Online Casino Addiction

What are Online Casinos

Online casinos are websites that allow gamblers to place bets and play virtual games over the Internet. Similar to regular land casinos, online casinos are set up so that the “house” (i.e. the website) has an advantage over the player. This means that over time, the website will always “win” more money than it pays out.

Online Gambling Addiction

Online casinos pose special risks for pathological gambling, or developing gambling disorder, as they appeal to people who are at risk of developing gambling problems, but who are deterred from accessing regular casinos for reasons such as social anxiety, lack of transportation, and lack of access to cash.

As bets to online casinos are placed through use of a credit card, there is a high risk of running up credit card debt quickly, as gamblers get caught up in the excitement of the game. However, it is possible to place limits on the amount you “spend,” (i.e. lose), in online casinos.

Several studies have confirmed that a small percentage of online casino gamblers become intensely involved in online gambling, which is similar to other forms of gambling.

Online Vs. Land Casinos

Visiting a casino online or in-person is risky to people who have difficulty controlling their urges to gamble. While land casinos offer other types of entertainment besides gambling alone, they increase the risk of gambling through providing real-world sensory cues -- lights, an enticing high-energy environment -- that increase gambling urges.

However, when you access a casino online, the focus is primarily on gambling itself, resulting in intense involvement with the gambling activity, without other distractions.

The ability to pay by credit card rather than with chips also increases the risk of running up large debts quickly.

If you find you are spending a lot while visiting a casino online or in-person, you can try self-exclusion from land casinos and limiting the amount you spend (i.e. lose) while visiting a casino online.

For some, complete cessation of gambling at either may be necessary.

Gambling addiction is the best resourced of the behavioral addictions, and there are many gambling hotlines, which can link you to services that will help you address your gambling problems.

Free Online Casinos

Many people who want to make a quick buck are seduced by the idea of a “free casino.” However, there is no such thing as a free casino – whether you pay an entrance fee, or pay by your losses, the house advantage employed by all casinos ensures that you will pay back more than you win.

Casinos operate on the principle that gamblers are enticed by the lure of a big win. However, they also set the odds so that losses occur much more frequently than wins. Social gamblers understand this and accept the cost for the sake of the entertainment they get from the gambling experience.

People with gambling problems fail to see the real odds, and instead have distorted perceptions that make them feel that a win, particularly a big win, is more likely than it actually is.

This overconfidence is related to the functioning of the brains of people with gambling problems, who are also overconfident in other areas of their lives. This overconfidence makes them vulnerable to great losses, as they fail to perceive the reality of the situation.


Camchong et al, “A Cognitive Neuroscience Approach to Studying the Role of Overconfidence in Problem Gambling.” Journal of Gambling Studies 23:185-199. 2007.

Fiedler, I. “The Gambling Habits Of Online Poker Players.” Journal of Gambling Business and Economics  6(1): 1-24. 2011.

Goodie, A. “The Role of Perceived Control and Overconfidence in Pathological Gambling.” Journal of Gambling Studies 21: 481-502. 2005.

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