Online casinos and gambling websites are among the fastest growing and most profitable businesses today. There are many features of internet gambling that potentially makes it more addictive and risky than gambling in a casino:
If a problem gambler spends a considerable amount of time gambling at a casino, someone will likely notice (for example, his friends, family, casino staff, etc.). Online gamblers can play at work, at home, or even on smart phones without anyone being aware that they are gambling.
With online gambling, access to one’s bank account is always accessible – which makes the likelihood of “chasing losses” and impulse betting much greater compared to locations where one must physically withdraw money from a bank machine.
A very important part of gambling addiction treatment is having a strategy to avoid play. For traditional gambling, this generally means avoiding casinos, VLTs, bars, or other physical locations where gambling is made available. With online gambling avoiding the strategy to avoid access is much more difficult. Every computer with internet access (whether it is at work, home, or somewhere else) becomes a virtual casino easily accessible to the gambler.
One of the most common “tricks” used by online casinos is to offer a “free-to-play” version of their games. Of course, the goal is to introduce new players to online gambling and make them feel comfortable placing real bets with real money after they have had some success with the free version. And how do internet gambling websites make sure that new players are successful? Usually, the odds are inflated to favor the player when they are gambling with play money. By doing so, the player incorrectly assumes that the success they had with the free version will translate into success when using real money. Of course, the odds change in favor of the house as soon as real money is involved.
On the internet it is sometimes easy to forget that electronic money is still real money. Players may be able to use credit cards to deposit money into an online account that they can access as funds run out.
Internet gambling websites may use computer programs to represent what one may believe to be real human players. These “poker bots” may be programmed for both optimal play and to increase the amount that the human players are actually betting.
Whereas traditional casinos may be able to ban problem gamblers, there is little to prevent a compulsive gambler from accessing online gambling sites at will. Online gambling sites typically do have policies on restricting access (to underage players and to those who have voluntarily banned themselves), but their ability to actually enforce this is questionable. Furthermore, a player banned from one site can simply sign up at another online casino.
Online gambling at home provides greater convenience and comfort than playing in a casino, allows bets to be placed without the scrutiny of others, offers a more immerse interface, and allows players to place bets after heavy consumption of drugs or alcohol – all factors which can increase both the amount of time spent gambling and the amount of money wagered.
Players who mistakenly provide personal information or credit card details to a non-reputable online gambling website may be placing themselves at risk for identity theft and credit card fraud.