Even though online gambling addiction ("Pathological Gambling" in clinical terms) is essentially diagnosed using the same criteria as "regular" gambling, there are many features of internet gambling that potentially makes it more addictive and dangerous than gambling in a casino:
If a problem gambler spends two or three days gambling at a casino, someone will likely notice (for example, his friends, family, casino staff, etc.). In contrast, online gamblers can play at work, at home, or even on smart phones without anyone being aware that they are actually gambling.
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 this temptation is much more difficult. Every computer with internet access (whether it is at work, home, or somewhere else) becomes a virtual casino awaiting the next bet.
With online gambling, access to one's bank account is always only a click away - which makes the likelihood of impulse betting and "chasing losses" much greater compared to locations where one must physically withdraw money from a bank machine (for example).
In many countries it is illegal to operate an online casino. Therefore, a large percentage of internet gambling websites are registered in counties where online gambling is legal. Not surprisingly, these online gambling businesses are not well regulated. It may be difficult to determine exactly who is running an online casino, whether the stated odds are accurate, and there may be few legal options to pursue if someone has been defrauded.
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? Simple, the odds are inflated to favor the player when he/she is gambling with play money. By doing so, the player incorrectly assumes that the success he / she 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 (just ask any eBay user about how easy it is to chase a bid well beyond what is a reasonable asking price). Players may be able to use credit cards to deposit money into an online account that they can access as funds inevitably 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 / or to increase the amount that the human players are actually betting.
Online gamblers may unknowingly be the victims of deceptive opponent practices. For example, one common technique involves collusion between online poker players. That is, several players are actually in the same physical location and are sharing information to give them an advantage over other players.
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 (for example to underage players and to those who have voluntarily banned themselves), but their ability to actually enforce this is very debatable. Furthermore, a player banned from one site can simply sign up at another with just a few mouse clicks.
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 duration of time spent gambling and the amount of money wagered.
Players who unknowingly provide personal information or credit card details to non-reputable online gambling websites (and there are many) may be placing themselves at risk for identity theft and credit card fraud.
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