A new research study gathered by Harvard Medical School’s Addictions Department and European gambling group bwin has reported that gambling addiction has remained virtually static over the past few decades despite the major increases in online betting.

The study primarily focused on the connection between increasingly accessible gambling and its impact on addiction. The main purpose was to try to identify what makes a gambling addict, how to prevent gambling addiction from occurring, and major steps that need to be taken to prevent gambling addiction from ever forming in the first place. Surprisingly, reports have revealed that problem gambling has declined slightly from levels taken in the 1970s from 0.7% to 0.6%.

Dr. Howard Shaffer, the director of Harvard Medical School’s Addictions Department, stated that the results of the study clash with the common belief that greater accessibility of online gambling would lead to increased incidences of gambling addiction.

“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”, Shaffer said. “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 behavior based on their wins and their losses — exhibiting rational betting behavior.”

Two subgroups were identified in the study based on data from 3,445 bwin customers over a two-year period. Ninety-five percent of the sample was male and the average age of the group was 27.9 years old. Approximately 95% of the sample wagered a median of €13 at each of two poker sessions per week during a median duration from first to last bet of six months. A smaller subgroup (5%) of involved poker players wagered €89 at each of 10 sessions per week during a median duration from first to last bet of 18 months.

The study also proves that the more time players spend at a table, the better they get. The 5% 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. It is possible that the combination of all of these findings will present important evidence toward the legalization of online gambling in the United States.

“In our intention to replace speculation with scientific evidence, this study takes us a big step closer towards understanding the behavior of online poker players”, said Manfred Bodner, Co-CEO of bwin. “Ultimately we are interested in developing algorithms capable of identifying behavioral patterns or identifying risk patterns associated with disordered gaming.”

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