A national survey of online gambling behaviours
and C. O’Gara
St John of Gods Hospital, Stillorgan, Co Dublin, Ireland
Addictions Department, St John of Gods Hospital, Stillorgan, Co Dublin, Ireland; UCD School of Medicine and Medical Science, University College Dublin,
Objectives. The aim of this study is to look at an Irish population in relation to the online gambling activities people are
engaging with, the reasons for gambling online, their attitudes to online gambling and the ﬁnancial/mental health
consequences of online gambling.
Methods. The outline for this study was adapted from a study by McCormack et al. (2014) in relation to online gambling,
with the aim of replicating this study in an Irish population. An online survey consisting of 11 categories related to online
gambling was advertised online over a 7-month period. Participants answered on activities gambled online, devices used,
duration of time gambling, as well mental health/ﬁnancial consequences of their gambling.
Results. A total of 208 users participated in the online survey. The most popular gambling activity played was Sports
Betting (26.9%) and the most commonly used device was Mobile app (68.6%). The main reason for gambling online was
‘To win money’(84.6%), the main reason for ending gambling sessions –‘Had something else to do’(67.3%) and the most
prominent emotion experienced –Excitement (60.6%). There were ﬁndings related to the severity of gambling addiction
(75% –had to borrow or sell to fund gambling) and their attitudes towards online gambling (strongly agreed –39.9% –
The potential dangers of gambling should be advertised).
Conclusions. Online gamblers in Ireland share similar behavioural proﬁles to online gamblers in the United Kingdom
and worldwide. The majority of participants in this research have been adversely affected from both a mental and
ﬁnancial perspective due to their gambling behaviours.
Received 18 July 2017; Revised 26 September 2017; Accepted 27 September 2017
Key words: Gambling, humans, internet, surveys and questionnaires.
Over the last 20 years, we have seen an exponential rise
in the content that we can access almost instantaneously
via the internet and gambling is no exception. Online
gambling has proven to be a popular activity, with the
British Gambling Prevalence Study 2010 showing that
14% of participants surveyed had used the internet to
gamble in the past year (Wardle et al. 2011).
There are many reasons why online gambling has
gained popularity for some over conventional gambling,
such as permanent availability, anonymity and increased
speed of play (Barrault & Varescon, 2016). The ability to
gamble from the comfort of your own home has also
been cited as a reason to gamble online (King & Barak,
1999). Indeed, these improvements in accessibility and
ease of betting are some of the reasons why online gam-
bling can be more addictive than conventional gambling,
especially in young gamblers (Chóliz, 2016).
This is of concern as this addictive nature could lead to
an increase in the incidence and prevalence of problem
gambling. Problem gambling is an urge to gamble
despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to
stop (Jazaeri & Habil, 2012). There are many factors
that could indicate problem gambling amongst online
gamblers. Participants that engaged in two or more
activities online or in certain activities, such as live action
sports betting or poker, were more likely to be problem
gamblers (McCormack et al. 2013; LaPlante et al. 2014).
Also, participants that owned multiple online accounts
were more involved gamblers and engaged in gambling
more frequently with higher rates of gambling problems
(Gainsbury et al. 2015). Interestingly, multiple account
holders engaged with websites based on price, betting
options and payout rates versus legality and consumer
protection features that would be characteristic of single
account holders (Gainsbury et al. 2015). In addition, there
is evidence that use of state licensed websites for online
gambling cause less overall harm (Costes et al. 2016) and
that rates of sub-clinical disordered gambling were
higher in environments with less strict regulation of
advertising for online gambling (Planzer et al. 2014).
There is also a large body of evidence looking at the
effect that problem gambling can have on mental health
(Scholes-Balog & Hemphill, 2012). Responsible gamblers
tend to use gambling as a leisure activity whereas pro-
blem gamblers try and use gambling as a way of
* Address for correspondence: Dr C. O’Gara, Addictions Depart-
ment, St John of Gods Hospital, Stillorgan, Co Dublin, Ireland.
Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, page 1 of 9. © College of Psychiatrists of Ireland 2017 ORIGINAL RESEARCH
modifying their current mood state (Wood & Grifﬁths,
2015). Problem gamblers reported negative mood states
after gambling online and negative mood states in general
(King & Barak, 1999). In line with multiple account users,
people engaging in multiple gambling activities online
had the highest prevalence of mental health disorder
(Lloyd et al. 2010b) and online gamblers were more at risk
of alcohol and cannabis misuse (Kairouz et al. 2012;
Scholes-Balog & Hemphill, 2012).
