Online gambling is a form of wagering that is facilitated by the Internet. Gambling platforms include virtual poker, sports betting, casinos, and lotteries. The availability of these types of services has significantly changed the way gamblers participate. In fact, the number of gambling activities available online is expanding rapidly.
There are no comprehensive estimates on the prevalence of internet gambling. Nevertheless, it is projected that the use of the Internet will increase. Its increasing popularity is primarily based on technological advances, which make it easier and faster to engage in gambling. Additionally, it offers greater variety in betting products. Aside from its convenience, it also provides a higher value for money. Some argue that it can lead to addiction and other problems.
Problem gambling is a condition that is associated with excessive and pathological gaming. Research suggests that Internet gambling may be a contributor to these problems. Several studies have been conducted to examine this connection. These studies have found that problem gamblers, even those who do not engage in the most severe forms of gambling, have higher rates of self-harm, alcohol abuse, and drug consumption.
Despite these findings, research does not fully address the causal relationship between Internet gambling and these types of problems. However, there are a few studies that do suggest a causal link. For instance, the 2007 British Gambling Prevalence Study by LaPlante and colleagues compared self-reported gambling problems to gambling activity. They found that one-third to one-half of problem gamblers attributed their problems to land-based electronic gaming machines, while the remainder attributed their problems to the Internet.
In addition, the number of high-risk Internet gamblers seems to be limited. Although the rate of problem gamblers among non-Internet gamblers was 5.7 percent, there were no findings to suggest that these gamblers screened negatively for gambling problems. This is likely due to the lack of a single gambling index that can accurately predict problem gambling.
Most of the research has focused on cross-sectional studies. While these studies have yielded useful insights, they are not necessarily representative of the overall population of internet gamblers. As a result, there has been a need to investigate longitudinal studies. Longitudinal studies can better evaluate the risks and protective factors that may contribute to the development of gambling problems.
The next generation of gamblers is likely to start using the Internet earlier in their gambling career. Therefore, research should be directed at how to integrate internet gambling behavior with offline gambling. Furthermore, researchers should look into assessing the potential impact of an immersive interface on disordered gambling.
Another concern is the ability of state law enforcement officials to effectively enforce their gambling laws. State officials have expressed their concerns that the Internet could be used to facilitate illegal gambling. Federal law reinforces state law in many cases. Still, due process arguments have been challenged on constitutional grounds. Many argue that the Constitution provides limited First Amendment protection for crime facilitating speech, and that it is difficult to justify enforcing the Commerce Clause when financial transactions take place in the United States.