Online Gambling is an encompassing term that covers all forms of gambling, including virtual poker, casinos and sports betting. It can be conducted via mobile phones and computers, and is an increasingly popular form of gambling.
The rapid pace of change in online gambling has a range of potential harmful effects. It exacerbates addictive behaviours, promotes impulsive and loss-chasing, and undermines self-regulatory efforts by individuals struggling with gambling problems. It also contributes to the broader problem of social isolation amongst individuals who are struggling with gambling issues, as they lack social support and face stigma.
Moreover, these changes are driven by an increasing number of multinational operators, mass-media supported sports and races, digitalisation of betting products, and increased gambling sponsorship and advertising [2,3,4,5,6,7]. These developments are characterised by a corporate ecosystem of multinational gaming operators and mass media-supported betting, combined with the provision of newer online gambling opportunities such as exotic bets with poorer odds and faster financial transactions facilitating greater convenience in wagering.
However, there has been little research exploring how these industry changes have affected contemporary gambling experiences for individual online gamblers specifically. Rather, there is a need for research that can explore how these changes are influencing gambling experiences of the general public, which would enable greater insight into broader trends and provide better understanding of how a range of gambling-related factors might interact to influence gambling problems in individuals.
In this study, we explored the impact of these changes on two distinct sub-samples of non-treatment seekers and treatment-seekers who had been involved in online gambling for around 10 years. We used interviews to explore participants’ perceptions of the changes and how they impacted their gambling experiences.
We found that the majority of treatment-seekers increased their online gambling in response to faster and more convenient access to betting venues. This provided the opportunity to place bets 24 hours a day without the constraints of time, venue closures or social judgment. It also provided them with easier access to a wide range of betting opportunities and the ability to play in a more private environment, enabling increased impulsivity.
Furthermore, the ease of transferring funds to and from betting accounts contributed to impulsive and risky behaviours such as escalating losses, which nurtured persistence and loss-chasing. It also facilitated the emergence of self-destructive attitudes such as the belief that “if you put your money in it, you’re on it” and led to the development of a gambling identity.
These findings provide a valuable insight into the effects of key industry changes, which may assist in developing effective responsible gambling strategies to minimise harm in this area. However, these findings need to be replicated in a larger sample with more certainty of data saturation. Moreover, there is a need to explore the effectiveness of various treatment approaches to combat gambling problems, as the prevalence of gambling-related mental health disorders remains high. This will require collaboration between researchers, operators and regulators to design, evaluate and verify relevant strategies and to implement procedures.