Currently, there is very little information on the
attitudes and behaviours of online gamblers in Ireland.
Therefore, the aim of this survey is to highlight what
online gambling activities people are engaging with
online, their reasons for choosing to gamble online,
their attitudes to online gambling and the consequences
of their online gambling from both a ﬁnancial and
mental health perspective.
In total, 209 participants engaged in the online survey;
one participant was excluded as they only answered
demographic questions. Overall 208 participant’s
responses were analysed. The survey was online from
December 2014 to June 2015 and was advertised online
and with general media outlets. An information sheet
preceded taking the survey including information on
what the research is about, the reason for conducting
the research, how the data will be used, how privacy of
data will be maintained, the beneﬁts and risks of taking
part in the survey, information about if you change
your mind during the survey and ﬁnding out about the
results of the survey, along with contact details for
further information. Ethical approval was obtained
from the Human Research Ethics Committee –Sciences
based in the UCD Ofﬁce of Research Ethics, Roebuck
Castle, University College Dublin, Belﬁeld, Dublin 4.
The survey consisted of demographic data questions
and 11 main categories of questions related to gambling
adapted from a similar UK study (McCormack et al.
2014). In terms of demographic data, there were ques-
tions on gender, age and county of residence. In terms
of questions related to gambling, there were questions
pertaining to the activities gambled online (poker, sport
betting, horse racing, spread betting, lottery, blackjack,
dog racing, bingo, fruit machine, roulette, instant win
scratch cards). This question was measured on a Likert
scale ranging from ‘never’to ‘most days’. The devices
used to gamble online (desktop, mobile app, laptop,
tablet) and duration of time spent gambling, in terms of
average session length and years spent gambling
online, were also measured.
The survey also contained questions regarding rea-
sons for gambling online (to win money, enjoyment,
access, convenience, availability, challenge, bet at own
pace, better value, comfort, bet in play, stimulation,
anonymity, competition, greater ﬂexibility in stake size,
free bets, dislike atmosphere in ofﬂine venues, high
speed of play online, safer, escape, ofﬂine venues too far
away, spend less online, multiple games, inﬂuenced by
others, adverts, free practice games and other) and
reasons for ending a gambling session (won a lot of
money, tiredness, frustration, boredom, had something
else to do, lost too much money, reached a target, run
out of money). There was also data collected on the
aspects important to people when choosing a gambling
app or website (recommendations, variety of games,
advertisements, celebrity endorsement, ease of use, free
offers, brand name, graphics, friends use it).
The emotions experienced when gambling online
were also assessed (excitement, happy, no difference,
frustrated, escape, anger, ashamed, empty, lonely,
irritable, relaxed, euphoria, other) as well as the seve-
rity and impact of gambling online has had on the
participant in the previous 12 months (borrowing
money, ﬁnancial problems, health problems, gambling
larger amounts, felt that you might have a problem
with gambling, betting more than can afford, criticised
for having a gambling problem, felt guilty about your
gambling, trying to win back lost money). Participants
were also asked about previous treatments, if any, were
received for gambling addiction.
Participants were also asked to answer questions
around statements pertaining to gambling and their
attitude around gambling. These 18 statements have
previously been used in research around gambling and
online gambling (Wardle et al. 2011; McCormack et al.
2014) and answered on a Likert scale ranging from
‘disagree strongly’to ‘agree strongly’.
Descriptive statistics were performed on all 11 ques-
tions pertaining to gambling. The variables included
activities gambled online, device used to gamble online,
reasons for gambling online, duration gambling online,
average gambling session time, severity of gambling,
emotions experienced gambling online, reasons for
choosing website, reasons to end gambling sessions
and attitude statements around gambling.
In total, 209 participants undertook the online survey
(179 male, 30 female); one male was excluded due to
2D. Columb and C. O’Gara
ﬁlling out only their age and gender and no responses
to the survey questions. Participants were asked to
complete 12 survey questions along with information
on gender, age and county of residence. There was
variable uptake for some of the multiple option ques-
tions and these are addressed in the relevant question’s
section. Participants from all over Ireland completed
the survey, with 42% of applicants from Dublin.
