Online Gambling Addictions Growing
Gambling is big business, and in the so-called “lawless land” of the Internet, it’s on the rise. Online gambling generated around $12 billion last year, spread out over roughly 2,300 gaming sites. Some studies indicate that the rise in gambling is being accompanied by an increase in gambling addiction.
Data from Britain suggests 0.8 percent of their population has some kind of addiction to gambling. “If you are a vulnerable individual, the ease of online gambling-the instant access and convenience of use-is likely to fuel those addictive tendencies you have already,” said Mark Griffiths, a professor of gambling.
A charity for addicts, known as GamCare, has collected statistics on the issue. People who called the organization had gambling debts of, on average, roughly 25,000 pounds (about $47,000), according to Teresa Tunstall.
Steps are being taken to address some aspects of the problem, but it seems unlikely they can solve the issue. One development is new software that can recognize gambling patterns typical of an addict. According to eCOGRA, an online gaming auditor, operators may then contact the gamblers and suggest a “cooling-off period.”
The British government has also gotten in on the act, creating an independent Gambling Commission. Starting in 2007, this group will regulate the British companies that run gaming sites. One new requirement of the sites will be that they must train operators to spot addicts. These operators may then have to offer help and advice, making sure that gamblers realize how much time and money they’ve spent.
Many sites are operated from other countries, though, and will not fall under the Gambling Commission’s jurisdiction. Professor Griffiths sees this as a real problem. “Even if one online site is responsible and says we’re not going to have that problem gambler, you are just a click away from finding another online betting site that isn’t.”
With both Internet use and gambling on the rise, gambling addictions are likely going to be an increasingly frequent problem.