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The truth behind online gambling: convenient or dangerous?

01 Jan 2012

With the Melbourne Cup kicking off the racing season in November, we can expect the number of gambling bets (and fascinators!) to sky rocket. But gambling is no longer restricted to casinos or the racetrack – a new trend is on the rise thanks to technology, and it raises some serious questions about the internet and its implications for the gambling industry. In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of online gambling services. This is not surprising given faster internet connections, widespread access to wireless internet services and the latest developments in smartphone technology. The rise of online gambling has contributed to a new class of problem gamblers, particularly among sports enthusiasts. Online gambling services have transformed everyday life for some people, who are now able to gamble anytime, anywhere. This has resulted in a shift in the profile of the average problem gambler. It used to be the case that gambling addicts would have to go to a casino to gamble. Now, an overwhelming majority of problem gamblers have linked their addiction to the ease and accessibility of online gambling services. The internet has actually made it possible for people to gamble from the comfort of their own home – or from any other venue where an internet connection is available. Furthermore, cheap internet access allows people of all income levels to participate in online gambling, making it a more widespread phenomenon. The ease with which funds can be uploaded has also contributed to the attraction of the hobby. Credit cards or debit cards can now be used to fund gambling, and electronic payment processors such as PayPal allow for quick and easy transactions. Typically, problem gamblers have been linked to traditional casino games such as poker; but recently there has been prevalence in online sports gambling, particularly among young men. Figures released by the University of Sydney’s Gambling Treatment Clinic show an approximate 70 per cent increase in internet sports betting clients from 2008/2009 to 2010/2011. This figure will likely increase over the coming years as new sports gambling outlets emerge and technology integrates even further. The accessibility of online sports gambling poses a major problem to this type of gambling addict, as the rush they get from the game is only ever a click away. Those who have an interest in sports are likely to break into the online gambling scene as sports media actively promote sports gambling outlets. Most sporting events are saturated with advertisements for various sports betting websites. For the sports enthusiast, online sports betting may seem like the perfect opportunity to make money from a hobby. Peer pressure can also be cited as a major reason for the proliferation of the activity. Internet-based sports betting has also become rampant as more information is readily available to the gambler. Sports betting appeals to the smart gambler, who believes it requires more skill than traditional luck-based casino games. A simple click of the mouse will enable the gambler with access to an overwhelming wealth of statistics on any sport imaginable. Access to sports statistics make gamblers feel more confident in their betting choices, meaning they are more likely to bet excessive amounts and gamble more frequently. What these gamblers may not realise is that the odds have not changed in their favour just because they possess this information – these statistics are in fact available to everyone. As treatment experts look for ways to help this new class of problem gambler, the online segment of sports betting continues to saturate the gambling market worldwide. Different sports betting forms will emerge, and future technology will make it increasingly accessible. In the future, online sports gamblers can expect increased industry regulation, as national governments realise the potential for problem gambling among their population. So will the New Zealand government be quick to take action on this issue? If the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act passed last year is any indication, it’s quite possible this will become the next internet issue to garner political attention. Only time will tell!

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