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Is Gambling More Addictive Online?

Discussion in 'The Attic' started by BingoT, Dec 31, 2011.

    Dec 31, 2011
  1. BingoT

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    Is Gambling More Addictive Online?
    Researchers Study Whether Easy Access, Isolation Of Computer Gambling Make Things Worse

    Before the advent of online gambling, a person with gambling addiction usually had to leave their house and go somewhere to indulge their habit.

    But when gambling becomes accessible online, simply passing the computer at home can trigger the impulse to place a bet, said Marvin Steinberg, executive director of the nonprofit group Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling.

    Earlier this week, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced that he was exploring the possibility of legalizing various forms of online gambling in Connecticut. The announcement drew mixed reactions, some wary of the state getting involved in anything that could foster more problem gambling.
    Researchers have studied the psychology of gambling for decades. The field of online gambling research, though, is still new, and researchers say there are a number of questions about its potential dangers and whether online gambling poses psychological problems different from those related to traditional forms of gambling.
    Nancy Petry, a psychologist at the University of Connecticut, said a few patterns have so far emerged.

    "We're finding that only a small proportion of gamblers do so online, but of these people, the vast majority do have gambling problems," said Petry.

    She said one of the main questions is whether online gambling is creating more gambling addiction or simply serving as another outlet for addicts. Petry, one of the first researchers to study online gambling, said gambling addicts may have problems that parallel those of problem drinkers.

    "It's similar to drinking — when you're developing a drinking problem you're doing it socially," she said, but many alcoholics eventually turn to drinking alone at home. When gambling at home on a computer, "there are none of the social sanctions" of real-world settings, she said, and that makes it easier to go overboard.

    One of her studies looked specifically at online gambling and adolescents. She and fellow researchers found a strong parallel between the young gamblers and binge-drinking among teenagers. While those who did partake in online betting had a higher rate of gambling addiction — just as young drinkers have a higher rate of binge drinking — those problems didn't necessarily lead into adulthood.

    David Hodgins, a professor of psychology at the University of Calgary, said one of the next questions to tackle is what role online gambling has in a developing an addiction. "It's not clear where the chicken or the egg is," he said.

    More online gambling, he said, will likely complicate the treatment of those with a gambling addiction.

    "It makes [gambling] more accessible, and when people are struggling to overcome gambling, putting distance between you and gambling online makes that difficult," he said.

    Steinberg said online gambling tends to attract the same personality type who gravitate toward slot machines in casinos — a subset of gamblers particularly susceptible to gambling problems.

    "Problem gamblers are people who like to escape and isolate themselves," he said. "When they get into casinos, they go to slot machines where they're in their own world and don't get interrupted. Online gambling is pretty much you and the machine and you're alone. People don't have parties to gamble online — psychologically, it's more isolated."

    Settings such as a blackjack table or a horse track, he said, have social cues and distractions to keep a person grounded in terms of time and money spent.

    "When you're at home, your potential to go and gamble is at any time," he said, adding that depression and anxiety can heighten the gambling impulse.
    The Hartford Courant
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