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Why do Internet gamblers prefer online versus land-based venues? Some preliminary findings and implications

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Abstract

At a time when land-based gambling opportunities are widely available, why might some people choose or prefer to gamble on the Internet? We investigate this question using qualitative and quantitative data collected from an Internet-based survey of 1,920 Internet gamblers. The primary reasons people gave for preferring Internet gambling were (a) the relative convenience, comfort, and ease of Internet gambling; (b) an aversion to the atmosphere and clientele of land-based venues; (c) a preference for the pace and nature of online game-play; and (d) the potential for higher wins and lower overall expenditures when gambling online. Findings suggest that online venues may offer their clientele a range of experiences and benefits that are perceived to be unavailable at land-based venues. The authors recommend research into whether a competitive edge exists between different aspects of the gambling market, including Internet venues versus land-based gambling establishments.
R.T. Wood et al.: Why do Internet gamblers prefer online versus land-based venues?
Journal of Gambling Issues: Issue 20, june 2007 http://www.camh.net/egambling/issue20/pdfs/07wood.pdf
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Why do Internet gamblers prefer online versus
land-based venues?
Some preliminary findings and implications
Robert T. Wood, Robert J. Williams, & Paul K. Lawton, University of Lethbridge,
Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. E-mail: robert.wood@uleth.ca
Abstract
At a time when land-based gambling opportunities are widely available, why might some
people choose or prefer to gamble on the Internet? We investigate this question using
qualitative and quantitative data collected from an Internet-based survey of 1,920 Internet
gamblers. The primary reasons people gave for preferring Internet gambling were (a) the
relative convenience, comfort, and ease of Internet gambling; (b) an aversion to the
atmosphere and clientele of land-based venues; (c) a preference for the pace and nature of
online game-play; and (d) the potential for higher wins and lower overall expenditures
when gambling online. Findings suggest that online venues may offer their clientele a
range of experiences and benefits that are perceived to be unavailable at land-based
venues. The authors recommend research into whether a competitive edge exists between
different aspects of the gambling market, including Internet venues versus land-based
gambling establishments.
Keywords: gambling, Internet, online, electronic, survey, preference, convenience,
expenditures
Introduction
Since the beginning of the widespread introduction of Internet access into homes and
workplaces in the early 1990s, Internet gambling opportunities have expanded at an
astonishingly rapid rate, and more and more people are apt to gamble their money online.
In 1995, there were only 24 Internet gambling sites accessible online (Watson, Liddell
Jr., Moore, & Eshee Jr., 2004). Just over a decade later, in 2006, that number has
increased to over 100 times that, to more than 2,500 Internet gambling Web sites,
consisting of 1,083 online casinos, 592 sports and race-books, 532 poker rooms, 224
online bingos, 49 skill game sites, 30 betting exchanges, 25 lottery sites, and 17
backgammon sites (Casino City, 2006).1
It is difficult to determine the actual number of people who gamble online, as it is
certainly a figure that has changed relatively quickly over the past decade. Current
industry estimates suggest that the worldwide number of Internet gamblers is at least 14
million and possibly as high as 23 million (American Gaming Association, 2006a; RSe
Consulting, 2006), although these figures have not been investigated or confirmed by
rigorous academic research. Researchers have, however, attempted to assess the overall
R.T. Wood et al.: Why do Internet gamblers prefer online versus land-based venues?
Journal of Gambling Issues: Issue 20, june 2007 http://www.camh.net/egambling/issue20/pdfs/07wood.pdf
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Internet gambling prevalence rate among the general population in particular
jurisdictions. Observed rates have been consistently low, with most studies conducted in
the late 1990s and early 2000s finding prevalence rates below 2% (e.g., Amey, 2001;
Azmier, 2000; Canadian Partnership for Responsible Gambling, 2004; Brown, Patton,
Dhaliwal, Pankratz, & Broszeit, 2002; Griffiths, 2001; Petry & Mallya, 2004; Smith &
Wynne, 2002; Welte, Barnes, Wieczorek, Tidwell, & Parker, 2002). When examining
more recent studies, we have reason to believe that the rate of Internet gambling is
increasing in many societies. The most recent surveys of the general U.S. adult
population in 2006, for example, have found rates of 3% (Rasmussen Reports, 2006) and
4% (Luntz, Maslansky Strategic Research, 2006). The most recent Canada-wide study
has found rates of 2.3% to 3.6%, with the higher estimate including high-risk stocks and
day trading, and the lower estimate excluding these (Wood & Williams, 2006).
