Are More Problem Gamblers Created by Mobile Gambling?

Mobile gambling has been increasing at a very fast pace over the past few years. This is coming on because of increases in smartphone availability and the fact that a lot of sites are starting to really push their mobile software and applications. This is very similar to how online casinos gained popularity in the late 1990s in the sense that it was a combination of the available hardware, connection speeds and the increased availability of Internet connections in the homes of potential players. It's obvious from this that there are more opportunities for players to gamble while they are out and about than there were five years ago.

One of the main arguments used against the expansion of gambling on the Internet is that it increases the number of problem gamblers. This argument was used by those in opposition to gambling sites expanding in the late 1990s, and it's being used now against the expansion of mobile play. It's hard to argue with the logic that the absolute number of problem gambling cases increases with the availability of mobile sites because the pure numbers have increased each year at a steady rate. However, this by itself isn't sufficient evidence to suggest that mobile gambling should be prevented.

In an important paper called "Prevalence of the Addictions: A Problem of the Majority or the Minority," a number of studies were cited that looked at the prevalence of compulsive gambling in populations of people who actually gambled. What they found was that the actual percentages of gamblers who developed issues with problem gambling stayed about the same over time. These percentages ranged between 0.5 percent and 2.5 percent depending on the criteria being used to determine what was and what was not compulsive gambling behavior.

This percentage is important because it can be compared to other types of behaviors that aren't demonized by a political agenda. For example, in 2009, around one percent of people interviewed from the ages of 16 to 74 in Norway met the DSM criteria for Internet addiction. Also in 2009, 8.5 percent of young people between the ages of 8 and 18 had Internet-based video game addiction according to the DSM criteria. A total of 5.8 percent of people surveyed in 2006 by Koran et al. exhibited shopping addiction.

It's easy to see by these numbers that there are plenty of other addictive behaviors that cause a lot of harm. However, you won't see politicians trying to outlaw shopping, Internet usage or Internet-based video games. You won't see that because they can't use it as a part of an agenda to get re-elected. When it comes to things like shopping or using the Internet, people won't get behind a ban because it would affect too many people. The logic is that people should be able to choose for themselves what they do in these areas, and they don't need the government to force them to buy certain things or only surf the web during certain times.

The same logic can be applied to gambling. Yes, it's very sad that a certain small percentage of the population has gambling addiction issues, and there is a strong argument there that a certain portion of profits from casino-based businesses should go towards treatment centers for these people. However, it doesn't make sense at all to try to limit the availability of mobile gambling any more than it makes sense to prevent the availability of mobile shopping.