Ontario prof calls for online gambling rules

Toronto – Online gamblers play more frequently and aggressively than those who take their chances in casinos according to a study from the University of Western Ontario that suggests new regulations to govern Internet gambling.

Gamblers are using websites run by offshore companies in „leaps and bounds“ but if there were regulations to oversee Canadian gambling operations there could also be safeguards to reduce problem gambling, said June Cotte, associate professor of marketing at the UWO‘s Richard Ivey School of Business.

„If you regulated it you could put systems into the website that monitor losses, that tell a gambler when they have been playing for eight hours and make them more cognizant of things they can lose track of,“ Cotte said.

Frequent gamblers would prefer to use a website they trusted and would likely choose to gamble through an operator they knew was reputable, Cotte said she found during interviews with 30 gamblers for a study being published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

„Online gambling is happening on such a massive scale that rather and try to shut it down perhaps we should build some better sites with some reputable suppliers,“ Cotte argued.

Toronto gaming law specialist Michael Lipton said globally the online gambling industry is worth more than CAD 15 billion annually.

In Canada, the Criminal Code prohibits online gambling unless run by the provincial lottery agencies which he said have so far offered „modest“ lottery-type products online.

There are 90 jurisdictions around the world including the United Kingdom which licence or „tolerate“ online gambling, Lipton said.

Regulating the industry in Canada would be tax revenue for governments and protections for vulnerable people – including youth, Lipton said.

„There are some very strong reasons as to why our governments should recognize they should regulate online gaming,“ Lipton said.

According to the Responsible Gambling Council, a 2005 study of problem gambling in Ontario found participation among 18 to 24 year-olds in online gambling increased from 1.4 per cent in 2001 to 5.5 per cent in 2005.

The study also found Internet gambling had among the highest rates of frequent participation with 25 per cent reporting they gambled at least once a week and 50 per cent gambling daily.
Poker was the most popular choice for online gamblers, the study reported.

Cotte said Internet gambling is easier to hide and easily accessible for players who will weave their gambling into daily routines.

Regulations could ensure better age checks when gamblers sign-in online and could also include mechanisms to set financial limits, she added.

„They gamble longer they gamble more, not necessarily more money, but it becomes more integrated into their life, Cotte said. „Online gambling is a battle, it’s about winning and nothing else.“