Given the relatively low prevalence rates of Internet gambling, it is no surprise that little
is reported in the academic literature about the demographic characteristics of Internet
gamblers and how they may systematically differ from nongamblers and land-based
gamblers. Recent studies, however, are beginning to shed at least some light on the issue,
suggesting that participation in Internet gambling is indicative of a "digital divide," with
Internet gambling occurring at higher rates among skilled professionals, whose jobs rely
upon familiarity with and competent use of the Internet (Howard, Rainie, & Jones, 2001;
Woolley, 2003). Studies of Internet gambling conducted in Australia, in 2001 and 2002,
partly confirm this digital divide argument, finding that rates of Internet gambling are
higher among men, younger adults, people with professional or managerial occupations,
and people who earn above-average incomes (Woolley, 2003; McMillen & Woolley,
2003). Largely confirming these results, another online study of 552 Internet gamblers
commissioned by the American Gaming Association, in 2006, found that 68% were male,
70% were under 40 years old, 61% had at least a college degree, 41% earned more than
$75,000 a year, almost all of them used the Internet for other activities, and 70% had only
begun gambling online in the past 2 years (American Gaming Association, 2006b). In
addition to these demographic characteristics, a number of studies suggest that Internet
gamblers, relative to others, are much more likely to be problem or pathological gamblers
(Griffiths, Wood, & Parke, 2006; Ladd & Petry, 2002; Wood & Williams, 2007b).
Another issue that has received relatively little attention, and the one that is most
important for the present article, is the reasons that people might choose to gamble
online. Indeed, in most jurisdictions, land-based venues have become far more prolific
and easily accessible. Why then would someone choose to gamble on the Internet instead
of, or in addition to, gambling at a land-based venue? Presumably, for some gamblers, the
Internet affords them an overall experience that they prefer and that land-based venues
cannot provide. A recent American Gaming Association (2006b) study found that the
main reasons people gave for gambling online were convenience (48%);
fun/excitement/entertainment (24%); greater comfort, not having to drive (24%); ability
to win money (9%); and enjoyment of the anonymity and privacy (6%). In another recent
R.T. Wood et al.: Why do Internet gamblers prefer online versus land-based venues?
Journal of Gambling Issues: Issue 20, june 2007 http://www.camh.net/egambling/issue20/pdfs/07wood.pdf
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study, Derevensky, Gupta, & McBride (2006) found that "boredom" and "for excitement"
were the most common reasons cited by Internet-gambling youth and young adults, aged
12 to 24. Recently, Griffiths (2006) has also identified multilingual service, faster play
speed, and the ability to pretend to be the opposite sex as significant advantages afforded
by Internet versus land-based gambling.2 Wood & Williams (2007b) add that some
people may gravitate toward Internet gambling due to their perceptions that online venues
offer better payout rates.
It is encouraging to see studies emerging that investigate the characteristics and
motivations of the growing population of Internet gamblers. Clearly, however, this
population is still lamentably understudied, and substantially more research needs to be
conducted on a wide range of topics and issues related to Internet gambling. The present
study seeks to contribute to this much-needed body of literature by investigating the
characteristics of people who prefer Internet to land-based gambling, as well as the
reasons they provide for gambling on the Internet. This study is largely exploratory in
nature and seeks to establish at least a small foundation from which future, more
comprehensive, studies may proceed.
