Online Gambling is an activity that involves betting and wagering real money using computerised games. It can be done anywhere there is a computer and an Internet connection. Online gambling sites offer a variety of gaming options including poker, sports betting, lottery-style games, and casino gaming. It is a popular form of entertainment and can be highly addictive.
The first online gambling websites were launched in the 1990s as an end-run around government prohibition and regulation. A site operator only had to establish an entity in a friendly offshore jurisdiction, and then begin offering bets to people in the US who could deposit funds through credit cards. The growth of online gambling has led to an increase in discussion about its potential harms, as well as debate over how to regulate it.
While some argue that the availability of online gambling has increased accessibility and reduced costs, others point to evidence that it is more addictive than traditional forms of gambling. It is also more difficult to stop gambling once the habit is formed, as the ease of access and availability make it easier to start and maintain gambling activities.
Gambling-themed online communities have emerged as a major source of support for gamblers, but these communities may also contribute to problem gambling. Studies investigating the nature of these communities suggest that they are appealing to gamblers for several reasons, including the ability to share tips and experiences with like-minded individuals without having to face the consequences of doing so in person. Other benefits include the ability to interact with others in a private setting and the chance to be anonymous.
The online communities are also often a first resource of help-seeking for concerned significant others, as they provide a place where the partners can discuss their concerns and emotions about gambling with a larger group of individuals. A recent study examined messages that the partners posted on an online forum and identified eight sentiment clusters (melancholy, surprise, despair, righteousness, revulsion, prejudice, rage) associated with gambling-related discussions among the community members.
A recent study that compared self-report screeners with behavioural data found that more involved gamblers were at greater risk for gambling problems than those with lower involvement. However, this finding was based on a small sample size and did not take into account the complexity of gambling behaviour, so it is not clear whether this result is generalisable. In addition, the study did not examine the effect of other factors, such as age and socioeconomic status, on gambling involvement. It is therefore important to continue to investigate these factors in order to understand what predicts gambling problems. In particular, it would be useful to test the hypothesis that online community participation is more common in those who do not belong to strong offline social groups. This can inform the development of interventions aimed at minimising gambling harms. This includes improving risk assessment and harm reduction tools, as well as introducing measures to prevent access to gambling.