CANADIAN ACADEMIC CALLS FOR ONLINE GAMBLING REGULATION

Licensing and regulating experienced operators could reduce the risk of harmful effects
June Cotte, a marketing associate professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario has called for the legalization of online gambling to allow for better regulation and to potentially reduce harmful effects.
   
"One potential solution is to allow legitimate corporate sponsors, like the corporations that run the major casinos in Las Vegas or the government sponsors in Canada, to enter into a newly regulated market for online gambling," opined the academician. "Just as legalised commercial gambling in casinos allows governments to regulate it, so, too, could the legalisation of online gambling
allow for better regulation and attempts to reduce the growth of problem gamblers."
   
CNW reports that Cotte and colleague Kathryn A. Latour from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, carried out a study, "Blackjack in the Kitchen: Understanding Online Versus Casino Gambling," which is to be published in the Journal of Consumer Research in the winter of 2009.
The duo interviewed 20 regular casino gamblers and 10 regular online gamblers using pictures as stimuli to learn what gambling feels like and how it is perceived. Results show online gamblers gamble more frequently and aggressively, and the indications are that this is because [land] casino gambling, which requires travel to an outside location, is more difficult to hide.
In contrast, access to online gambling is easily integrated into daily home routines, meaning more time can be spent on gambling. Online gambling lacks social interaction so participants are involved for the game, rather than other aspects, which may appeal to gamblers' competitive streak.
   
"The unregulated online environment results in a more chaotic environment with no clear social norms and rules," said Cotte. "The meaning of gambling changes, moving from a shared conviviality available in the casino to a no-holds-barred battle online. It brings out the gamblers' more competitive side."
Cotte observes that although online gambling is illegal or in a legal grey area in Canada and the U.S., except when initiated by Canada's provincial lottery corporations, it is still easily accessible through Internet companies located offshore. According
to the study, more than $10 billion annually is spent worldwide by consumers on online gambling.
   
In contrast, casino gambling, which is now legal in all but two U.S. states, is highly regulated and scrutinised. Cotte and Latour suggest that legalizing and regulating online gambling, similar to the way casino gambling is regulated, may help reduce the incidences of problem gambling.
The academicians suggest that the following elements could be tied into online gambling regulations:
* Better use of age checks when signing up for an online account;
* Cross-checking new users with lists of pathological gamblers;
* Setting financial limits on gambling and having the site communicate to gamblers spending long hours and excessive money;
* Making information available about problem gambling treatments via pop-ups on instant messages;
* Having an online gambling counselor available online;
* Mandatory "cooling-off periods," which force online gamblers to stop gambling for a pre-set amount of time before they are allowed to wager money from their accounts;
* Making tabulations of wins and losses more central and larger on the computer screen to increase the players' awareness of where they stand.
  
The study also recommends that online gambling casinos minimise the use of bold, flashing graphics to signal wins in order to moderate the 'emotional experience' for gamblers.

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