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Latest Developments in Problem Gambling

September 07, 2009

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Of late problem gambling has become a contentious issue. The online casinos claim that they are not responsible for problem gambling. The NGOs dealing with the issue claim that banning online gambling will not help. However many of the legislators and religious leaders insist that online gambling is the root of the evil and are fighting against the legalization of online gambling.

The latest to voice an opinion in this matter was Carol O'Hare, the executive director of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling. In an interview given to the Las Vegas Sun Carol advocated education and treatment as the best approaches to dealing with compulsive gambling instead of banning online gambling. In fact she was emphatic that problem gambling will not disappear if land casinos or online casinos are made it difficult to access. She said, "We tried prohibition in this country once. It didn't work."

Scientific studies that have been conducted by mental health specialists indicate that compulsive gambling is a type of mental disorder not very different from that type that leads to substance abuse. Also it has been statistically shown that the percentage of problem gamblers has remained the same at around 3% of the population whether online gambling has been freely available or has been banned. Therefore Carol opined that the focus has to be on mitigating the circumstances for the problem gamblers and not on trying to throw gambling out of existence.

Carol O'Hare also referred to a study released this week in Chicago that linked compulsive gambling to a person's genetic makeup. The study reported the isolation of a gene that can cause abusive and addictive behavior triggered by excess of drugs, alcohol, food, sex or gambling. This shows that some people are inherently predisposed to problem gambling. This gene is known as the D-2 receptor.

 Carroll argues, "We're no longer talking about a moral judgment. We're no longer talking about right or wrong." Therefore problem gambling becomes a treatable disorder. Earlier scientific studies had demonstrated that there was a relationship between dopamine production and problem gambling.

The coming months will see plenty of discussion on online gambling both in state legislatures and in Washington. Hopefully these discussions will be based on the established views that proliferation of online gambling outlets will not lead to increase in problem gambling. Europe is moving fast on the legalization and regulation of online gambling. If American legislators cannot accept the views of their own scientific community and their past experiences of prohibition then it will be sad for the online gambling industry in the United States.
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