Internet gambling opponents who use the argument that Internet gambling is especially addictive had a setback this week with the release of news from a recent Harvard study.
The respected daily college newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, reported that the study was conducted by the Harvard Medical School Division on Addictions and suggests that the widespread availability of Internet gambling has not led to an increase in the number of people addicted to gambling.
The study actually found that gamblers who visit gaming Web sites are more likely to self-regulate their betting behaviour based on their pattern of wins and losses, the newspaper informed. Those who are addicted to gambling do not exhibit such control.
Working with the major European Internet gambling group Bwin with access to substantial data, the Division began its extensive study in February 2005 with a survey of 3 445 voluntary Bwin members. The participants’ outcomes were analysed over the course of two years, and the number of chips they bought and sold per session was tallied.
The study specifically investigated online gambling as “a potential object of addictive behavior,” and concluded that the availability of Internet gambling is not correlated to gambling addiction.
“The very first thing we learned, which we didn’t expect, was that the vast majority, the overwhelming majority, of gamblers online gamble in a very moderate and mild way,” said HMS Associate Professor of Psychology Howard Shaffer regarding the study.
He revealed that approximately 95 percent of the poker players studied only bought a median of about $15.65 in chips at two poker sessions per week.
“A minority of players did not show such moderation,” the study noted, commenting that around 5 percent of the respondents bet in excess of the norm, buying a median of $116.13 in chips at 10 sessions per week.
The study additionally showed that the percentage of American problem gamblers has barely changed since the 1970s, hovering around 0.6 percent of the United States population.
Andrew M. Woods, the executive director of Harvard Law School’s Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society, said he did not find the results of the study surprising, adding that poker is less like gambling and more like “risk assessment.”
According to Woods, other casino games, such as blackjack, have a built-in advantage towards the house, making it less likely for players to win money.
“There is no house in poker, so no one is guaranteed to win,” Woods said.
“Poker exercises your ability to make good decisions,” he said, reflecting on the mild betting habits of online players.
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