Methodology
The present investigation stems from a broader survey-based study of Internet gambling
conducted by two of the present authors in 2003 and 2004. This larger study explored the
characteristics of North American Internet gamblers, their gambling behaviour, and their
propensity for problem gambling (see Wood & Williams, 2007b).3 Additionally, and of
importance to the present investigation, respondents were asked about their preferences
for Internet versus land-based gambling, and they were afforded an opportunity to
explain the reasons for their preference for Internet gambling.
Respondents were recruited using prominent banner advertisements placed at three online
gambling portals, to which we have offered anonymity, based in the United States. A
portal is a type of filter site that offers links to and information about thousands of
Internet gambling venues, such as casinos, bingos, and sports books. Portal sites,
however, are not actual gambling sites insofar as they do not host games or betting
services (they simply provide information and links). Clicking the banner advertisement
immediately linked potential respondents to an online questionnaire. As a participation
incentive, respondents were offered a gift valued at $5 U.S. The gift was a hand-sized
plastic coin/token scooper, which is used for scooping coins or tokens out of the trough of
a slot machine or similar gaming machine. Before being linked into the actual survey, all
respondents encountered a home page containing information about the goals of the
study, the voluntary and anonymous nature of their participation, and the contact
information for the primary researcher. This recruitment strategy generated completed
surveys from 1,920 Internet gamblers and was highly demographically diverse (which we
discuss in a forthcoming section). Recruitment and data collection began at the beginning
of October 2003 and finished at the end of January 2004.
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Although our sample was large and diverse, the sample is also self-selected. Thus, it is
not possible to ensure that it is representative of the broader population of Internet
gamblers. Unfortunately, this is simply one of the current pitfalls of research into Internet
gambling. A highly representative sample would perhaps more likely be achieved using
random-digit-dialling (RDD) techniques. However, given the low prevalence rate of
Internet gambling, tens of thousands of screening interviews would be required to
generate even a small sample of only a few hundred (see Wood & Williams, 2007a).
Such an endeavour is potentially cost prohibitive and was certainly beyond the resources
available for the present study. In contrast, our online recruitment technique allowed us to
generate a fairly sizeable sample at substantially lower cost, albeit with some potential
compromise to representation. Thus, we ask readers to bear this potential limitation in
mind when assessing our findings, and we strongly encourage future research into issues
associated with recruiting sufficiently large and representative samples of Internet
gamblers.
In addition to assessing demographic characteristics and gambling behaviour, the survey
included a question asking respondents to report whether they preferred online gambling
as opposed to gambling at land-based venues. 73.8% of the sample claimed that they
preferred Internet gambling, and these people were prompted to explain why they
preferred gambling online by typing an answer in a text-field box. This question yielded
770 open-ended explanations from 536 gamblers (individual gamblers were able to
provide multiple reasons). Critics might observe that this is a relatively low response rate,
with explanations provided by only 38% of all participants who claimed to prefer Internet
gambling. Future studies might achieve a higher response rate by providing both fixed-
choice categories (so respondents pick the reasons for their preference from a list of
choices) and open-ended text fields. Indeed, the inclusion of fixed choices might, for
some participants, reduce the perceived amount of effort involved in providing a rationale
for their preference.
All open-ended responses were content-analyzed using both open and axial coding. Open
coding is a qualitative coding phase whereby we intensively read the 770 open-ended
responses for common themes, patterns, and issues, which we organized and labelled into
preference categories. Twenty distinct preference categories emerged from several phases
of open coding, with an additional "other" category for a small proportion of
idiosyncratic responses (see Table 1). We then used these 21 categories to construct a
coding frame and tally sheet for subsequent phases of axial, or "focussed," coding of the
data. Axial coding entailed revisiting the data, this time using a coding frame to
systematically categorize each respondent’s reasons for preferring Internet gambling and
a tally sheet to numerically assess the frequency of each preference. Axial coding was
conducted separately by two of the three authors. Both parties identically coded 746 of
the 770 responses, yielding a strong reliability coefficient of 0.97.4
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Table 1.
Reasons for preferring Internet gambling versus gambling at a land-based venue.