The mean age of participants was 39 years for males
(S.D.=12.7) and 38.5 years for females (S.D.=14.0), as
shown in Table 1.
Activities gambled online
The most popular activities engaged by males online
were Horse Race Betting (26.9% –56 participants) and
Sports Betting (24.0% –50 participants), with just over
half of the total sample size engaging in these activities
for most days of the week. Both these activities were also
engaged in on a less frequent basis (1–4 times per month,
<1 per month) by a large proportion of the male and
female population –Horse Race Betting (1–4times
per month –23.6% –49 participants), <1 per month
(19.7% –41 participants) and Sports Betting (1–4times
per month (26.9% –56 participants), <1 per month
(18.8% –39 participants).
Lottery was not played online with the same freq-
uency (most days) compared with Horse Race Betting
and Sports Betting, but was played by a higher
proportion of males and females on a less frequent basis
(1–4 times per month (males 21.2% –44 participants,
females 4.3% –9 participants) and <1 per month
(males 22.1% –46 participants, females 4.8% –10 parti-
cipants)). A higher proportion of males also engaged in
Poker on a less frequent basis (1–4 times per month
(males 9.6% –20 participants) and <1 per month (males
18.8% –39 participants)). Instant Win Scratch Cards,
despite being very infrequently played for most days
of the week, were popular amongst both males and
females on a less frequent basis (1–4 times per month
(males 5.8% –12 participants, females 1.9% –4 partici-
pants) and <1 per month (males 16.3% –34 partici-
pants, females 2.9% –6 participants)).
The least engaged with activities online were Bingo
(92.8% –193 participants), Fruit Machines (88.5% –184
participants) and Spread Betting (87.5% –182 partici-
pants), with the majority of participants stating they
had never engaged with these games online. The full
list of responses are outlined in Table 2.
In total, 188 patients answered questions about the
devices that they use to gamble. Participants were
allowed to select more than one option. Mobile app
(129 participants –68.6%) was the most common device
used to gamble online, followed by laptop (114 parti-
cipants –60.6%) and desktop (82 participants –43.6%).
Tablet was the least commonly used (53 participants –
28.2%). 58.5% (110) of participants used more than one
device, with 28.7% (54) using two devices, 17.0% (32)
using three devices and 12.8% (24) using all four
Reasons for gambling online
Participants were advised to select which of the aspects
of the gambling experience listed were important to
them. The total responses for each gambling experience
are listed in Table 3. The most important aspect of the
gambling experience selected was To win money
(84.6%), followed by Enjoyment (76.0%), Access
(71.6%), Convenience (71.2%) and Availability (65.4%).
The least important aspects according to the survey
were Adverts (12.0%) and Free practice games (9.1%).
Duration of gambling session/years gambling online
On average, participants spent 2.8 hours (S.D. 3.3) per
gambling session with female participants spending
more time on average [3.4 hours (S.D. 4.2)] than male
participants. Male participants, however, had a higher
median duration of time spent per gambling session
(3 hours) compared with female participants (1 hour).
The median duration for the total sample was 1.5 hours.
Male participants spent an average duration of 8.0
years (S.D. 5.1) gambling online with a median duration
Table 1. Participant demographics
nAge [Mean (S.D.)]
Male 178 39.0 (12.7)
Female 30 38.5 (14.0)
Total 208 38.9 (12.9)
Antrim 6 Limerick 7
Armagh 3 Longford 1
Carlow 4 Louth 3
Cavan 3 Mayo 7
Clare 3 Meath 9
Cork 13 Monaghan 2
Donegal 1 Offaly 2
Down 2 Roscommon 2
Dublin 89 Sligo 1
Galway 8 Tipperary 5
Kerry 3 Westmeath 3
Kildare 12 Wexford 4
Kilkenny 3 Wicklow 8
A national survey of online gambling behaviours 3
of 7 years. Female participants had spent less years
gambling online, with an average duration of 3.6 years
(S.D. 4.4) and a median duration of 2 years. The total
average years spent gambling was 7.3 years (S.D. 5.2)
and a total median duration of 6 years.
