NCRG Conference: Science Vs. Myth – Research On Internet Gambling

Yesterday’s NCRG Conference attendees were able to hear the latest research on actual Internet gambling behavior from Sarah Nelson, Ph.D., associate director for research at the Division on Addictions at Cambridge Health Alliance, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, and instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Nelson led the session “Science vs. Myth: Research on Internet Gambling” at the12th annual NCRG Conference on Gambling and Addiction.

Dr. Nelson acknowledged that Internet gambling is growing, which can lead to speculation that increased accessibility makes Internet gambling more addictive than other types of gambling. However, Dr. Nelson stated that there are dangers of speculation without scientific evidence, including public confusion and criticism, misallocation of public health resources and a failure to help people who need help.

Currently, Dr. Nelson explained, there is very little peer-reviewed and published empirical research on Internet gambling. Until recently, theoretical propositions and opinion papers represented most of the professional discussion surrounding this topic, and the available empirical findings have been from studies that use variations of self-reporting methodology.

Dr. Nelson stated that Internet gambling provides unique opportunities for the study of gambling behavior and problem gambling. Unlike land-based gambling, the technology that makes Internet gambling a potential risk also allows for the study of actual real-time gambling behavior., the largest publicly-listed online gambling operator, offered data to help Dr. Nelson and her colleagues improve the player protection process of Internet gambling. Dr. Nelson and her colleagues identified four key questions to help them study real-time gambling behavior:

1. Who gambles on the Internet?

2. What are the play patterns of most Internet gamblers?

3. Is Internet gambling particularly addictive?

4. Is it possible to detect and isolate individuals with excess patterns of play?

The data provided three different samples of Internet gambling:

– Internet sports betting, which consisted of a sample size of 40,499 sequentially subscribed Internet sports gamblers over the course of eight months.

– Internet casino betting, which consisted of 4,222 sequentially subscribed Internet casino gamblers over the course of 24 months.

– Internet poker betting, which consisted of 3,445 sequentially subscribed Internet poker players over the course of 24 months.

After further examination of these data, Dr. Nelson and her colleagues made the conclusion that “the results do suggest problem gambling is not as common among Internet gamblers as the speculations and the consequent conventional wisdom suggested.” One caveat was that researchers were not able to capture the players’ variations in levels of disposable income, which might broaden understanding of Internet gambling behavior. Dr. Nelson stated that the project revealed it is possible to study actual gambling behavior, and the results from these studies reveal findings quite different from expectations. She also noted that behavioral markers can be used to identify Internet gamblers at risk for experiencing problems.

Dr. Nelson also mentioned that she and her colleagues are currently working to develop an algorithm to help with early detection of gambling-related problems to all for proactive player protection.

Continue to visitGambling Disorders 360°for daily updates, on-site reporting about the sessions and audio interviews from leading researchers and industry representatives.

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