Reason Percentage of all reasons
given by respondents*
Convenience 12.9%
Ease 12.2%
Comfort 11.7%
Distance from casino 10.0%
Privacy 9.8%
Dislike land-based clientele 5.1%
Dislike crowds 4.7%
Dislike noise 4.1%
Dislike smoke 3.9%
High speed of game play 3.8%
Leisurely pace of game play 3.1%
Lower overall expenditure 3.0%
More fun 3.0%
Preference for Internet interface 2.5%
Higher potential wins 1.8%
Safety concerns 1.6%
Lower secondary costs 1.0%
Aversion to casino atmosphere 0.7%
Land-based gambling illegal 0.5%
Disability 0.4%
Other 4.3%
*Respondents could offer multiple reasons.
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Findings
Sample characteristics
Our sample was highly diverse in terms of its demographic composition (see Table 2 for
a detailed overview). 56% percent of respondents were men and 44% were women. This
suggests that Internet gambling is becoming a less gendered phenomenon than has been
speculated by others. However, further research, with a highly representative sample,
needs to be conducted into the gender distribution of Internet gamblers, and particularly
into potential gender differences in experiences, perceptions, and behaviour related to
Internet gambling. The average age of respondents was 34 years, with a range of 18 to 84
years. Consistent with other studies about the origin of online gamblers (The Wager,
1999), 87% of the sample originated from the U.S., 10% from Canada, and only 3% from
all other countries combined. This distribution, which seems biased toward North
America, is likely partly due to the fact that our survey was only offered in English.
Ideally, in future studies, greater international representation would be desirable,
although it would require fairly costly translation of whatever survey instruments were
used.
On average, respondents reported spending 5 hours per week gambling on the Internet.
The median weekly time reported was 2 hours. Only 4.1% claimed to gamble online in
excess of 20 hours per week. The online game most often played was slots/VLTs
(40.9%), with cards (mostly blackjack) at 33.3%, keno/bingo at 14.4%, sports betting at
6.2%, and dice at 2.7%. A surprising 42.7% of the sample were classified as moderate
(22.6%) or severe (20.1%) problem gamblers using the Canadian Problem Gambling
Index (CPGI, Ferris & Wynne, 2001).5 The computer most often used for online
gambling was located in their own home for 86.6%, whereas 4.3% claimed that their
primary gaming computer was located in their workplace. When asked more specifically
about workplace gambling, a total of 16.3% indicated they gamble from the workplace
either "once in a while" (13.4%) or "often" (2.9%).
Suggesting that the sample comprises relatively computer-savvy individuals, 71.6%
either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "I have a good deal of knowledge
when it comes to using computers." Furthermore, suggesting a high level of comfort with
online transactions, 65.3% either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, "I feel
comfortable buying merchandise or other products on the Internet." Many of the
respondents reported having been active in a number of Internet-based activities over the
previous month.
Of the 1,920 people who participated in the survey, 73.8% indicated that they preferred
Internet gambling over land-based gambling. In order to assess any relationships between
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particular demographic characteristics and a preference for Internet gambling, we cross-
tabulated demographic characteristics by gambling preference (see Table 2). We
conducted chi-square tests to assess the extent to which any observed differences between
categories were statistically significant (asymmetric significance, α = 0.05). The only
differences that were found to be significant were those related to problem gambling,
gender, disability, and game preference. Given the limitations of our data set, we can only
hypothesize at this time about the reasons for these observed differences. Nonetheless, we
offer the following ideas for consideration.
Problem gamblers were significantly less likely than non-problem gamblers to prefer
Internet gambling. This suggests that although many problem gamblers may prefer land-
based gambling, they may utilize online services when land-based ones are unavailable,
closed, or temporarily inaccessible. An alternative explanation may be that problem
gamblers simply are likely to access all forms of available gambling, even though some
forms may ideally be preferred over others.