Emotions when gambling online
Participants were asked to select the emotions they feel
when they gamble online. The most experienced emo-
tion during online gambling according to the survey
was Excitement (60.6% –126 participants), followed by
Happy (36.5% –76 participants) and No difference
(31.7% –66 participants). The least experienced emo-
tions were feeling Lonely (13.0% –27 participants),
Empty (13.5% –28 participants) and Ashamed
(14.4% –30 participants). The other responses were as
follows: Frustrated (27.4% –57 participants), Irritable
(24.5% –51 participants), Relaxed (22.6% –47 partici-
pants), Euphoria (21.6% –45 participants), Escape
(19.2% –40 participants), Anger (18.8% –39 partici-
pants) and Other (9.6% –20 participants).
Severity of gambling addiction
Participants were asked to select whether or not the
following statements applied to them as a gauge of the
severity of their online gambling over the past
12 months. 75.0% (156 participants) of participants had
to borrow money or sell to fund their online gambling
participation and 74.5% (155 participants) had experi-
enced ﬁnancial problems in their household as a result
of their online gambling. 67.3% (140 participants) also
reported health problems including stress and anxiety
as a result of their online gambling. Trying to win back
money lost the next day was the least selected with
53.4% (111) of the surveyed group. At least 50% of the
participants surveyed identiﬁed with at least one of the
statements. The responses to all the statements are lis-
ted in Table 4.
Reasons for selecting website/gambling app
Participants were asked to select one or more reasons why
they would choose a gambling app or website. The most
important reason cited by the participants for choosing a
website was Ease of use (64.4% –134 participants). Other
important reasons were Free offers (31.3% –65 parti-
cipants) and Brand name (28.4% –59 participants) with
Celebrity endorsement (1.9% –4participants)beingthe
least important reason for choosing a gambling app or
website from the options listed. The other responses were
as follows: Graphics (13.5% –28 participants), Friends use
it (13.0% –27 participants), Recommendations (11.1% –23
participants), Variety of games (9.1% –19 participants)
and Advertisements (7.2% –15 participants).
Reasons for ending gambling sessions
Participants were asked to select one or more reasons
why they end their gambling sessions. The most
common reason for ending a gambling session is ‘Had
something else to do’(67.3% –140 participants). The
other main reasons for ending a gambling session were
‘Lost too much money’(41.3% –86 participants) and
‘Reached a target’(38.0% –79 participants). Boredom
(26.0% –54 participants), Frustration (27.9% –58 parti-
cipants) and Tiredness (28.8% –60 participants) were
the least common reasons for ending a gambling
session. The other responses were Run out of money
Table 2. Responses to the question –‘How often do you engage in any of the following activities online?’
Never [n(%, based on
<1 per month [n
(%, based on total n)]
1–4 times per month [n
(%, based on total n)]
Most days [n(%, based
on total n)]
Horse race betting 47 (22.6) 14 (6.7) 31 (14.9) 10 (4.8) 44 (21.2) 5 (2.4) 56 (26.9) 1 (0.5)
Sports betting 38 (18.3) 18 (8.7) 38 (18.3) 1 (0.5) 52 (25.0) 4 (1.9) 50 (24.0) 0 (0.0)
Dog racing 133 (63.9) 24 (11.5) 28 (13.5) 4 (1.9) 5 (2.4) 1 (0.5) 12 (5.8) 1 (0.5)
Roulette 145 (69.7) 26 (12.5) 19 (9.1) 1 (0.5) 6 (2.9) 1 (0.5) 8 (3.8) 1 (0.5)
Lottery 81 (38.9) 9 (4.3) 46 (22.1) 10 (4.8) 44 (21.2) 9 (4.3) 7 (3.4) 2 (1.0)
Poker 112 (53.8) 25 (12.0) 39 (18.8) 2 (1.0) 20 (9.6) 2 (1.0) 7 (3.4) 1 (0.5)
Spread betting 153 (73.6) 29 (13.9) 13 (6.3) 1 (0.5) 6 (2.9) 0 (0.0) 6 (2.9) 0 (0.0)
Fruit machines 161 (77.4) 23 (11.1) 9 (4.3) 3 (1.4) 4 (1.9) 1 (0.5) 4 (1.9) 2 (1.0)
Blackjack 141 (67.8) 26 (12.5) 28 (13.5) 1 (0.5) 5 (2.4) 1 (0.5) 4 (1.9) 1 (0.5)
Instant Win scratch
128 (61.5) 18 (8.7) 34 (16.3) 6 (2.9) 12 (5.8) 4 (1.9) 4 (1.9) 1 (0.5)
Bingo 169 (81.3) 24 (11.5) 5 (2.4) 4 (1.9) 3 (1.4) 0 (0.0) 1 (0.5) 1 (0.5)
4D. Columb and C. O’Gara
(37.5% –78 participants) and Won a lot of money
(36.1% –75 participants).
