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Harvard Report shows Online Poker does not Promote Gambling Addiction

Conclusions drawn from a report compiled by Harvard Medical School´s Division on Addiction show that online poker does not promote gambling addiction.

Online Poker does not Promote Gambling AddictionConclusions drawn from a report compiled by Harvard Medical School´s Division on Addiction show that online poker does not promote gambling addiction.

Harvard Medical School´s Division on Addiction recently completed the most extensive and comprehensive study of online gambling, and found that the 24/7 availability of online poker does not promote gambling addiction.

The study was based on anonymous data collected from PokerStars´ and Bwin´s player database and analysed the betting actions of millions of poker players, online casino gamblers and sports bettors. It concluded that the small percentage of players who demonstrated intense gambling behaviour was in parallel with gambling statistics from 35 years ago – long before the arrival of online gambling.

Harvard´s Research in Numbers

Harvard Medical School examined 4,000 online casino gamblers and 40,000 sports bettors from Bwin´s player database over a two year period and found that online casino gamblers – on average – go online once every two weeks and lose about 5.5% of their bankroll each time. Sports bettors – who tend to top up their accounts whenever they want an online bet – placed 2.5 bets with an average stake of $5.50 every four days.

Harvard´s research was supplemented by a study conducted by the University of Hamburg over a six-month period which researched the gambling habits of more than two million poker players on PokerStars. This research determined that the median player only went online 4.88 hours per week and paid less than a dollar per hour per table in rake or tournament entry fees.

Harvard´s Study Supports Previous Research

Prior to Harvard´s recent report, the previously biggest survey of online poker players had been conducted by the Nottingham Trent University on behalf of the industry´s self-regulatory body eCOGRA. The eCOGRA survey was conducted at the height of the online poker boom (2007) and found that online poker players go online two or three times a week for an average of 1-2 hours (much in line with the 4.88 hours per week indicated by the University of Hamburg´s research).

The average amount bet during a session at the tables in the 2007 survey was $45.00 with the majority of players sticking to just one or two cash game tables – making the average rake per hour per table approximately $1.20. It was also interesting that this survey revealed the median percentage of a bankroll that players took to the tables was 6% (i.e. buying into a cash game with 1/16th of their bankroll) – barely the attributes of problem gamblers.

No Increase in Gambling Addiction in 35 Years

The Harvard report also confirms the comments made in a paper in 2011 by two former employees of Harvard´s Division on Addiction – Howard Shaffer and Ryan Martin. They commented that, contrary to predictions, the prevalence of pathological gambling has remained stable during the past 35 years despite an unprecedented increase in the opportunities and access to gambling.

Shaffer also wrote that temporary increases in gambling activity are more frequently observed when new opportunities to gamble are introduced (for example mobile apps for online poker), but the frenzy subsides as the novelty wears off, and most people return to their regular pattern of gambling activity within a short space of time.

What This Research Means to the Anti-Online Gambling Lobby

The report showing that online poker does not promote gambling addiction is going to be a kick in the pants for Sheldon Adelson and his anti-online gambling lobby. Adelson´s claims that a problem gambler may “lose their house at the click of a mouse” appear more ludicrous than ever after the Harvard Medical School´s Division on Addiction research because problem gamblers will find some way of getting their fix whether it is online or in one of Adelson´s brick and mortar casinos.

Indeed, regulators in Nevada may be interested by the final section of the Harvard report, in which it states that brick and mortar casinos deliberately create a more attractive environment for gamblers (the Friedman-design “playground” model), which encourages them to stay longer, feel better and bet more. Despite their financial losses, the report states, brick and mortar gamblers are likely to return more often and develop a gambling addiction.

Additional information and sources provided by Cameron Tung from The Atlantic