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Comparing Online Casinos to Land-Based Casino Gambling Addiction

10 July 2014 by Devon Chappell

HarvardDivisionofAddictionLet’s cut to the chase. The title of this post refers to the drama of Sheldon Adelson’s war against online gambling and his tirade claiming online gambling is evil and will lead to the worst addictive form of gambling ever. This, from a man who operates one of the largest casino brands in the world, and who amassed hundreds of millions of dollars from gambling revenue.

Beyond the hypocrisy and sheer craziness of Adelson’s heightening actions of being hell-bent on eradicating online casino gambling due to unprecedented addictiveness, I wanted to look into the real deal between online wagering and land-based casino activity pertaining to addiction.

Personally, I will never forget the first time I ever visited a brick and mortar casino. It was in Las Vegas, where Adelson has several high profile casino properties. I could feel my stomach drop with anticipation and I was overwhelmed and on sensory overload. I didn’t have a bankroll to speak of, but still had visions of losing the little money I did have. And yet, I was beyond seduced by the chance of winning. Swiftly, my thoughts were not on the losing but the winning. I didn’t care what time it was or what day of the week. I was inside a casino where money was waiting to be won. At least that is what all the signs eluded to.

The physical presence of being inside that casino was like nothing else I’ve experienced while playing cards at home with friends or spinning the slots on my laptop. This casino, like so many others, was enchanting.

Since that experience, I’ve witnessed online casino gaming grow into a multi-billion dollar industry within several worldwide markets. Likewise, the gambling online industry has seen its fair share of successes and controversy. But, is it really more addictive than land-based play? Really?

Just as computers have effected other industries like shopping and social activity, the digital age has affected the gambling industry. After all, computers have become designed so that you can do almost anything from home that you can do in other consumer sectors. I know people that don’t even leave the house to do most of their shopping, including groceries.

There are many attractive nuances about online casinos and I don’t have to mention the convenience of it all. But I honestly have to say that there is nothing like walking through an actual casino. I personally would have no problem taking more risks at a land based casino. Unlike Adelson, I believe the Las Vergas Strip offers me way more trouble than playing at an online casino, where limitations are enforced much faster I might add.

Historically, there have been issues with collecting reliable data based on the addictive nature when comparing online play versus land-based play. Misreporting of statistics (intentional and unintentional) by study participants also compromises findings. Who really wants to be truthful about their behavior if what they perceive it to be is wrong (whether it truly is or not)? But, the online gambling industry is much better tracked, as all data from game play is documented by computer action. Finally, there is now an opportunity to obtain large amounts of unbiased data about gamblers as they operate in regulated gambling casinos.

Overwhelmingly, data shows that casino players online show remarkable restraint. I have a very hard time believing Adelson, an otherwise successful business man, has not seen any of the studies conducted by the Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addiction.

Harvard conducted research about internet casinos, where several general conclusions about online casino player behavior has been concluded based on analyzing data of tens of thousands of sports bettors, online casino gamblers, and poker players over a period of two years. This research was in partnership with the well known casino brand, bwin.

This specific study showed that in each gambling category, most all players gambled infrequently and in moderation, while a small fraction of online players (1-5%) showed high amounts of game play that far exceeded that of the rest of the players.

This research shows that widely available online casino activity will not likely be any societal destruction, as Adelson has claimed. What’s more, the effects of the large amounts of increase in exposure to gambling online offers are actually relatively mild. Lastly, land based casinos simply pose more distraction, which leads to unfocused decisions.

So then, what gives, Adelson?  It’s not even about the casino games is it?

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