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It is a commonly held notion that the first online gaming site originated offshore in Antigua in the mid 1990’s, and the first online casino appeared in 1995. Today, with bolstered internet security and the demands of individuals for privacy and convenience of access, online gambling is surging to new heights. Forbes estimated that $15 billion dollars are spent worldwide on online poker alone, with $6 billion dollars coming directly from the United States. Sports betting attracts 32 million users in Canada and the USA. It therefore comes as no surprise that online gambling, also known as Internet gambling and iGambling, offers an easy and often unforgiving resource for those wishing to gamble or for those with a predisposition for addictive behaviour.
Many jurisdictions worldwide have put heavy restrictions on users for taxation and legal reasons. Countries like Russia and India disallow any gambling that uses technology as a launching point for distribution. However, Forbes reports that online gambling is expected to be a legal entity entirely in the US within a year or so as to capitalize on the advantages of taxation to governments. In Canada, some provincial jurisdictions offer interactive casino type games for online play, however there are also 1200-1400 offshore online sites available to Canadians as well. Hence, it is not surprising that the numbers of users are expected to increase dramatically because if someone wants access to the online gambling world, it’s readily available:
According to a report published by the Nova Scotia Gaming Foundation, 6% of 15-17 year olds have gambled online for money. The same report concludes that 6-9% of high school students and college students across the United States and Canada enjoy online gaming. Further, it appears that the most common group for online poker is 26-35 years of age while casino style is preferred by ages 46-55.
While online gambling continues to grow, so must problem gambling support.Canadian online gambling sites offer Responsible Gambling tools on their sites to promote responsible play. These customized player management tools allow the player to set limits in an effort to manage possible risky behaviors. Some tools that are offered include:
o Self-awareness tests that allow the user to take inventory of their gambling behavior and to assist in selecting appropriate limits for their individual level of play.
o Set deposit and loss limits on a user’s online gambling account, to restrict the amount to play or lose.
o Establish a session time for the user by using a game session timer. This helps keep track of the length of time a user has been playing.
o Access time-out and self-exclusion tools. These tools allow a user either to take a short break for a couple of days or if needed, to completely block access to the site.
For those who choose the internet as their medium to gamble, they may also choose it as their modality for support. Gamtalk offers an online supportive community with peer-based forums to allow gamblers to discuss their problems and share ideas on how to manage gambling habits. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Canada’s largest mental health and addictions teaching hospital, is also a great resource.
In addition to traditional methods of support such as Gamblers Anonymous, in person sessions with trained counsellors, and EFAP counselling, technology is advancing and offers some other solutions: peer based support sites and mobile applications (apps) that are free and accessible to anyone with a mobile telephone. Apps can be downloaded to the user’s mobile phone and they cover a wide range of topics from general information on gambling, to self-assessments on their individual play as well as problem gambling prevention. Regardless of the method of assistance chosen, knowing that problem gamblers have support is the first step to recovery.
By Jim Nemeth and Amy Demont. Jim is a Service Coordinator for the Responsible Gambling Resource Centre located in Casino Nova Scotia located in Sydney Cape Breton. Jim has been an employee of Morneau Shepell/RGRC Sydney for over 8 years. Amy started in 2010 as a Team Lead working in the Responsible Gaming Information Centre in Casino NB located in Moncton serving both the patrons and employees of the casino. She currently supervises 5 responsible gambling centres in 3 provinces.