The aim of advancing technology has always been to make life on planet earth easier and more efficient. For the most part, it’s pretty easy to determine that’s exactly what each new innovation brings to the masses. It’s certainly true for the online gambling industry.
After an extended period where online gamblers were confined to their homes and offices while gambling online, software developers moved the ball forward by innovating mobile gambling apps and optimized websites.
What often gets overlooked is there’s sometimes a tradeoff when new innovations come to market. While most people seem to benefit by a new innovation, there are others that suffer the consequences. Over the past five years, mobile casinos and sports betting sites have seen explosive growth. Some experts now estimate that 50% of all online gambling is being done through mobile devices (tablets, smartphones). What’s the not so wonderful trade off associated with this advancing innovation?
What is a Problem Gambler?
It makes little sense to debate issues related to problem gambling without defining what constitutes someone actually being a problem gambler. Gambling opponents will point to a sports gambler whose angry about the outcome of a sports event and proclaim that individual has a gambling problem. If they consistently get angry about losses, they might have a problem, but the definition of problem gambling goes much deeper.
Without trying to get too complicated or eloquent about the definition of problem gambling, we’ll simply go with the American Psychiatric Association’s definition: “A Gambling disorder or problem gambling issue involves repeated problematic gambling behavior that causes significant problems or distress in the individual’s life.” Significant problems could include financial problems, issues at work/school, legal issues and relationship problems.
Does Mobile Access to Gambling Sites Create More Problem Gambling Issues?
Opponents of any form of online gambling will argue that any innovation that increases access to online gambling sites is going to naturally prompt more people to fall victim to too much gambling.
The reality is anyone predisposed to gamble online for a few hours will likely find access one way or another. That doesn’t mean it’s going to evolve into a problem. If the individual already has a significant gambling problem, of course being able to gamble anywhere at anytime using a mobile device is going to exacerbate the problem. Both of these notions are stipulated.
The discussion really needs to be directed towards whether or not mobile gambling access unto itself creates more problem gambling issues.
The one barrier PC online gambling offers is it requires that the individual has to eventually walk away to deal with other aspects of their life. They have to go to work/school, attend to family and handle personal responsibilities. Mobile devices are ever present in the lives of many people who can’t fathom going anywhere, including the restroom, without their device(s) in hand. Given the fact people can actually become addicted to their mobile devices (texting, Facebook), it’s not much of a stretch to think that easy and constant access to mobile gambling sites could in act create more problem gambling issues in society.
It’s also important that we don’t avoid the issue of how access to online gambling sites can affect minors. Try as they may, it’s nearly impossible for online gambling sites and mobile apps to police the industry. The only real checkpoint a teenager is going to encounter if they want to wager on sports online is age and residence verification. How reliable has that been?
Addressing the Problem Gambling Issue in General
Any positive stimuli that has the ability to massage the brain has the potential of creating an addiction. The most important question is, “does the gambling industry do all it can to help problem gamblers?”
In land-based casinos, there are well-tuned security measures in place that keep minors away from the machines and tables. While there are also rules and regulations related to underage online and mobile gambling, enforcement of those rules is difficult. Most online operators will act quickly to shut down a problem gambler when the issue becomes apparent.
It really comes down to personal responsibility. It’s incumbent on gamblers to act responsibly on their own behalf. If they have a problem, online and mobile sites do provide self-exclusion options and access to problem gambling resources. For minors, parent cannot abdicate their parental responsibilities when comes to teaching and controlling their kids.
Mobile and online gambling is here to stay. As a society, we must innovate as many ways to protect problem gamblers as we are innovating ways for people to access gambling sites.
Author Bio: Tony Samboras