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What are the odds that you develop a gambling problem via online poker?

According to several studies run by national and international organizations, they’re pretty big. Don’t be alarmed though. This doesn’t mean that a fully responsible and reasonable adult person will certainly become a compulsive gambler if he/she takes up online poker and plays it for real money. It only means that online poker players are apparently more exposed than regular, live casino gamblers.

The most exposed are youngsters, and there are several facts to back this claim up. Young people are risk-takers by nature (certainly, not all of them, but it is a much more predominant trend in this age-group than in any other). That, coupled with a vision on life that may or may not accurately reflect reality, makes them a prime problem-gambling group.

The fact that most of today’s young people grew up using a computer and playing computer games, makes the problem even deeper. They can now win real money by playing the games they’ve always enjoyed. They possess the dexterity and the technical know-how to download, install, run, understand, play and potentially exploit these games, and that leaves them with no protection whatsoever against the imminent danger of getting caught up in something they think they can control, but upon which they have no influence whatsoever.

The peculiarities and the nature of online poker are another problem in this respect. The relative anonymity the internet offers, shields players from eventual sarcasm coming from other players regarding their lack of skills, but that same factor makes it extremely difficult to detect an underage player or one that is a compulsive gambler. Even though small steps are taken in the right direction, few online poker rooms block problem gamblers, compulsive spenders, or offer them the option to have themselves blocked.
While in live poker, there are all sorts of distractions on hand all the time, online poker makes sure the player doesn’t have to focus on anything else, doesn’t have to stop for anything, or be in any way distracted from the game.

Certainly, people are getting into trouble on account of their online poker play, that is a fact. Exactly what percentage of all online poker players fall into that category though, is up for debate. Studies show that those who play online poker instead of the real thing take a bigger risk of developing gambling related issues.

What would be a possible solution for this problem? Regulation and control seems to be the most reasonable answer. By banning online poker and online gambling, governments not only commit the mistake of letting go of funds that could be used for tackling the very core of the issue, they also choose to let the phenomenon run rampant, uncontrolled and unchecked by any sort of authority.
One would have to be downright naive to believe that once banned, online gambling problems will simply go away. On the contrary, they’ll blossom underground and wreak much more havoc in peoples’ lives than before.

The most important thing is: if you feel you have a gambling problem (check our "responsible gambling” section for leads on how to tell), do seek help by all means. Remember, accepting that you have a problem is the first step you take towards solving it.

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