Online gambling is an activity in which people place wagers on a variety of events and games using computers connected to the Internet. Many of these sites offer free play to introduce visitors to the types of games available, but those who want to gamble for money must register and deposit funds. This process requires that they input personal information and create a user name and password for future access. They can then transfer funds to an online gambling account from a credit card, through an online payment provider such as PayPal, or by wire transfer. Winnings are often deposited into the gambler’s account or paid via certified check mailed to the winner.
The proliferation of online gambling has provoked concern among some officials and led to efforts to regulate the activity. The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, a bill currently in Congress, would criminalize betting on the World Wide Web and prohibit financial institutions from shielding their customers from prosecution under this statute. It would also establish a federal agency to oversee online gambling activities and to protect children from exposure to gambling sites.
Other bills aimed at curbing the growth of the industry have been introduced in state legislatures. In New York, for example, an effort has been made to pass a law that would require Internet gambling sites to be licensed. The law would also require that gambling software be tested for sensitivity to addiction and that websites include a link to a hotline to help problem gamblers seek treatment and assistance.
A number of different studies have indicated that online gambling is addictive. In one study, researchers found that individuals who participated in gambling-themed online communities were more likely to report problems with gambling than those who did not participate. This finding was consistent across a range of studies, and it was stronger for young gamblers who had weak offline relationships with family, friends, and work colleagues.
Another study conducted by George T. Ladd and Nancy M. Petry of the University of Connecticut compared Internet gamblers to non-Internet gamblers. The researchers enrolled students seeking free or low-cost medical and dental care at the university’s clinics to complete a questionnaire that included questions about disordered gambling. Of the 389 students who completed the survey in full, 90% reported having gambled at some point in their lives, and 42% reported gambling on a regular basis. The majority of those who gambled regularly reported that they did so on the Internet.
When gambling for real money, users should always use a secure connection. When logging in, make sure that the website address has a padlock symbol and that the security protocol begins with ‘https’. This will ensure that all transactions are secure and that personal information is protected from hackers. Additionally, users should always choose a user name that does not reveal any personal details and play only on sites that are licensed and regulated by a recognized gambling authority.