Online Gaming Less Addicting Than Gambling, New Study Concludes

Posted on November 7th, 2016 by Daniel Ryder
online gaming online poker Oxford Internet Institute

The Oxford Internet Institute says online gaming is only half as addicting as regular gambling, a finding that could help online poker’s chances in the US next year. (Image: www.oii.ox.ac.uk)

Online gaming is far less addicting than traditional gambling, according to a new study conducted by Oxford University’s Internet Institute.

Published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers at Oxford polled 18,932 men and women residing in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and Germany to learn about their internet gaming habits.

More than half of the respondents said they had played a game online recently, but only two to three percent reported they had experienced five or more “internet gaming disorder” symptoms as defined by the American Psychiatric Association. When it came to “significant distress,” only 0.5 to one percent reported they were unable to curb their online play.

That pales in comparison to serious addiction rates for traditional brick-and-mortar gamblers. The most recent British Gambling Prevalence Survey found that 2.6 percent of those aged 18-24 experienced significant gambling problems.

The relatively low problem gaming incidences online could help push the internet gambling and poker movement in 2017 in the United States.

“Internet games are currently one of the most popular leisure activities, but we can’t leap to conclusions and assume that if 160 million Americans play them, one million of them might be addicted,” Oxford Internet Institute lead Dr. Andrew Przybylski said. “Importantly, the great majority of gamers, nearly three in four, reported no symptoms at all that we would link with addictive gaming behavior.”

Differing Opinions

“Click your mouse, lose your house.” It’s the famous mantra purported by anti-online poker critics like Las Vegas Sands billionaire Sheldon Adelson. But is there any truth to the tagline?

The Oxford study, though one of the biggest in terms of sample size, isn’t the first to deduct an opinion that internet gambling might not be as dangerous as some want the public to believe.

In 2014, Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addiction followed the habits of 3,445 online poker players on the bwin.com platform.

“As players experienced more losses, they moderated their gambling. This finding suggests that the majority of individuals curbed their gambling based on their wins and losses, exhibiting what might be considered rational betting behavior,” the study deduced.

However, critics warn that online gambling’s easy accessibility could lead to serious consequences for those prone to addiction. It’s also worth mentioning that the Oxford study takes into account all forms of internet gaming including games that don’t involve real money wagers.

“Contrary to what was predicted, the study did not find a clear link between potential addiction and negative effects on health, however, more research grounded in open and robust scientific practices is needed,” Przybylski concluded.

Kids, Machines, & Gambling

Just a day after Oxford released its internet gaming findings, England’s Action for Children charity revealed that 25 percent of parents rank their children’s time in front of computers and mobile devices as their greatest concern.

One in four parents say trying to curb their children’s time in front of the machines causes more stress than getting them to complete their homework.

“Whether you call it an addiction or not, this is an enormous and growing problem,” Dr. Aric Sigman told UK’s Observer newspaper.

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