A marketing professor from the University of Western Ontario is calling for the legalization of online gambling as a way to better regulate it and reduce its potential harmful effects.
June Cotte, associate professor of marketing and George and Mary Turnbull Fellow at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, conducted a study in which she and her colleague Kathryn Latour, from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, interviewed 20 regular casino gamblers and 10 regular online casino gamblers.
Using pictures as stimuli, their goal was to learn what gambling feels like and how it is perceived. The results showed that online gamblers gamble more frequently and aggressively.
According to a press release from the Richard Ivey School of Business, the reason online gamblers tend to play more frequently and more aggressively is because it is as easy as the click of a computer mouse and is easily integrated into their daily routines.
In contrast, casino gamblers need to travel to an outside location to gamble, which makes their activities more difficult to hide and gives them less time to actually spend on gambling activities.
Online gambling also lacks social interaction, which means participants are playing for the game only, rather than for other reasons, which could in turn increase the risk of addiction.
"The unregulated online environment results in a more chaotic environment with no clear social norms and rules. The meaning of gambling changes, moving from a shared conviviality available in the casino to a no-holds-barred battle online. It brings out the gamblers' more competitive side," said Cotte.
"When not seen as reserved solely as behavior for an outing or a special occasion, gambling is more likely to become a pernicious, insidiously integrated component of a consumer's life."
Cotte's study noted that this is particularly concerning because even though online gambling is a legal gray area in some countries, it is still easy for residents in those nations to access online gambling sites based in countries where it is legal.
On the other hand, casino gambling is highly regulated and scrutinized.
"One potential solution is to allow legitimate corporate sponsors, like the corporations that run the major casinos in Las Vegas or the government sponsors in Canada, to enter into a newly regulated market for online gambling," Cotte said.
"Just as legalized commercial gambling in casinos allows governments to regulate it, so, too, could the legalization of online gambling allow for better regulation and attempts to reduce the growth of problem gamblers."
Some of the strategies Cotte and Latour believe could be applied to online gambling if it were legalized and regulated include:
- Better use of age checks when signing up for an account
- Cross-checking new users with lists of pathological gamblers
- Setting financial limits on gambling and having the site communicate to gamblers how much they are spending in time and money on the site
- Making problem gambling treatment information available via pop-ups and instant messages
- Having an online gambling counselor available on the site
- Setting mandatory "cooling-off periods," which require gamblers to stop playing for a certain amount of time before they can wager money from their accounts again
- Making the wins and losses more central and larger on the screen so players will have increased awareness of where they stand
Cotte and Latour are also recommending that online gambling sites minimize their use of flashing bold graphics to signal wins in order to lessen the impact of the emotional experience for gamblers.