Online punters Downunder wager more money online than gamblers elsewhere in the world, reports the Melbourne Sun Herald this weekend. The newspaper references a new Canadian study by University of Lethbridge professors Robert Wood and Robert Williams which used a research base of 20 000 adults in 105 countries to reach its conclusions.
The study claims that Australian and New Zealand gamblers spend an average of A$435 online every month – five times what punters put through land poker machines – and has prompted renewed calls for bans on online gambling in Australia, the newspaper reports.
The Uni Lethbridge study also found the prevalence of problem gambling was up to four times higher for Internet gamblers than those who used traditional means such as poker machines, an apparent conflict with previous studies including the regular gambling prevalence studies carried out in the UK by the Gambling Commission. Whether this is a conflict, or an indication that Aussie and Kiwi gamblers are more prone to addiction by higher usage, is unclear. The finding is also dependent on what the researchers define as "problem gambling."
Professors Robert Wood and Robert Williams, who conducted the Lethbridge study, concluded: "Australian Internet gamblers do report higher average monthly gambling spending than the overall average we observed among our sample.This would suggest that Australian Internet gamblers do indeed spend more on gambling compared with Internet gamblers from most other countries."
The Salvation Army's problem-gambling service co-ordinator for Australia, Gerard Byrne, said he was not surprised by the figures and called on the Federal Government to ban credit-based betting.
"People are certainly reporting more and more usage of online gambling," Byrne said. "I'm not surprised New South Wales is near the top in problem online gambling. We've got a culture where gambling is the state pastime."
Clubs NSW chief executive David Costello said online gambling should be subject to the same restrictions as the heavily regulated land gambling industry.
"This is a very real issue," Costello said. "It confirms what we've been saying for the past two years: the incidence of Internet gambling is infinitely increasing."
He said there was a danger of young people using their parent's credit cards, with not enough age checks completed.
The news comes after online gambling group Centrebet posted a 23 percent jump in Australian online revenue last month. The company is also expecting a 10 percent increase for the 12 months to June 2009.