Two year study debunks the myth that Internet gambling is more addictive

With the results of its two-year collaboration on addictive gambling with Harvard University due for publication in the near future (see previous InfoPowa reports), the Vienna-listed online gambling giant Bwin has released a statement on the project.

The statement notes that the results constitute the first ever epidemiological analysis of the actual gaming behaviour evidenced by a large sample of 3 445 online poker players over the span of 2 years. The study was conducted by the Division on Addictions, Cambridge Health Alliance, a Harvard Medical School teaching affiliate.

The partnership between Bwin and the Division on Addictions was established in 2005 to provide a scientific basis for the assessment of conspicuous gaming behaviour and its consequences for responsible gaming. Two key findings beginning to emerge from the research initiative are:

1) The myth of online gaming as a powerful seductive force has been empirically refuted. Online gaming has no greater problem potential than offline gaming.

2) Responsible gaming measures are effective.

The current research, which statistically analyses in detail the behaviour of Internet poker players, is the world's largest longitudinal and the first ever epidemiological study of its kind, a Bwin spokesman claimed.

Howard Shaffer, PH.D., Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School, Director, Division on Addictions is quoted in the statement as saying: "In this research we provide additional evidence in support of our previous research showing that most subscribers who gamble on the Internet do so moderately. In fact, correlation analyses indicated that as Percent Lost increased, Duration, Total Gambling Sessions, and Total Amount Wagered all decreased, suggesting that individuals moderated their behaviour based on their wins and their losses - exhibiting "rational" betting behavior."

Dr. Shaffer gave some interesting advance titbits from the study:

* The average age of the sample was 27.9 years and almost 95 percent were male. The typical poker player was an active poker player for a median duration of six and a half months and participated in a median of one poker session every three days. The median Euros per session gambled was Euro 13 and the median cost of playing poker was Euro 1.80 per session.

* The gaming behaviours of the most involved poker players show that this group, representing 5 percent of all players, was active for a duration of 18.5 months and participated in ten sessions per week. This subgroup had a smaller percentage lost than the sample majority, suggesting that skill is a factor in poker play and that players are able to improve their performance compared with chance.

* When examining the most involved poker players who devoted more time and money to this activity than the norm, the study found that like the rest of the sample, they reduced Euros per session and reduced Total Wagered as Percent Loss increased.

"In our intention is to replace speculation with scientific evidence," said Manfred Bodner, co-CEO of Bwin. "This study takes us a big step closer towards understanding the behaviour of online poker players. Ultimately we are interested in developing algorithms capable of identifying behavioural patterns or identifying risk patterns associated with disordered gaming."

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