The advent of Internet gambling has changed the gambling landscape in the last fifteen years. It has allowed for rapid bets, easy money transfers, and access to vast betting options. With more jurisdictions considering the potential benefits of regulation, the number of regulated online gambling sites is growing rapidly. In some jurisdictions, legal gambling is available via mobile platforms, allowing for rapid gaming anywhere.
Despite the increase in online gambling, the presence of problems among gamblers has not been studied in detail. Several studies have found that participation rates are too low to draw any meaningful conclusions. However, other research has found that Internet gambling may be a contributing factor to problem gambling. Whether the relationship between Internet gambling and gambling problems is causal or not, the pathological use of Internet gambling has the potential to cause harm.
The first venue for general public use in online gambling was the Liechtenstein International Lottery. Eventually, the US government launched a criminal case against Internet poker operators, charging them with violating 18 U.S.C. 1955. The case has raised questions about the constitutionality of laws regulating gambling. Specifically, Section 1956 raises concerns about the due process implications of enforcing the federal law.
Research on Internet gambling has focused on cross-sectional analyses, and few longitudinal studies have been conducted. This paper provides a brief review of research to date, and highlights some of the most important findings related to adult internet gambling addiction.
Although most studies are cross-sectional, some findings suggest that the relationship between gambling involvement and problem gambling is causal. For instance, LaPlante and colleagues (2007) found that participants who played more games in the past year were more likely to have a problem. They also found that Internet users with more involvement in gambling activities were more likely to have a problem. These findings were replicated in an Australian study, and were supported by an international survey.
A study of problem Internet gamblers found that nearly half of them reported having a problem before they began gambling on the Internet. Problem gamblers were also more likely to be involved in other high risk behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use. Some of these behaviors, such as self-harm, were more common in internet gamblers than in non-Internet gamblers.
Another study has shown that gambling on the Internet may be linked to increased alcohol consumption. Interestingly, this does not seem to be the case among non-problem gamblers. Moreover, problem gamblers are more likely to blame their problems on land-based forms of gambling, such as casinos and sports wagering.
As Internet gambling becomes increasingly popular, the numbers of problem gamblers may increase. To prevent this, some states are beginning to consider legalization. In addition, state officials have expressed their concern that the internet could be used to illegally bring gambling into their jurisdictions. While this may be true, many jurisdictions have found that regulation is beneficial to the consumer. And, in some cases, the revenue generated by gambling regulations can help finance taxation revenues.