Treatment of gambling behaviour
Participants were asked to choose which treatment
option they had received for gambling behaviour in the
past or if they had never received treatment. In total, six
participants were excluded as they answered both
‘Never’and a treatment option; 22 participants did not
complete this question in the survey.
The majority of participants surveyed reported that
they had never received treatment for gambling beha-
viour (79.2% –153 participants). Gamblers Anonymous
was the most accessed treatment option (10.3% –20
participants), followed by Counselling (8.8% –17 par-
ticipants) and Medication (1.6% –3 participants). Two
(1.0%) participants had tried all three listed treatments,
8 (4.1%) participants had tried two treatments and 18
(9.3%) participants had tried just one treatment.
Participants were asked to comment on a number of
statements about online gambling, rating each on a
5-point Likert scale ranging from ‘agree strongly’to
‘disagree strongly’. The responses to each of the
statements are included in Table 5.
The statement that participants agreed most strongly
with was ‘The potential dangers of gambling should be
advertised’with 39.9% (83 participants) stating that they
‘Agree Strongly’.Thisisfollowedby‘Some gambling
websites are more trustworthy than others’(27.9% –
58 participants) and ‘I would prefer to gamble on
websites that regularly tell me how much I’ve lost’
(26.0% –54 participants). The statements that partici-
pants least agreed with (selected Disagree Strongly)
Table 3. Responses to the question –‘Which of the following aspects
of the gambling experience are important to you?’
Gambling experience [n(%, based
on a total n)]
To win money 153 (73.6) 23 (11.1) 176 (84.6)
Enjoyment 138 (66.3) 20 (9.6) 158 (76.0)
Access 131 (63.0) 18 (8.7) 149 (71.6)
Convenience 129 (62.0) 19 (9.1) 148 (71.2)
Availability 123 (59.1) 13 (6.3) 136 (65.4)
Challenge 115 (55.3) 12 (5.8) 127 (61.1)
Bet at own pace 104 (50.0) 11 (5.3) 115 (55.3)
Better value 106 (51.0) 6 (2.9) 112 (53.8)
Comfort 93 (44.7) 12 (5.8) 105 (50.5)
Bet in play 85 (40.9) 8 (3.8) 93 (44.7)
Stimulation 70 (33.7) 11 (5.3) 81 (38.9)
Anonymity 66 (31.7) 12 (5.8) 78 (37.5)
Competition 67 (32.2) 9 (4.3) 76 (36.5)
Greater ﬂexibility in stake
64 (30.8) 12 (5.8) 76 (36.5)
Free bets 63 (30.3) 10 (4.8) 73 (35.1)
Dislike atmosphere in
55 (26.4) 7 (3.4) 62 (29.8)
High speed of play online 46 (22.1) 10 (4.8) 56 (26.9)
Safer 49 (23.6) 7 (3.4) 56 (26.9)
Escape 46 (22.1) 8 (3.8) 54 (26.0)
Ofﬂine venues too far
44 (21.2) 8 (3.8) 52 (25.0)
Spend less online 33 (15.9) 9 (4.3) 42 (20.2)
Multiple games 24 (11.5) 9 (4.3) 33 (15.9)
Inﬂuenced by others 19 (9.1) 7 (3.4) 26 (12.5)
Others 20 (9.6) 6 (2.9) 26 (12.5)
Adverts 18 (8.7) 7 (3.4) 25 (12.0)
Free practice games 14 (6.7) 5 (2.4) 19 (9.1)
Table 4. Responses to the question –‘Thinking about the last 12 months…’
Yes responses [n(%, based on a
Have you borrowed money or sold anything to get money to gamble? 135 (64.9) 21 (10.1) 156 (75.0)
Has gambling caused any ﬁnancial problems for you and your household? 134 (64.4) 21 (10.1) 155 (74.5)
Has gambling caused you any health problems including stress and anxiety? 120 (57.7) 20 (9.6) 140 (67.3)
Have you needed to gamble with larger amounts of money to get the same feeling of
116 (55.8) 21 (10.1) 137 (65.9)
Have you felt that you might have a problem with gambling? 113 (54.3) 21 (10.1) 134 (64.4)
Have you bet more than you could really afford to lose? 110 (52.9) 19 (9.1) 129 (62.0)
Have people criticised your betting or told you that you had a gambling problem regardless of
whether or not you thought it was true?
