Online gamblers who play Internet versions of popular casino games are far more likely to also abuse alcohol and drugs, Montreal researchers have found.
The new study, published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, compared the habits of online and offline gamblers and found the association between Internet gaming and substance abuse.
But lead researcher -- Sylvia Kairouz of Concordia University – said it’s unclear whether online gambling actually leads to greater use of drugs and alcohol.
"We cannot determine… whether gambling on the Internet creates problems in and of itself, or whether those who already have addictive behaviors are more likely to be enticed to gamble on the Internet," said Kairouz. "We need to conduct more research looking at individual characteristics, environmental conditions, the object of the addiction (poker, for example) and so on to help us understand whether this group is more at risk for gambling-related problems.”
Researchers noted the number of gambling sites worldwide has grown from about 15 in 1995 to 2,358 in 2010; global Internet gambling revenues increased from $3 billion to $24 billion between 2000 and 2010.
Kairouz's study analyzed the habits of people who gamble online and offline, documented in the a 2009 Quebec survey. The study centered on 8,456 offline-only gamblers and 111 offline/online gamblers. Gamblers were asked how often they gambled -- weekly, monthly or yearly -- how much money and time, and whether they used alcohol and pot.
"Our results show that online gamblers reported being involved in more types of gambling and they spent more money and time playing than those gambling offline only," said Kairouz. "The proportion of frequent and problematic drinkers and cannabis users was also much higher among the Internet players."