Make Online Gambling Legal Researchers Say

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When University of Western Ontario professor June Cotte started researching online gambling, she never expected to recommend it be legalized.

"If you told me I was going to come to that conclusion at the start of research I would have laughed," said Cotte.

But when the Richard Ivey School of Business associate marketing professor dug into the subject she was shocked to find an industry that was already bringing in $12 billion to $15 billion a year.

"The horse is out of the barn. There is a huge amount of people who are already doing this," she said.

Cotte researched online gambling with colleague Kathryn Latour of the University of Nevada, interviewing 20 regular casino gamblers and 10 regular online gamblers. They found online gamblers played more frequently and aggressively.

They also found a number of troubling features of the illegal online operations that are run offshore.

For one, people who gambled online weren't as aware of their losses as they would be in a casino.

"They don't have chips dwindling in front of them, they don't have, in the case of slot machines, a can of coins that goes away," Cotte said.

The online gamblers also tended to gamble longer, integrating the gambling into their day-to-day routine.

"Some of the people . . . gamble with their kids so their kids are helping them push the buttons, learning the games," she said.

Cotte said if online gambling was legalized, as casinos are, it could be regulated to possibly reduce harmful effects.

"You could require the North American online casinos to have things like cooling off periods, where if you run out of money you don't instantaneously hit a button and upload some more. In a casino, if you run out of cash, you at least have to walk to an ATM."

There could also be requirements for popup notices to online gamblers, warning them they're crossing a threshold, such as $1,000 in losses, or that they are entering hour three of gambling.

"For some people it could just give them time to reflect that maybe they can't put in another $500," Cotte said.

"You could also have online counselling."



London Free Press

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