109 (52.4) 17 (8.2) 128 (61.5)
Have you felt guilty about the way you gamble or what happens when you gamble? 103 (49.5) 20 (9.6) 123 (59.1)
When you gambled, did you go back another day to try and win the money you lost? 94 (45.2) 17 (8.2) 111 (53.4)
A national survey of online gambling behaviours 5
were ‘I am attracted by the sound effects on gambling
websites’(40.4% –84 participants), ‘I am attracted by the
graphics on gambling websites’(27.4% –57 parti-
cipants) and ‘I prefer online games with large jackpots’
(23.1% –48 participants).
The aim of this study was to examine online gambling
from an Irish perspective; to examine what online
activities people are engaging with, their reasons for
choosing to gamble online, their attitudes to online
gambling and the consequences of their online
gambling from both a ﬁnancial and mental health pers-
pective. As stated previously, this study was adapted
from a previous study conducted by McCormack et al.
(2014), with the aim of replicating this study in an Irish
population. The majority of the respondents were
male (85.6%) which is largely similar to other studies
conducted on this topic (Wardle et al. 2011; Wood &
Females tended to spend more time on average in
a typical gambling session compared with males, which
is surprising given that previous studies have shown
that females tend to spend less time per session
(McCormack et al. 2014) than males. However, if we
look at the median hours spent gambling, females are
spending 1 hour per session compared with males
spending 3 hours per session. This would correlate with
other studies suggesting that females were signiﬁcantly
more likely to gamble for less than 1 hour per session
compared with males (McCormack et al. 2014).
The difference in the average values for females
may be reﬂected in the small sample size obtained.
Females were also noted to have been gambling
online for a much shorter duration of time than males
(females median 2 years v. males median 7 years).
This would correlate with previous studies which show
that females generally start gambling at a later
stage than their male counterparts, which would lead to
a shorter duration of years gambling overall (Slutske
et al. 2015).
Table 5. Responses to the question –‘How do you feel about the following statements?’
[n(%)] Agree [n(%)]
Neither agree nor
The potential dangers of gambling should be
83 (39.9) 75 (36.1) 20 (9.6) 3 (1.4) 5 (2.4)
Some gambling websites are more trustworthy
58 (27.9) 59 (28.4) 50 (24.0) 12 (5.8) 16 (7.7)
I would prefer to gamble on websites that regularly
tell me how much I’ve lost
54 (26.0) 69 (33.2) 47 (22.6) 12 (5.8) 15 (7.2)
Online gambling is more addictive than ofﬂine
50 (24.0) 59 (28.4) 52 (25.0) 19 (9.1) 8 (3.8)
I would prefer to gamble on websites that regularly
tell me how long I have been playing
40 (19.2) 50 (24.0) 69 (33.2) 17 (8.2) 18 (8.7)
It is easy for children to gamble online 40 (19.2) 56 (26.9) 47 (22.6) 29 (13.9) 16 (7.7)
Gambling advertisements do not inﬂuence my
40 (19.2) 51 (24.5) 57 (27.4) 25 (12.0) 14 (6.7)
I would prefer to gamble on websites that have
information about responsible gambling
38 (18.3) 42 (20.2) 86 (41.3) 16 (7.7) 21 (10.1)
I prefer online games with some element of skill 33 (15.9) 42 (20.2) 59 (28.4) 21 (10.1) 31 (14.9)
I tend to spend more gambling using virtual money
(online) than gambling using real money
31 (14.9) 29 (13.9) 43 (20.7) 38 (18.3) 46 (22.1)
I prefer gambling activities that are quick 28 (13.5) 40 (19.2) 62 (29.8) 28 (13.5) 34 (16.3)
I prefer online games that are easy to learn 20 (9.6) 22 (10.6) 74 (35.6) 28 (13.5) 47 (22.6)
If I nearly win in an online game, then I am more
likely to play again
20 (9.6) 49 (23.6) 55 (26.4) 32 (15.4) 30 (14.4)
Online gambling is safe 17 (8.2) 43 (20.7) 41 (19.7) 48 (23.1) 45 (21.6)
I like to gamble against other people online 17 (8.2) 33 (15.9) 48 (23.1) 46 (22.1) 46 (22.1)
I prefer online games with large jackpots 16 (7.7) 26 (12.5) 67 (32.2) 35 (16.8) 48 (23.1)
I am attracted by the graphics on gambling
15 (7.2) 31 (14.9) 51 (24.5) 41 (19.7) 57 (27.4)
I am attracted by the sound effects on gambling
7 (3.4) 8 (3.8) 47 (22.6) 48 (23.1) 84 (40.4)
6D. Columb and C. O’Gara
There was a tendency towards activities with a live
action component. Examples such as horse racing,
sports betting and dog racing were the most popular
among regular (most days) and non-regular gamblers
(1–4 times per month and <1 per month), which
suggests the live action component may contribute to
the enjoyment of these activities. This is in line with
previous studies (McCormack et al. 2014; Hing et al.