Among male respondents, 75.6% reported that they preferred gambling on the Internet
versus gambling at a land-based venue. In comparison, 71.5% of women reported the
same. While the difference appears to be small, a marginally significant chi-square
statistic (0.046) indicated that the difference is a systematic one. It is a fairly well-
established fact that Internet use varies according to gender (see Wasserman &
Richmond-Abbott, 2005). Thus, it is possible that our findings simply reflect broader
gender differences in Internet use and Internet communication. Alternatively, however,
these findings might also be reflective of actual gendered experiences while gambling
online, suggesting that online gambling sites are somewhat more hospitable for men than
for women. In any event, it is crucial that future research delve into the issue of gender
differences in the world of Internet gambling.
People identifying themselves as disabled were less likely than nondisabled individuals to
prefer Internet gambling. The data do not provide information about the specific nature of
respondents' disabilities, so it is difficult to provide a nuanced interpretation of this
finding. In cases where peoples' disabilities are physical in nature, one might have
expected that potential barriers related to access and transportation might have resulted in
a preference for Internet gambling instead. However, if many of these individuals use
land-based gambling as an opportunity for social interaction and networking, and if other
such opportunities are relatively limited, then this could account for the significant
difference in disabled versus nondisabled respondents' preferences. In any case, we
encourage other researchers to further investigate this relationship.
Preference for Internet versus land-based gambling also varied significantly by the
specific game respondents reported playing most often. Those who most often played
VLT or slot-type games, often called electronic gaming machines (EGMs), were the most
likely to prefer Internet gambling. Those who most often played keno or bingo were the
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Table 2
Preference by demographic characteristics and game played most often.
Category Percentage of
sample
Percentage preferring
Internet gambling over
land-based gambling
Gender*
Male 55.8 75.6
Female 44.2 71.5
Age
18–19 7.5 73.2
20–24 21.1 76.8
25–29 16.0 70.5
30–34 14.5 69.7
35–39 12.2 70.4
40–44 9.8 74.6
45–49 8.2 76.3
50–54 5.4 80.6
55–59 3.0 82.5
60+ 2.2 75.0
Country of residence
U.S. 86.8 74.1
Canada 10.1 75.5
Other 2.8 60.4
Disability status*
Disabled 12.3 61.7
Not disabled 87.7 75.5
Problem gambling*
Problem gamblers 42.7 66.6
Non-problem gamblers 57.3 79.1
Game played most often
Keno/Bingo* 14.4 62.2
Cards 33.3 74.8
Dice 2.7 64.6
Sports betting 6.2 64.9
Slots/VLT* 40.9 76.2
*Indicates significant chi-square statistic (asymmetric significance, α = 0.05).
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least likely. The relationship between EGMs and preference for Internet gambling may be
due to the similarities that online EGMs share with land-based ones. The interfaces are
either identical or highly similar, and playing EGMs in either type of venue is likely a
fairly solitary or socially insular experience (insofar as EGMs do not promote interaction
with other people). Online EGMs, however, may offer added advantages or conveniences
(e.g., they never close) that land-based ones do not. The finding that bingo/keno players
were less likely to prefer Internet gambling could be a function of the fact that these are
traditionally fairly social games, which for some people might even form the basis of a
particular subculture (e.g., a bingo subculture). Thus, playing these games at land-based
venues may offer some gamblers social benefits not easily available online.
Reasons for preferring Internet gambling
Convenience, ease, and comfort
The reasons respondents gave for preferring Internet gambling were numerous, spanning
20 distinct themes and categories (see Table 1). Percentages reported in the charts and in
the text refer to the percentage of all reasons given (536 people provided 770 reasons).
The most common reasons pertained to the relative convenience (12.9%), ease (12.2%),
and comfort (11.7%) of Internet gambling. Convenience refers to the idea that Internet
gambling opportunities are accessible at any time of the day and with minimal effort.
Ease is a related concept, but refers to the idea that the sites and games are easy to find,
easy to join, and relatively easy to play. Comfort refers to the theme that Internet
gambling affords the benefit of playing from the comfort of one's own home. A number
of people, for example, referred in colloquial language to the comfort of "being able to
gamble in my pyjamas." Another commonly stated reason, which is related to
convenience, is the distance that many respondents lived from a land-based gambling
venue (10.0%). Thus, a number of people explained how they do not live within a
reasonable driving distance of a casino, and so Internet gambling was the most viable
option for them. This, however, does not clarify whether these people would still choose
to gamble on the Internet if they did indeed live closer to a land-based venue.
