Online Gamling is a rapidly growing segment of the gambling industry, providing millions of people with the ability to wager on their favorite games and events. However, there is an increasing amount of concern that this type of gambling can contribute to problem gambling and other forms of disordered gambling behaviour.
Harm-prevention interventions that reduce the speed and ease of online gambling are an important way of preventing harm from this form of gambling. This can reduce the number of problem gamblers while maintaining freedoms for those who are gambling safely.
The provision of online gambling has intensified over the last decade, resulting in enhanced betting markets, a broader product range and prolific marketing [6, 8]. Little research has explored how this intensification has influenced contemporary gambling experiences and gambling behaviours reported by treatment-seeking and non-treatment-seeking Internet gamblers.
Understanding the extent to which individuals are involved in Internet gambling may be an important step towards identifying those at risk of developing a gambling disorder or problem. This is a potentially significant area of research, given that Internet gamblers are a heterogeneous group that may differ in terms of behavioural characteristics, psychosocial factors and their use of harm-minimisation tools.
This study used qualitative interviews with treatment-seeking and non-treatment-seeking, self-reported Internet gamblers from two different European countries. They were asked to consider how their online gambling had changed over the last decade, including their gambling experiences, their current behaviours and any harmful gambling. They were also asked to describe how their gambling and harmful gambling had been influenced by changes in operator practices such as advertising, inducements, gambling products and financial transactions, and in the online gambling environments where they gambled.
Generally, the participants reported that the increased speed and ease of online gambling, which enables instant access from any location at any time, has significantly increased their online gaming opportunities and facilitated their gambling. They also highlighted the emergence of a variety of new bet types and other novel features, such as multi-bets. They described their gambling as becoming increasingly impulsive and persistent, despite having limited uptake of the latest harm minimisation tools.
The findings suggest that Internet gamblers are a relatively heterogeneous group, with differences in their behaviour and experience of online gambling attributed to their individual characteristics and social circumstances. This means that the current conceptual models of gambling and problem gambling need to be revisited, particularly in light of the emergence of Internet modes as a key gambling context.
In addition, these findings suggest that the clinical characteristics of Internet problem gamblers are similar to those of land-based problem gamblers. They are likely to share common comorbidities and irrational thinking that have been identified as important in establishing the pathological process among land-based gamblers.
This finding provides an important basis for developing a more accurate model of Internet-related gambling problems, which will require further research and consideration of any new variables or interactions that should be included in the analysis to account for these issues. These findings have implications for the design of future research and intervention programs, as well as the development of effective gambling harm reduction strategies.