Internet gambling refers to a range of gaming activities including casinos, sports betting and virtual poker. There is little empirical evidence to support a causal link between internet gambling and gambling problems. However, there is a growing body of research pointing to the potential for the presence of problem gamblers on the Internet. The current paper is intended to provide an overview of the relevant literature, with a particular focus on recent findings that may have implications for adult internet gambling addiction.
Generally speaking, most studies of internet gambling are cross-sectional. This is because self-report is subject to bias and is reliant on the accuracy of the reporting. In addition, most studies are not sufficient to assess the prevalence or severity of gambling problems. Therefore, longitudinal research is needed. Specifically, researchers should consider how to best integrate Internet gambling behaviour with that of offline gambling.
While no single index is sufficient to gauge the presence or severity of gambling issues, many of the problem gambling characteristics reported by Internet gamblers are associated with the onset of gambling problems. These include higher rates of alcohol consumption, illicit drug use and self-harm. Additionally, Internet problem gamblers are more likely to report having a problem before starting to gamble on the Internet. Among Internet gamblers, only about half attribute the onset of their gambling problems to online gambling. Most Internet gamblers, however, report that they have had a problem with land-based forms of gambling.
Despite the growing evidence of the link between Internet gambling and gambling problems, there are no definitive answers. Several studies have suggested that the presence of problems does not necessarily predict whether or not a person will engage in Internet gambling. Rather, the rate of problem gambling is determined by the amount of gambling activities the gambler engages in. Moreover, research suggests that not all Internet gamblers who screen positively for gambling problems actually have a problem.
A study by LaPlante and colleagues investigated the relationship between gambling involvement and gambling problems. They found that the more highly involved a gambler was, the more likely they were to gamble and the more likely they were to engage in Internet modes of gambling. Although most studies of Internet gambling are cross-sectional, there are some longitudinal studies.
The prevalence of internet gambling is low, though there is a high potential for its growth. This is due to the convenience and speed of Internet gambling, the variety of wagering options available, and the accessibility of Internet platforms. Online gambling is becoming more widely used for recreational and entertainment purposes. Consequently, the next generation of gamblers is likely to engage in internet modes at an earlier point in their gambling careers.
As internet gambling grows in popularity, researchers should continue to investigate the possible effects of gambling on the individual. One important issue is to determine if the commercial nature of gambling business is sufficient to satisfy constitutional concerns about free speech. Furthermore, the presence of an interstate element may hinder the enforcement policies of state laws. Fortunately, federal law reinforces state law in many cases.