Aversion to land-based gambling venues
Other reasons were related to people's perceptions of the ambience and clientele
characteristic of land-based venues. A small proportion of people (0.7%) made the very
general statement that they simply "don't like casinos." Others, however, were more
specific. A sizeable proportion (9.8%) felt that they had far more privacy when gambling
online. Others claimed to dislike land-based venues for a number of additional reasons,
including an aversion to smoke (3.9%), an aversion to the usual noise (4.1%), and an
aversion to crowded environments (4.7%). Still others (5.1%) explicitly claimed to
dislike the "sorts of people" one often encounters in casinos and other land-based venues.
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On a related theme, 1.6% of respondents claimed to feel unsafe in land-based venues.
Online gaming experience
Other reasons were related to the intrinsic nature of the online gaming experience. These
people often mentioned the ability to control or customize the rate of play. 3.8% of
respondents, for example, preferred gambling online since it allowed them to play at a
relatively fast pace. These people typically referred to the potentially short amount of
time between games, spins, and rolls. Others reported a preference for Internet gambling
as it afforded a more leisurely pace of play (3.1%). These people typically appreciated
being able to "take their time" when gambling online. 2.5% made comments suggesting
that they simply "like the Internet," further saying that Internet gambling is more
immersing (e.g., they are able to focus better without distractions), as well as conducive
to multitasking (e.g., gambling while surfing the Web). A further 3.0% simply claimed
that gambling on the Internet is "more fun."
Wins and expenditures
Some observers might be quick to speculate that Internet gamblers are largely attracted
by the perception of potentially larger wins and lower overall expenditures when
gambling online. Our results, however, would not strongly support such predictions. Only
1.8% of our respondents identified higher potential winnings as their reason for gambling
online. Similarly, only 3.0% mentioned smaller losses as the reason. An additional 1.0%
referred to lower secondary costs, such as travel and meal expenses, as the reason they
gamble online rather than in a land-based venue.
Other reasons
Given the substantial number of respondents who identified themselves as living with a
disability (12.3%), we were surprised to find that disability was not often reported as a
reason for gambling online, as opposed to gambling at a land-based venue (which could
potentially pose problems of access and mobility for some disabled persons). Only three
people, or 0.4% of the sample, reported disability as a reason for their online gambling
preference.
A very small proportion (0.5%) claimed to gamble online because land-based gambling is
illegal and therefore unavailable in their particular jurisdiction. Again, as with people
who live long distances from land-based venues, it is unclear whether this 0.5% would
prefer to gamble in a land-based venue if one was actually available.
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Conclusion
Summary and suggestions for future research
It is clear that the population of Internet gamblers is a relatively demographically diverse
group. It is also clear that some characteristics seem to be associated with a higher or
lower likelihood of preferring Internet versus land-based opportunities. Disabled
individuals were significantly less likely than nondisabled individuals to prefer Internet
gambling. Problem gamblers versus non-problem gamblers were likewise less likely to
prefer Internet gambling. People who most often played slots or VLTs were significantly
more likely than players who preferred other games to prefer Internet over land-based
gambling. Finally, men were significantly more likely than women to prefer Internet
gambling. Unfortunately, the limitations of our data set (which we explain in the
following section of this article) do not allow us to explore conclusively the causes or
reasons for these systematic differences. Thus, we offer to future research the task of not
only exploring the reasons some people prefer to gamble online but also effecting a more
nuanced understanding of how and why those reasons might vary according to
demographic categories and preferred game.
When given the opportunity in an open-ended question to explain why they preferred
Internet versus land-based gambling, people offered several general types of reasons.
