Is Online Gambling a Predictor of Problem Gambling Occurrences?
Online gambling is a fast-growing area of the gambling industry, and there is much research that has been done to examine the effects of this new medium on the gambling habits of the average person. While most studies of the internet’s effect on gambling are cross-sectional, a number of longitudinal surveys have been conducted. They reveal that online gambling is not a definite predictor of problem gambling occurrences. There is a risk, though, that pathological use of the Internet could be harmful.
Internet gambling is largely automated, with most of the betting activity taking place on a computer or wireless device. A high-speed connection is a big factor, allowing for rapid and convenient bets. The Internet is used for a wide variety of betting products, from sports and horse racing to roulette, blackjack, and poker. In addition, the convenience of an Internet-based gambling venue allows for large wagers and a greater variety of betting options. This has been a boon for gamblers, offering greater value for money and ease of access. But, the online environment has also been linked to a rise in problem gambling. Whether this is the case or not is yet to be determined.
One survey found that, when compared to non-Internet gamblers, Internet gamblers have a higher prevalence of alcohol and drug consumption. Some online gamblers also reported that they were more likely to have self-harm problems. Other survey results showed that, among the Internet gamblers surveyed, more than half reported having a gambling problem before they started using the Internet. However, most of the studies did not measure the impact of Internet gambling on the problem gambling incidence.
An Internet gaming taskforce called for additional research into this emerging field. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), includes a new category of Internet Gaming Disorder. According to the DSM-5, internet gaming may pose similar risks to traditional gambling, and may be more dangerous for those with a predisposition to addiction. Although it may be difficult to draw a direct correlation between online gambling and gambling problems, there are numerous reasons to consider regulating online gambling.
For example, the presence of an interstate element in the gambling industry makes it challenging for state law enforcement officials to enforce laws based on local jurisdictions. Moreover, the commercial nature of the gambling business seems to satisfy Constitutional concerns about the Commerce Clause. Lastly, state law can be reinforced by federal law. If the Internet were illegal in the United States, then PayPal, which facilitated payment for illegal Internet bets, would face prosecution.
Despite the numerous controversies surrounding the legality of Internet gambling, many of these issues are being addressed on constitutional grounds. First, state officials have expressed their concerns that online gambling could bring illegal gambling into their jurisdictions. Second, the federal government has imposed a number of criminal statutes that are relevant to online gambling. Third, a number of jurisdictions have begun to regulate the Internet.