The Relationship between Internet Gambling and Problem Gambling

Authored by: Robert J. Williams , Robert T. Wood , Jonathan Parke

Routledge International Handbook of Internet Gambling

Print publication date:  June  2012
Online publication date:  November  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415594431
eBook ISBN: 9780203814574
Adobe ISBN:


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It is a well-established fact that a small proportion of adults who gamble, in all jurisdictions and across all gaming formats, are properly classified as problem gamblers. Indeed, despite the common rhetoric espousing the importance of ‘responsible gambling’ and despite the efforts in most jurisdictions to implement ‘responsible gambling’ features to various gambling platforms, it seems a near impossibility to achieve a situation where government-sponsored gambling and the complete amelioration of problem gambling can coexist. To be sure, rates of problem gambling in most jurisdictions are relatively low, with standardized rates across international jurisdictions ranging from a low of 0.5 percent to a high of 7.6 percent (Williams, Volberg, and Stevens, 2012). Nonetheless, while policy makers may find comfort and affirmation in the fact that overall problem gambling rates are low, it is clear that not all gambling formats enjoy the same relationship with problem gambling, and that some types of gambling may be inherently more risky or dangerous. Internet gambling is potentially one such form, with studies repeatedly demonstrating that Internet gamblers, relative to non-Internet gamblers, are much more likely to experience gambling problems. However, while the existence of an association between Internet and problem gambling has been well documented, there remains much ambiguity about the direction and temporality of the relationship, as well as the particular causes of this relationship. In other words, it remains unclear the extent to which problem gambling is facilitated by the Internet gambling experience, or whether problem gamblers (who are often highly versatile gamblers) disproportionately gravitate towards the Internet as one more format in their broader gambling repertoire. Moreover, it remains unclear the extent to which Internet gambling is an inherently more risky form of gambling, or whether other variables associated with Internet gambling are the primary causes.

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