When you play at an online casino, do you do so on a bus, where you have to pay attention to your surrounds and there are people all around you? Or do you prefer to play in the comfort of your own home, sitting on your couch or in your chair? What about if you gamble in a brick-and-mortar casino? What does the layout do to your behavior?
We’ve looked at the differences between gambling online and in a casino and how much players spend there. We’ve also shown you that online gambling doesn’t cause any more problems than gambling in real life. But why is that?
Show me the numbers!
In one study conducted by the Harvard-affiliated Division on Addiction, and co-funded by bwin, a major online casino, it was found that, from the sample of 4,000 online gamblers followed over a 9-month period, players played a median of once every 2 weeks, losing only 5.5 percent of their wagers. In another study, 40,000 online sports bettors were followed and found to place a median of 2.5 bets of $5.50 every fourth day.
“Median” is important here, as there’s a small minority of between 1 and 5 percent of players who show problem gambling habits. We’ll come back to this a little bit later, though, so bear that in mind.
But if you look at the figures above, you’d be forgiven for asking where all the anti-gambling rhetoric is actually coming from. It seems like, with figures like this, even anti-gambling activists would do well to promote online gambling, rather than its land-based cousin, as the supposed “lesser of two evils.” And here’s why they should be promoting this form of gambling, rather than clamping down on online gambling like they’re currently doing in the UK.
Functional vs Playground-style Casinos
It turns out that where we’re gambling affects us more than we’d like to think. An additional and very interesting study conducted by researchers from the University of Guelph in Canada showed that, depending on whether a casino was purely functional, or was designed as more of a “playground,” gamblers were more or less inclined to bet more and feel good about their losses.
The more of a playground a casino is, the more likely people are to place big bets. It becomes more of a lifestyle, relaxation-type environment, than just some place you go to place bets. This kind of theory is proven by the difference in income between the big themed casinos like the Bellagio in Vegas versus more functional environments in other smaller casinos. Basically, it would appear, once you’re submerged in the gaming world, you’re more in tune with the necessary mindset.
In contrast, then, online casinos generally don’t immerse you in the same way. Players are more likely to metaphorically dip their toes in rather than jump headlong into the pool, in part because they’re more isolated. Which then brings us on to another point as to why there may be less of a problem with addiction online than in real life.
As pointed out by several poker players who’ve had some success both on- and offline, playing on your computer at home is not as community-driven as when you play at a casino. You’re not subject to peer pressure to the same extent, or to the desire to gain status within the poker “community.” No, you’re on your own, at home, with the voices in your head telling you what to do… I mean, you’re not being egged on. When you feel you’ve gambled enough, you simply log off and head out, without any loss of face. You’re not so immersed in the world, or so connected to other people, that you feel like you simply have to play another hand or lose their respect.
The Fine Print
Of course, this all comes with a plethora of provisos. Most people don’t become gambling addicts, but then again, most people don’t become addicted to drugs. That doesn’t make the heroin addict’s problems any less of a problem — they’re his problem, regardless of other people’s experiences. Studies specifically look at the median mentioned earlier because problem gamblers throw the results quite severely.
But although that looks like it might be a problem, it’s not. If we’re looking at the gambling “community” overall, it seems like PC-based casinos cause no more problems than other casinos, and, looking at the statistics we’ve quoted previously, online casinos in fact have less of a negative effect than brick-and-mortar casinos. Despite problem gaming from a minority, overall, online players are restrained, controlled individuals who know when to bet and when to call, and indeed, even when to fold. Responsible gambling is the norm, rather than the exception.
So when you read about the bad impact of online casinos, bear in mind the following: online gamblers gamble less often, spend less money, and are more restrained than their real-world counterparts. Sitting at home in your living room (or wherever) actually limits the amount you spend, and, as we pointed out in a previous article, strictly enforced age limits and self-exclusion facilities serve to prevent dangerous gambling habits from developing.
Bear this in mind when playing at your favorite online casino. Despite a lot of the rhetoric surrounding it all, online gambling is not the big bogeyman that anti-gamblers make it out to be. It can be, and is, a fun and relatively harmless pastime for millions around the world. Just don’t get in over your head.