Most common was to refer to the greater convenience, ease, and comfort of Internet
gambling. Second was an aversion to the atmosphere, crowds, and clientele of land-based
venues. Third was a preference for the nature of the online gaming experience. Finally,
there were a few people who indicated they gambled on the Internet because of the
potential for better odds, higher wins, and smaller losses. Given these stated preferences,
Internet gambling sites may be offering clientele a range of potential experiences and
benefits that are perceived to be unavailable in land-based venues. It is possible that these
unique attributes and advantages help Internet gambling sites carve out a competitive
niche that allows them to compete successfully with land-based venues. The present
study, however, is not able to determine the extent to which Internet gambling sites are
taking business away from land-based venues. It is indeed possible that each sort of
opportunity serves a distinct market, and that many Internet gamblers simply would not
gamble at all if no Internet-based opportunities were available. In any case, future
research should be conducted into competition between Internet and land-based venues.
If Internet gambling does in fact possess a potentially competitive edge, or if it attracts
many people who otherwise would not gamble, there may be important and concerning
consequences with respect to the prevalence of problem gambling. Recent research
suggests that the convenience of Internet gambling, coupled with its immersive qualities,
may lead to much higher than normal levels of game-play. This, for some people, may
facilitate the emergence of a gambling problem (see Griffiths, 2003; Griffiths, 1999;
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Griffiths & Parke, 2002; Griffiths & Wood, 2000; LaRose, Mastro, & Eastin, 2001). Our
findings lend some tentative support to such an argument, insofar as a substantial
proportion of our sample was classified as having either a moderate (CPGI 3+) or a
severe (CPGI 8+) gambling problem. Conversely, however, rather than the Internet
creating or facilitating a gambling problem that did not previously exist, it is also possible
that many people with preexisting gambling problems simply gravitate to the Internet. In
any case, further validating and untangling the dynamics of this potential relationship
between problem and Internet gambling also remains the task of future research.
Limitations
There are a number of limitations inherent to the present study, and we feel it is important
to clearly acknowledge them, not only to ensure that our study is transparent to the
critical observer but also to offer whatever additional lessons we can for future research.
The most serious limitation to this study is the potentially nonrepresentative nature of the
sample. Indeed, since the sample was self-selected at only a few Internet gambling
portals, it is not possible to gauge the extent to which the sample reflects the broader
population of Internet gamblers. It is at very least biased toward English-speaking North
Americans. Thus, while we feel the study has merit, insofar as it offers some insight into
the preferences of Internet gamblers, our results concerning Internet gamblers'
demographic and game-play characteristics cannot be generalized to the broader
population. Moreover, our typology of the reasons people prefer Internet gambling over
land-based gambling is not necessarily exhaustive, insofar as it may be omitting reasons
that could have been offered by groups of people who did not select themselves into the
sample.
Another limitation is that we did not define "Internet gambling" for our participants,
assuming instead that they would understand its meaning. The portals where participants
were recruited included links to typical forms of Internet gambling, including casinos,
bingos, and sports books. However, most gambling sites offer free demo sessions, during
which people can play games without betting real money. It is possible that some of the
people who selected themselves into our sample only play the demo or practice versions
of games, and so in actuality are not Internet gamblers. It is difficult to know how many,
if any, of these false positives are present in our sample, although we would speculate
that the proportion is relatively small. In any case, we note that it is wise to clearly define
Internet gambling for participants in order to sample only those who actually wager
money in the course of their gaming activity.
The final noteworthy limitation is related to the pitfalls we encountered with online
survey methodology, and the attendant implications for the depth of analysis we were
able to achieve. The survey used for the present study collected both quantitative data
(gathered via fixed-choice items) and qualitative data (gathered using text fields where
respondents could type a response or a number of responses). Unfortunately, due to
R.T. Wood et al.: Why do Internet gamblers prefer online versus land-based venues?
