Despite the widespread presence of online gambling, there remains a lot of uncertainty about the relationship between gambling and mental health. Some studies indicate that there is no link between internet gambling and problem gambling, while other studies indicate that Internet gambling contributes to gambling problems. Moreover, some Internet problem gamblers may already have problems, whereas other gamblers may be more susceptible to problems because of the Internet.
The most interesting study was conducted by a team of researchers from the Harvard Medical School. They found that although the majority of online gamblers engage in a moderate amount of gaming, a minority of these gamblers are highly involved and exhibit gambling problems. It is estimated that 15 % of Internet gamblers consider Internet gambling to be more addictive than land-based gambling.
In the study, researchers compared self-reports of gambling problems with data gathered from online gambling sites. They found that although most Internet gamblers have no gambling problems, not all have screened positively for gambling problems. Moreover, researchers analyzed a single gambling site data set, which may not be applicable to other Internet gamblers.
The Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection Act of 2013, which was introduced by New York Republican Congressman Peter King, would establish a federal standard for online gambling. It also creates a new office of “gambling oversight” that would be attached to the Treasury Department. The department would be responsible for ensuring that online gambling sites meet federal standards. This would make the regulation of online gambling easier.
Although some online gambling sites are legally licensed in Canada, other countries do not allow the activity. For example, Belgium and Sweden do not license foreign casino operators. However, these laws do not prevent states from passing laws that prohibit the activities. In some countries, the minimum age for gambling is as high as 19 years. This may be a reason why some online gambling sites are operated offshore. These sites may also not be able to refund money to players.
Although some Internet gambling sites have implemented strategies to identify risky players, a small percentage of the world’s online gamblers are at risk for gambling problems. The best way to avoid gambling problems is to play on a regulated site that uses industry-standard 128-bit encryption to secure personal and financial information. Another indicator that a site is safe is if it uses independent auditors to test its software before it goes live.
While research into the effects of online gambling is still underway, researchers are hopeful that the regulatory scheme will eventually catch up with the technology. For example, the state of Nevada has legalized online gambling. As of May 1, 2013, online poker is officially up and running in the state. Although Nevada has only one operational online casino, other states are considering legislation to allow the activity. In addition, New Jersey and Delaware have started the process of regulating online gambling.
While researchers agree that the benefits of Internet gambling outweigh the potential for problems, the potential for problems remains. Several studies have been conducted, most of which focus on cross-sectional data. Other studies have investigated the impact of specific characteristics of the game on the emergence of gambling problems. In particular, researchers examined the impact of unsustainable gambling on gambling problems.