The Casino, a classic movie setting that just about everyone should be familiar with. I’ve been to my fair share where I’ve parted with a maximum of $100 in my entire life. These windowless, dimly lit caverns of excess no longer have a monopoly on the gambling industry, as online gambling is getting bigger and bigger.
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What started out as a low tech niche in the mid 1990’s, online gambling has grown into a highly sophisticated industry worth tens of billions annually.
The last 10 years has seen a huge shift to gambling from the comfort of your own home. There’s no need to jump in your car and drive to the nearest casino, all you have to do is power up your PC or grab your tablet. In 2 minutes you can be playing poker against people from all over the world, the wonders of technology.
While technology is usually used to reduce costs and improve our quality of life, it has helped the gambling industry to siphon away money like never before.
Online Gambling: Easy To Rack Up Losses
I have never gambled online before so I decided to visit a few sites and get a feel for what’s available, I was surprised at what I found. Online gaming sites are of course easy to navigate, emphasize ease of use and the thrill of the game.
If we look past the glossy exterior of these sites major issues lurk beneath.
- Accounts can be funded by direct debit or credit cards
- Accounts can be funded using easy “one click” transfers
- Virtual currencies can be used that are then linked to real money
- Gaming sites reward players with “loyalty” or “VIP” points that are linked to the amount of real money spent
- Some sites can offer a type of “welcome bonus” to entice new players to join by giving them more virtual currency for them to gamble with
Any one of these issues might be alright on its own, but add them all together and the picture is clear. It’s easy to rack up losses.
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At least with a physical casino a player would have to walk over to a cashier and get physical cash, this might give them some time to think things through. Even seeing the reaction from other players when you lose a lot of money might give some people pause. In the digital world, no one is watching.
I once heard a story of someone who had a gambling addiction whose problem had gotten so bad that they personally phoned up all the local casinos to put themselves on the do not allow list. The person even sent the casinos a photo so that their facial recognition software would detect them entering the building and alert security.
This seems like an effective way to keep yourself out of trouble. The only problem however was this person didn’t view online gambling in the same way as physical gambling and so they didn’t limit themselves the same way from playing online. The addiction continued.
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This story is what got me to think about how we view gambling in the digital world in a totally different light than in the physical world. For those that would never set foot in a casino and gamble away $5,000 in one evening, there is an alternative. You can play for a few minutes each day from your phone on the commute home from work and lose say $20 to $30 each time.
Sure the losses are small but the frequency of losses could be very rapid which would lead to just as significant losses as those incurred in the physical world.
Gambling is a business like any other, and companies are in business to make a profit. With gambling, we know the odds are not in our favour but we play anyway for the thrill of winning.
Though the odds should be the same whether you play online or at the casino, ease of losing track of losses increases. It’s very easy to ink a credit card to your account and use the one click top up method to quickly get back into a game. These losses would then be incurred on a form of debt that carriers an interest rate of around 20%.
The online gambling industry will continue to grow into the future, be aware that the anonymity and ease of use the web provides can work against us.
Play for fun and keep losses small, only a very small number of people beat the odds.
Andrew is a Canadian personal finance and investing blogger who recently moved to London, England. He has a background in technology and a passion for travel. His blog, She Thinks I’m Cheap aims to help Canadians build wealth by sharing facts, stories and advice.