2016) which identiﬁed these activities as the main
gambling activities engaged in by males.
Females tended to be non-regular gamblers com-
pared with male gamblers and engage in more socially
acceptable forms of gambling, such as playing the
lottery or using instant win scratch cards. Females
have been shown to engage more in these activities
compared with their male counterparts (McCormack
et al. 2014; Hing et al. 2016) and, interestingly, use of
instant win scratch cards in females is associated with
an increased risk of problem gambling (Hing et al. 2016).
Accessibility appears to play a key role in the use of
online gambling amongst the participants surveyed.
There is evidence from previous studies that there is a
relationship between the availability of gambling
opportunities online and increased levels of related
problems (Gainsbury, 2015). When asked about what
aspects of the gambling experience were most impor-
tant to them, most participants (both male and female)
stated that the main aspect of the gambling experience
that was important for them was winning money.
However, both males and females tended to highly
value similar aspects of the gambling experience related
to accessibility, namely enjoyment, access and conveni-
ence. This is also reﬂected in the ﬁndings related to
choosing a website where ease of use was noted as the
most important factor when choosing a gambling app
or website for both males and females in our survey.
It is interesting to note that mobile apps were also
the most commonly used device, which would
intuitively be the easiest to access compared with
computers or tablets.
As stated before, participants valued the enjoyment
of the experience as one of the most important aspects
of the gambling experience, with 76.0% of our study
participants citing it as a reason to gamble online.
Enjoyment has also been noted as a frequently cited
reason for gambling online in other studies, with other
studies citing ﬁgures between 48.7% (McCormack et al.
2014) and 59.9% (Goldstein et al. 2016) of all partici-
pants. Following on from this, participants were asked
about the emotions they experience when gambling
online. The results were mainly positive emotions,
with the majority of participants stating that they feel
excitement and happiness while gambling. Interest-
ingly, the next most common emotion experienced was
that participants felt no difference when gambling
online, followed then by primarily negative emotions
such as frustration and irritability. We know from
previous studies that gambling to relieve negative mood
states increases the likelihood of problem gambling
(Blaszczynski & Nower, 2002; Matthews et al. 2009;
Nower & Blaszczynski, 2010), which may indicate
problem gamblers identifying with these emotions in
The main reason for ending a gambling session was
that the participant had something else to do, with the
majority (67.3%) of participants stating this as the main
reason. This ﬁnding would correlate with previous
studies (McCormack et al. 2014). However, boredom is
frequently cited in other studies as a main reason to
end gambling sessions (McCormack et al. 2014;
Goldstein et al. 2016) and was cited as one of the least
common reasons in this study. Problem gamblers
have been shown to use gambling as a means to escape
boredom (Lloyd et al.2010a) and the alternative ﬁnding
in these studies may reﬂect the higher number
of regular gamblers (>4 times per month) in these
studies compared with our survey.
