Here at the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ), we help people find the resources they need to gain control of their skill-based problem gambling in Atlantic City and other casino gambling hubs. But in the past 15 years or so, a new form of gambling has grown in popularity: internet gambling. In 2013, this form of gambling was legalized in New Jersey, and there are numerous websites that are authorized and approved to do business within the state.
What Is Internet Gambling?
Also known as online gambling or interactive remote gambling, internet gambling is, in many ways, potentially more dangerous than casino gambling, even when it is done on a legally authorized site. (Illegal sites present even more hazards, which we’ll only touch on briefly.) Here are some reasons that even legal online gambling can be dangerous:
1. Lack of a Physical Location Increases Accessibility
When you want to curb your casino gambling, an obvious step is to stop going to casinos. This is often easier said than done for problem gamblers, but it is possible with willpower and support. Avoiding online gambling platforms is much more difficult because the temptation will be there whenever you log onto your computer or look at your phone.
This also makes it more difficult for your loved ones to keep tabs on your gambling. If a problem gambler unexpectedly disappears for a while, his or her friends and family will likely be able to figure out what’s going on: the player has gone to a casino. Since you can gamble online wherever you are, it’s harder for others to tell how much time you’re spending on your gambling. 1This makes it less easy for them to determine the extent of your problem and get you the help you need.
2. Without Physical Cash, Losing Doesn’t Feel as Bad
When you lose at a casino, a physical object such as chips, coins, or cash, leaves your possession. Via online gambling, however, losses are only visible as numbers on a screen, so the money you’ve lost feels more abstract and less tangible.2
Since your only limit is the amount of money in your account, you can lose thousands of dollars or more. This makes online gamblers more prone to impulse betting and major losses.
3. Online Gambling is Anonymous
The anonymity of online gambling can make it harder for players to control themselves. Casinos typically don’t allow people who are visibly intoxicated to gamble. For example, in Nevada, it’s against the law for a casino to make gambling available to a visibly drunk person.3 Anyone can gamble online, even while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
This anonymity makes online gambling available to anyone, even those who are too young to gamble in a casino. Casinos are regulated by age-limit laws: typically, the rule is that no one under 18 is allowed in a casino, and no one under 21 is allowed in a casino where alcohol is served. Online gambling platforms have no enforceable age barrier.4
4. Online Gambling is Designed to Let You Win… At First
Online gambling platforms know how to make gamblers want to come back for more. They may run promotions or incentives to get you started. Those who experience the initial satisfaction and thrill of winning are likely to return to the platform, even after the promotion is over.
Some gambling applications and freemium games have been suspected of favoring player odds. The goal of this would be to introduce new players to online gambling, making them feel comfortable placing actual bets with real money after they’ve had success in the free version. If the odds are inflated to favor the player when they are gambling with play, or fake, money, it instills an unfounded perception that using real money will bring about the same successful results. But when real money is on the line, the odds could change in favor of the house.
5. Do You Know Who You’re Dealing With?
If you’re going to gamble online, then you need to be sure you’re using a legally-authorized platform. 5 If you choose to play on an illegitimate site, you should know the potential risks:
Do your research beforehand and make sure the website is legal and legitimate by checking New Jersey’s official list of authorized gaming sites: https://www.nj.gov/oag/ge/gamingsites.html
Additional Dangers of Online Gambling
While the above points are some of the most substantial risks, there are other drawbacks and dangers associated with online gambling, including:
Increased Risk of Children Finding — and Using — Online Gambling Platforms
Casinos won’t knowingly allow someone who is underage into the establishment and put security measures in place to enforce that restriction. However, online gambling poses the risk of applications left open, browser and download histories, saved passwords, and even over-the-shoulder influence on children in the household. At any rate, participating in online gambling in the home to a problematic extent introduces a risk factor for children discovering — and perhaps interacting with — virtual casino games and gambling interfaces.
Accelerated Rate of Play
The rapid-fire nature of online gambling entices players to make more and more bets — even if they don’t think twice about it. To illustrate this point, casino card games have an average rate of play of about thirty hands an hour. Online poker, on the other hand, can average sixty to eighty hands per hour.
Online Gambling Offers Little to No Self-Exclusion Measures
While traditional casinos and brick-and-mortar gambling establishments may be able to ban problem gamblers, there’s little to prevent a problem gambler from accessing online gambling sites or downloading gambling apps at will. Online gambling sites typically have policies in place restricting access, especially for underage players and to individuals who have voluntarily banned themselves, but their ability to enforce these rules are debatable at best. Furthermore, a player banned from a single site can simply sign up for another in just a few clicks — an even quicker alternative to visiting various establishments.
Are You Facing Online Gambling Problems? Reach Out to 800-GAMBLER Today
Even if an online gambling site itself is safe, you should exercise caution when using one. If you or someone you know struggles with disordered gambling, help is available via CCGNJ.