Last week I received a summary of research recently conducted in Australia by a team from Southern Cross University led by Dr. Sally Gainsbury. The research, entitled An Investigation of Internet gambling in Australia, represented a broad effort to understand what differences, if any, existed between gamblers who participated in traditional gambling activities like visiting a casino, and those who gambled online through either legal means or illegal offshore gambling sites.
The sample size for the data collection surveys was impressive.
An online survey was advertised at a wide variety of land-based and online gaming sites and received more than 7,000 responses, of which 4,724 completed the entire survey. Once those who did not meet the inclusion criteria were eliminated, data was gathered from 6,682, of which 70% reported gambling online on at least one type of gambling in the previous 12 months.
So who are these people?
Well, by comparing results for the 70% who have gambled online to those that gamble elsewhere, there were some notable differences between the two groups:
- internet gamblers tended to have higher incomes, work full-time (or were students), and were married or living with a partner;
- with a mean age of 39 years, internet respondents were slightly younger;
- internet gamblers held more positive views about gambling than do their land-based counterparts, and supported the notion that all forms of gambling online should be permitted;
- internet gamblers tended to participate in a wider variety of gambling options; and
- most internet gamblers participated using computers at home, with only 6% using mobile phone gambling applications.
Why do they choose to play online?
Perhaps not surprisingly, the reasons people choose to gamble online do so for the same reasons they go online for anything else: convenience. Convenience means access without having to leave home, and access whenever the customer wants it. Interestingly, however, respondents also provided other reasons separated their online experience from visiting land-based facilities: they didn’t have to deal with crowds, or unpleasant people, and the fact that they could gamble in complete privacy.
Of course the online gambling universe is extremely large, so the survey also sought information from online players about where they gamble.
In Australia it’s not illegal for gamblers to gamble online. But, with the general exception of lottery and sport betting offered by land based Australian regulated operators, it is illegal for operators to offer other online gambling products (such as poker or casino games) within Australia. However, this has not prevented international sites from accepting bets from Australians, and to date there have not been any prosecutions of non-Australian operators. What this means is that, like almost everywhere else in the world, Australian online gamblers have many options of where to play than the limited local offerings.
So how do they decide where to play?
When dealing specifically with lottery and Keno products, or online sports betting, most online gamblers chose Australian sites. As for other types of online gambling, most decide based on the reputation of the site, their payout rates, perceptions around gaming integrity and security.
The researchers are quick to point out that the conclusions drawn must be qualified by the fact that respondents were recruited from Australian venues and this may not reflect the actual online player base, many of whom may be exposed exclusively to international gaming sites. There’s an appetite to grow the knowledge base for online play by expanding research to other jurisdictions like Canada.
My next posting will talk more about the Australian research into internet gambling, but we’ll focus on what the researchers learned about risks associated with problem gambling online.