over gambling, disruption to work or family life, increased debt and feelings of withdrawal when trying to stop. Problem gambling can also cause emotional distress, which can lead to strained relationships and financial difficulties.
Gambling is an addictive behaviour and the potential for addiction to online gambling is high, as it is convenient and easy to access. Moreover, the euphoria experienced by players during wins and the release of dopamine reinforce addictive behavior. The anonymity of the Internet also increases the likelihood that an individual will develop a gambling addiction.
To explore the nature of these issues, this qualitative study used semi-structured interviews with 20 treatment-seeking and non-treatment-seeking Internet gamblers, aged 32 to 87 years (M = 55.9 years). Interviews were conducted over the telephone, with most interviews taking about 45 minutes to an hour. Participants were recruited from two communities in Australia. The sample size was relatively small, and the interviews were not a randomised controlled trial, so some of the results may be subject to recall or social desirability bias. However, the interviews provided rich data and enabled the identification of themes that would not have been apparent through quantitative research. Online industry changes that make gambling easier, faster and more incentivised, and which provide an array of exotic bets with poor odds, were reported to undermine self-regulatory efforts by those struggling to maintain or regain control over their gambling. The participants of the treatment-seeking group, in particular, were most affected by these changes. However, most non-treatment-seekers did not report harmful effects, as they prioritised their families’ welfare and understood how to control their gambling behaviours.