Journal of Gambling Issues: Issue 20, june 2007 http://www.camh.net/egambling/issue20/pdfs/07wood.pdf
247
problems and oversights in the programming of the questionnaire, it was not possible to
analyze the qualitative responses to the open-ended question about Internet gambling
preference in relation to the quantitative demographic and game-play characteristics
gathered using the fixed-choice survey items. Thus, we can offer a demographic and
game-play profile using the quantitative data, and we can also offer a preference typology
using the qualitative data. However, we cannot integrate the two data sets in order to
compare the qualitative reasons for preferring Internet gambling offered by one group of
people (e.g., men) to the reasons offered by another (e.g., women). We were therefore
unable to use our typology in any sort of statistical analysis, which could have given us a
more nuanced understanding of how and why reasons for preferring Internet gambling
varied among different categories of people.
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*******
Manuscript history: submitted June 19, 2006; accepted April 26, 2007. This paper was
peer-reviewed. All URLs were available when the paper was submitted.
For correspondence: Robert T. Wood, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of
Sociology, University of Lethbridge, 4401 University Drive, Lethbridge, AB, T1K 3M4,
Canada. Phone: 403-329-5137, fax: 403-329-2085, e-mail: robert.wood@uleth.ca
Contributors: RTW was the principal author of the research design, participated in the
data analysis, and took a lead role in writing and revising the manuscript. RJW advised
on the research design and had a supporting role in writing and revising this manuscript.
PKL provided research assistance and led the content analysis on which this article is
based.
Competing interests: Robert T. Wood and Paul K. Lawton: None declared. Robert J.
Williams is a node coordinator for the Alberta Gaming Research Institute, which
provided funding for this project.
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Ethics approval: The University of Lethbridge Human Subjects Research Committee
provided written approval for a broader project, of which this is a part, in 2003. The
reviewed project was entitled "Using online survey techniques to profile the Internet
gambler: A pilot study."
Funding: Robert T. Wood, Robert J. Williams, and Paul K. Lawton were all employed at
the University of Lethbridge when this study was conducted. Data collection was funded
by a grant from the Alberta Gaming Research Institute.
Robert T. Wood, PhD, is an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the
University of Lethbridge. His research interests focus mainly on the sociocultural aspects
of problem gambling.
Robert J. Williams, PhD, CPsych, is a professor in the School of Health Sciences at the
University of Lethbridge. He is also the Lethbridge node coordinator for the Alberta
Gaming Research Institute. Dr. Williams's research program spans all aspects of
gambling and problem gambling.
Paul K. Lawton, MA, is currently working on a PhD in the Department of Sociology at
the University of Calgary. Mr. Lawton's research interests focus mainly on the sociology
of cyberspace.
1 Past studies, when examined chronologically, offer a more detailed picture of the
expansion of Internet gambling Web sites. In 1995, there were only 24 Internet gambling
sites accessible online (Watson et al., 2004). By May 1998, that figure had increased to
190, including 90 online casinos, 39 lotteries, 8 online bingos, and 53 sports books
(Basham & White, 2002). Within a single year, those figures had more than doubled,
with 250 online casinos, 64 lotteries, 20 bingos, and 139 sports books (Auriemma &
Lahey, 1999; Basham & White, 2002). In 2001, it was estimated that hundreds of
millions of people had convenient Internet access to upward of 1,400 different online
gambling sites (Kelly, Todosichuk, & Azmier, 2001). By 2002, the number of accessible
Internet gambling sites was estimated to be approximately 2,000 in total (Watson et al.,
2004), confirming experts' earlier predictions of a continued rapid increase in the number
of gambling Web sites (Abbot & Volberg, 1999; Hammer, 2001; Turner, 2002). In
October, 2006, there were over 2,500 Internet gambling Web sites owned by 465
different companies listed at http://www.online.casinocity.com.
2 Studies conducted in 2006 were not available when the present study was being
designed. Thus, findings of these studies were not used to construct categories or
questions in the survey the present authors used to assess gambling preference.
3 An in-depth presentation of our findings related to problem gambling may be accessed
in this alternative publication.
4 Following standard procedure in social scientific research, the coefficient of reliability
was computed simply by dividing the number of identically coded units by the total
number of units.
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5 Moderate problem gamblers are people who score between 3 and 7 on the CPGI. Severe
problem gamblers are people who score 8+ on the CPGI.
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