May 1, 2013

Internet gambling: Is it worth the risk?

My View by Jan Zacharias

Editor’s note: This is the last part in a four-part series.

In this four-part series we have taken a look at both the “educational” sites where gambling is free and the sites where you pay to play. There are some unique aspects of gambling online that may contribute to developing an addiction.

The first risk is around access, anonymity and convenience. Access to the Internet is now commonplace and can be done from many locations, including both work and home. You don’t need to get in your car and travel; you don’t even need to get dressed. Online casinos are open 24 hours a day and those who so choose can gamble all day every day of the year.

As well, online gambling occurs in familiar and comfortable places such as your home or your workplace, which can work to counter the feeling of risk associated with this activity and make the player feel safe and take more chances than otherwise.

The Internet also allows online players to gamble without the stigma that is sometimes associated with gambling. This anonymity leads to an enhanced feeling of comfort and control, which can provide the user with a greater sense of perceived control over the experience. These factors may account for the increased percentage of women who gamble online.

Age verification is also difficult and that makes it attractive for underage players who are comfortable using the Internet.

The second risk involves the nature of the Internet itself and the Ability to engage in Continuous play. People often report that they lose track of time and enter a trance-like state. It is a solitary activity and there is no social context to remind you of other commitments. As well, when you go from one game right into the next, there is little time given to financial considerations and winnings can be gambled again almost immediately.

All of these factors can contribute to the addictive nature and make it possible for a player to lose a very large amount of money in a short period of time.

The third risk peculiar to Internet gambling involves the use of a credit system to play. This gambling with electronic cash (e-cash) tends to diminish the value of real cash. This is well known – people typically spend more on credit and debit cards because it is easier to spend money using plastic. Using e-cash disguises the true value of the money wagered and makes it easier to gamble winnings.

All of these unique factors can contribute to a potential addiction.

There are a number of things that a player can do to minimize the risks associated with online gambling. The most important thing a player can do to minimize risk is to only gamble on legal and regulated sites. These sites allow you to monitor your spending and time online. They also allow you to self-exclude should you find yourself spending more time or money than you can afford. In B.C, a regulated site would have the B.C Lottery Corp. logo.

A player must keep track of the amount of time and money spent online. Only play with the money that you can afford to lose. Remember, the money is real. Set limits for yourself and stick to them. Never lose more than you intended to win back the money that you have lost. Accept loss as a part of the game.

Finally, when gambling, make sure that you take long breaks and avoid continuous playing sessions. Gambling on the Internet should be only one of the many entertainment options. And if these strategies don’t work and your luck runs out, contact the free services of the problem gambling program by calling 1-866-678-0524.

published on 09/22/2006