As mentioned earlier, the majority of participants
stated that ease of use was the most important factor
when choosing a gambling website. The other factors
people identiﬁed were free offers advertised and the
brand name gambling websites. The participants in
the study also stated that they ﬁnd some gambling
websites more trustworthy than others, and this may be
a large factor into deciding to choose the brand name
websites over other websites. Females were also more
likely to use a website if their friends recommended it,
which has also been found in previous studies
(McCormack et al. 2014).
This survey also looked at the severity and impact of
online gambling in their lives. The questions listed in
the survey were taken from the Problem Gambling
Severity Index (PGSI), a widely used nine item scale for
measuring the severity of gambling problems in the
general population (Currie et al. 2013). The majority of
people surveyed identiﬁed with at least one of the
statements listed. The most common impact that
gambling had on the participants lives was ﬁnancial,
followed by signiﬁcant mental health difﬁculties,
indicating the presence of problem gambling. This is
also reﬂected internationally as only 24.3% of patients
in a recent study by McCormack et al. were identiﬁed
as non-problem gamblers, according to the PGSI
(McCormack et al. 2014).
Most of the participants surveyed have never taken
part in any treatment for their gambling behaviours.
We know from previous studies that land based
gamblers are more likely to acknowledge the need for
treatment for gambling addiction (Blaszczynski et al.
2016) compared with online users. Around 80% of all
A national survey of online gambling behaviours 7
participants have never sought any treatment for a
gambling problem. This contrasts with the 64.4% of
participants that felt that they may have a problem with
gambling. This would suggest that, while the majority
of participants can recognise they have a problem, few
are seeking help and treatment for this.
The participants in this survey were also asked
about their attitudes and beliefs in relation to online
gambling. Most participants agreed with statements
that would help minimise the harmful effect of online
gambling, such as wanting the potential dangers of
online gambling advertised and websites to state how
long someone has been playing or how much they have
lost. The participants also stated that that they felt
that online gambling was more addictive than ofﬂine
gambling and that some gambling websites are more
trustworthy than others. This level of agreement would
suggest that online gamblers would welcome certain
restrictions and warning on gambling websites in order
to minimise the impact they can potentially have.
The participants tended to disagree that they were
attracted to websites by the sound effects or graphics.
This would support the suggestion that online
gamblers generally are not attracted to the physical
appearance of the site or other commonly used
methods to entice people to a website including cele-
brity endorsement. This ﬁnding would be in line with
other previous studies (McCormack et al. 2014).
There are some limitations identiﬁed in this study.
Given that this is a self-report online study, it may be
difﬁcult to interpret the results as problem gamblers have
been shown to have difﬁculty estimating their gambling
experiences, especially the gamblers with higher losses
(Auer & Grifﬁths, 2016). Ideally this study would
also look for signiﬁcant differences between genders.
However, given the low overall number of female parti-
cipants, the study would not yield accurate statistical
differences. Further, large-scale studies would be needed
to identify gender differences in relation to online gam-
bling. There is also a risk of selection bias with this online
survey, given that it is more likely to attract online gam-
blers with some strong opinions around online gambling,
as well as some insight into their gambling difﬁculties.
In conclusion, this survey has shown that online
gamblers in Ireland share similar behavioural
proﬁles to online gamblers in the United Kingdom and
worldwide. There are many people in Ireland suffering
from ﬁnancial and mental health difﬁculties related to
online gambling and there is a desire amongst this
cohort to have the dangers of online gambling adver-
tised on these websites in order to limit the damage
they can cause. We have identiﬁed different factors that
contribute to problems with online gambling such as
the emotions experienced during online gambling and
the reasons for starting and ending online gambling
sessions. Further studies are needed to explore these
ﬁndings and their usefulness as possible targets for
intervention to reduce levels of problem gambling.
The authors wish to acknowledge the contribution of
Dr Emma McAdams, who contributed to the format-
ting of results of the survey, as well as Dr Barbara
Dooley who contributed to the study design and
request for ethical approval.
This research received no speciﬁc grant from any
funding agency, commercial or not-for-proﬁt sectors.
Conﬂicts of Interest
The authors declare that there are no conﬂicts of
The authors assert that all procedures contributing to this
work comply with the ethical standards of the relevant
national and institutional committee on human experi-
mentation with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as
revised in 2008. The study protocol was approved by the
ethic committee of UCD Ofﬁce of Research Ethics, Roe-
buck Castle, University College Dublin, Belﬁeld, Dublin 4.
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