Is Online Gambling Really a Scourge or are we being Dooped?
One of the most widely discussed topics among mental health experts nowadays is problem gambling. Where a couple of years back problem gambling was seen as this important but not as disastrous a problem, it has now become a key concern for many countries around the world.
At first glance, it seems logical. The online casino industry is so wide spread and easily accessible that almost everyone can jump aboard and start gambling. And with so many lucrative offers given by casinos (visit here for evidence), it’s easy to assume that out of those that do, there will be a great deal of players who will take casual gaming too far.
But is this really the case? Is the online gaming industry creating a massive problem? Well, let’s take a look at the statistics.
Is There a Problem? – A UK Perspective
One of the largest online gambling markets in the world is the UK market. Following the 2014 regulatory changes by the UK Gambling Commission (UK GC), there are now many online operators open to UK players who have become responsible for interesting changes in market trends.
According to an official 2016 report from the UK Gambling Commission, the online (or remote) gambling sector earned 29% of the entire gambling industry’s revenue during 2014-2015. The total Gross Gambling Yield (GGY) for that period was £12.6 billion, out of which only £3.6bn went to online betting, bingo and casino operators.
However, despite the smaller percentage in GGY, the online sector actually became the leading market that contributes to gambling problems. According to 2015 statistics gathered by Gam Care, a UK support charity for gambling addicts, online gamblers were the leading addicts and made:
• 37% of all callers to the Gam Care Help Line;
• 60% of Gam Care Net Line (online support) users;
• 46% percent of all reaches.
This is a large increase over the previous year, where betting shops were leaders in problem gambling with 43% of all calls, and only 34% were due to online gambling. But during 2014/15, the trend was shifted towards online gambling and the percentage of betting shop addicts who reached the support lines fell down to 38% of all calls.
Considering the statistics and the fact that betting shops had a market share of 25%, or 4% less than the online gaming sector in 2014/15, it’s easy to conclude that online gambling was the leading industry in terms of problem gambling in the country. However, these are only statistics from two bodies in the UK. The complete magnitude of the problem on a global level is yet to be measured via cross-studies.
Who’s affected Most?
When it comes to online problem gambling, the number one risk group is young people in their early-mid twenties. The exact cause of this trend is yet to be defined, but one assumption is that this is the age category to which the most active users of mobile technology belong.
According to a study from the North Carolina University in Wilmington, 75% of all college students reported having gambled, while 67% did sport betting. Similar trends were observed in Australia as well, where the 18-24 year olds were observed to be the most frequent users of poker machines.
Furthermore, the UK GC 2016 report puts gamblers aged 18-24 at the highest risk of problem gambling. This fact is only confirmed by the findings of the Gam Care, where the highest numbers of calls for several consecutive years were placed by people aged 18-35.
Now this information might not be concerning as is. However, when you add the fact that young people in their 20s are the most frequent gambling addicts that turn themselves into help centers, it really puts another perspective to the problem.
How is it becoming a Problem?
The underlying cause of problem gambling can, of course, be found in the rapid expansion of technology. But still, most agree that casino operators should take a big part of the blame.
The primary source of the problem, as most analysts and treatment clinics see it, is the in-game advertising of gambling operators, which is especially popular in Europe.
For example, as the head of the UK GC recently reported, in 2016, about £120 million were spent on advertising by operators, but only £6.5 million on promoting problem gaming treatments. When you consider this dramatic difference, it feels as though operators are less inclined towards preventing addiction and more towards spreading operations.