'An investigation of internet gambling in Australia’ was led by Dr Sally Gainsbury from Southern Cross University’s Centre for Gambling Education and Research (CGER), with the assistance of CGER director Professor Nerilee Hing, Professor Alex Blaszczynski from the School of Psychology at the University of Sydney and the University of Lethbridge’s Dr Robert Wood.
“Internet gamblers had significantly more positive attitudes towards gambling,” said Dr Gainsbury.
“People appear to be gravitating towards online gambling because of the availability and the convenience. It can be accessed anytime, anywhere.
“But for people with existing gambling problems, internet gambling may create additional risks.”
The findings are part of the largest survey of internet gamblers to date in Australia, with more than 6680 participants taking part in the self-selected, online questionnaire.
Dr Gainsbury said overall the research showed internet gamblers were not more likely to be problem gamblers, but they do appear to be at higher risk of developing problems.
“Internet gambling poses unique risks to players; it is constantly available and people can play online in private with relative anonymity.
“The use of electronic funds did increase spending for some players and may create negative consequences for some people.”
Over half of the 450 problem internet gamblers responding to the survey said the use of credit cards or internet bank transfers increased the amount they spent compared to less than one in 10 of the 2270 non-problem internet gamblers.
While internet gambling has been around since the 1990s its popularity has soared in the past few years, with clear trends indicating an increasing number of participants starting to gamble online.
More than half of the survey participants started gambling online from around 2006.
“Gambling problems do take a while to set in before causing really severe consequences so as people continue to play online we may see more problems emerge from this form of gambling,” said Dr Gainsbury.
The researchers have called for the online gambling space to be made safer for users. Among the recommendations, players being encouraged to set limits on their spending; pop-up messages suggesting a break in long continuous sessions; and self-tests to determine the risk of developing gambling problems.
The study set out to explore the characteristics of internet gamblers and found:
• Internet gamblers were more likely to be from higher income households, and to either work fulltime or be a student.
• Online players tended to participate in a greater number of gambling activities overall and were technically savvy.
• The main advantages of internet gambling were related to the convenience and availability of internet gambling as well as the lack of crowds, unpleasant people and anonymity. This may suggest internet gambling may appeal to those who prefer not to gamble in land-based venues. Internet gamblers may represent a new group of gamblers and venue gamblers may shift to gamble online.
• Players choose internet gambling sites based on reputation, payout rates, and money being safely and easily retrieved. Most participants played on Australian-based sites where these are available (wagering and lottery), but there was little concern about legality of sites and where they are based. This is concerning as playing on offshore sites may result in identify theft, fraud, losing funds and cheating, with little recourse for Australians.
• Internet gambling was perceived to be too addictive by 15% of players and poses unique risks, particularly for vulnerable populations, such as young, single, uneducated and unemployed gamblers.
Photo: Dr Sally Gainsbury
Media contact: Sharlene King media officer, Southern Cross University Lismore, 02 6620 3508 or 0429 661 349.