Australian Internet Gambling Research Study Offers Insights Into Player Behavior
Gambling Research Australia has released the results of an extensive research study into the practices, beliefs and demographics of online gamblers and gambling, providing the gaming world with one of the most thorough examinations of its type to date.
The 397-page report, titled “Interactive Gambling,” was the result of a two-and-a-half study conducted by commissioned researchers at Australia’s Southern Cross University. The study also covered multiple aspects of the interactive technology used for online gambling, from the various electronic devices themselves (laptops, tablets, “smart” devices, etc.), and the many forms of online gambling, such as poker, casino games, sportsbetting sites and other gaming opportunities that are generally available to consumers.
Among the key findings were that “interactive” (online) gamblers were a clearly definable, heterogenous population, meaning that they had both similarities and “significant differences” when compared as a group with land-based casino gamblers. The researchers also found that the online-gambling niche is likely to see increased participation compared to land-based gambling, for various reasons, and thus warrants continued research study and funding.
According to the study, online gamblers indeed fit the demographic epitomized by many of the online gambling world’s outposts, being predominantly male (more male by percentage than live casino-goers) and younger than typical casino visitors. Online gamblers also tend to have “more positive views of gambling than land‐based gamblers and were engaged in a significantly greater number of gambling activities.”
Does online gambling then lead to increase in problem gambling, with its increased favorable ratings and generally greater activities? The researchers noted a slight uptick in problem-gambling reports among the survey’s respondents, but noted that the study was not designed to determine causality.
One major plus in online poker’s favor was that poker checked in at a much lower rate of problem gambling, according to the survey’s respondents — 9.8% of online poker players reported experience some difficulties related to online gambling, compared to about 18.6% for all online gamblers regardless of activity. That 9.8% number was also lower than the percentage of brick-and-mortar gamblers who reported “negative consequences” connected to their gambling activities, which the Aussie study pegged at 12%. However, the 9.8% was higher than the comparative “live poker” figure of 4.8%.
Whether or not online gambling leads to any sort of increased problem gambling or whether the increase the researchers found reflects any sort of causality, this study indicates that poker and online poker players are a lessened part of it — poker, live and online both, is among the gambling forms least likely to lead to problem-gambling difficulties. That truism was also reflected in another part of the study, which focused on 31 self-identified problem gamblers, but only two of those played significant amounts of online poker and categorized themselves as online poker players.
The researchers themselves also cited the “greater degree of movement” available to online gamblers that had previously been reported in other studies, and noted that the majority of the self-identified problem gamblers also gambled regularly live — they had, in effect, transferred their previous problem behaviors into the online environment.
Online gambling does not appear to create problem gambling or gambling addiction where the behavior did not already previous exist, a finding that shoots holes in the anti-online-gambling arguments of American casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who continues to fight to keep access to online gambling off limits for the United States, among the least open of major industrialized countries in that regard.
The Australian gambling market, by comparison, provided a good medium for such a research effort, given its generally liberal and open nature,. Most forms of online gambling, from sportsbetting to poker and casino games, are available to its citizens. The massive research effort was also able to implement a “multi-modal” approach in building a comprehensive base of research subjects. Included in the overall study were:
- 15,006 respondents to a nationally representative telephone survey
- 4,594 respondents to an online survey of gamblers
- 50 lengthier interviews with interactive gamblers
- 31 lengthy interviews with interactive gamblers self-identified as seeking treatment for problem gambling
- The collection of data from gambling help services
The study also built among dozens of previous research efforts culled from the past decades from the international gambling community.
Overall, this latest addition to the growing field of internet gambling research studies offers plenty of data, and both sides of the gambling argument, pro and anti, are likely to find some numbers or findings to cull. Online poker, however, emerges as a winner, a relatively safe activity less likely than other gambling forms to cause or contribute to problem or addictive behavior.