Are Online Gamblers At Higher Risk for Addiction?
Virtual gambling is convenient and easy to access with any internet-connected screen. It takes place 24/7. Does this also mean it is more addictive than its land-based counterpart? Yes, and for a number of reasons.
Now, after so many casinos shut their doors due to the pandemic, gamblers are turning to websites. The industry has been growing vigorously, as so many people feel bored, lonely and stressed. Advertisements for online casinos and sports betting seem ubiquitous, and they do not mention the risks.
When And Why Gambling Becomes A Problem
A casino does not have to be scammy to be addictive. This entire industry is programmed this way. For instance, when you visit sites like wintermoolah.com, the attractive bonuses and offers are bound to catch your eye. Some people may gamble occasionally without serious effects. Others fail to harness their impulses.
So, what separates problem gamblers from the rest? According to the Gambling Commission in the UK, these are mostly unemployed males between the ages of 25 and 34. Consider one of the existing systems — The DSM5 Diagnostic Criteria developed by the American Psychiatric Association. A gambler has a mental disorder when:
their problematic behavior is persistent, and it leads to clinically significant impairment/distress,
they need to play more and bet more money to experience the excitement they want,
they feel restless or irritable when they try to limit or stop gambling,
they have tried doing this in the past to no avail,
their gambling is emotional: they often play when distressed and chase losses,
they lie to hide their preoccupation with gambling,
they have jeopardized or lost a job, relationship, career or educational opportunity as a result of their behavior,
they may rely on other people’s money to resolve financial problems caused by gambling.
As you can see, all of these criteria are applicable to people who play online and at land-based establishments. They have the liking and wanting reward pathways in their brains rewired: as the time passes, they need to spend increasing amounts of time and money in casinos to experience the same level of excitement, inevitably falling into the trap of pathological gambling. Here are five things making digital casinos more addictive:
Obviously, when access to entertainment is literally at your fingertips, quitting is more difficult. You can gamble anywhere you go. When people were confined to their homes during lockdowns, online gambling skyrocketed.
Humans have a penchant for instant gratification and freebies. Online casinos are vying for users’ attention, using attractive welcome offers that lure them in. For example, you may start playing slots with a few dollars, or qualify for no deposit gifts. Other incentives tempt you to come back for more. Gamblers play for free and get a dopamine hit that prompts them to return.
Studies in behavioral economics show that it is more difficult to part with cash than swipe a credit card. The same applies to online transactions. Moreover, if you add a credit card, payments will be automatic. It is easier to ignore them, and your losses will not seem very damaging. What’s more, the size of bets online is smaller, which creates the semblance of affordability.
Casino sites use geolocation to block IPs from restricted countries, but that’s all. Nothing prevents users from using a VPN or logging in when intoxicated. Some lie about their age. As you do not see real people, impersonating someone feels less shameful. Gamblers who have excluded themselves from land-based casinos voluntarily can still play the games online.
Like video games, libraries in digital casinos are packed with features that make them potentially addictive. Developers use clever techniques to boost the appeal and gratification levels. For example, bright lights, lush colors, and feedback loops are well-known psychological cues for engagement. These tricks exploit our natural urges, such as instincts of motivation, competition, exploration and curiosity.
Online gambling is is here to stay, and players should be aware of the potential consequences of uncontrolled pastime. Addiction is a reality for around 3% of the world population. Any form of gambling may cause compulsive behavior, but virtual casinos are more addictive due to the simplicity of access, anonymity and specific features they provide. Remember this the next time you gamble online, and stick to your betting limits.