Online Gamling is an internet-based version of gambling where players can wager money or something else of value on the outcome of a game of chance, future event or contest. This form of gambling is largely unregulated and often under-researched, but the industry has grown rapidly to produce annual revenue estimated at over US$40 billion. The growth of online gambling has been fueled by technological advances and changes in consumer behaviour. The availability of large wagers, continuous gambling and instant access to a wide variety of betting options have raised concerns that it may lead to problematic gambling.
While most studies examining the relationship between online gambling and problem gambling have examined cross-sectional data, which cannot determine causality, a recent study found that Internet gambling was associated with problem gambling for many gamblers. In addition, online gambling was a significant contributor to problem gambling for people who already had gambling problems.
Despite these findings, it is important to note that the vast majority of Internet gamblers do not have gambling problems. Furthermore, the vast majority of online gamblers have multiple gambling accounts, and most have a mix of traditional land-based and Internet-only wagering. This reflects the integration of gambling across different modes and highlights the need to develop harm minimisation tools that address the unique risks of online gambling.
A number of factors can contribute to high-risk online gambling, including underlying mental health conditions and daily life stressors. For example, researchers have found that people with severe depression are almost five times more likely to engage in high-risk gambling than those without depression. In addition, daily life stressors such as work pressure, family problems, lack of time or money to gamble in person, and negative mood states can all trigger or exacerbate problematic gambling.
Biologically, online gambling triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin, which are feel-good neurotransmitters that cause the gratifying feelings experienced while gambling. This can also lead to compulsive gambling, as the urge to experience these pleasurable emotions drives one to keep engaging in the activity even when it is causing negative outcomes.
While a combination of factors can lead to online gambling addiction, psychotherapy is a proven treatment for this condition. In individual and group sessions, a therapist can help individuals learn to recognize the underlying issues that contribute to their addiction and modify self-destructive behaviors that support the disorder.
A comprehensive approach to treating online gambling addiction includes both medication and therapy. Medications such as antidepressants can provide relief for certain symptoms, such as anxiety and depression, and reduce cravings. In addition, therapy can help a person identify and manage the underlying problems that contributed to their gambling addiction, such as an eating disorder, low self-esteem or an alcohol use disorder. This process can take a long time, but it is vital to the success of recovery. Ultimately, this type of treatment is best for people with moderate to severe addictions. In some cases, this process can be accelerated by the use of intensive outpatient programs.