Expanded Internet Gaming Unlikely To Spur Addictions, Says Michigan Entrepreneur

OwnThePlay preparing human to human online fantasy sports platforms.

Matt Chatlin, Founder and CEO of Michigan-based OwnThePlay, a developer of fantasy sports games for mobile digital platforms, doesn’t believe internet gambling addiction will grow as internet-based human-to-human gaming becomes more prevalent.

Fantasy sports games are legal, having been specifically excluded from the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA), U.S. national legislation regarding online gambling in the United States. Today, fantasy sports leagues and other type of online games are immensely popular, and appeal to both men and women.

“Participating in human-to-human fantasy games is much like shopping, playing sports or pursuing a hobby in a competitive manner. There’s an emotional investment in the activity, learning, studying, plotting strategy, the quest to find or be the best at something,” Chatlin said.

“However, as internet-based, human-to-human gaming expands, a legalized and regulated industry can be a partner with families, authorities and the medical community in steering any compulsive gamblers to treatment. We must learn how to identify and treat addiction as an emotional disease,” added Chatlin, a former operator of a charity poker house.

For the record.  Chatlin references several different gaming environments, globally and here in the United States, to put compulsive gambling in perspective.

Based on a meta-analysis of seven academic or formal studies, the American Gaming Association reports that “despite the fact that the number of states with commercial casinos has increased 10-fold during the past 20 years, the prevalence rate of pathological and problem gambling in the U.S. is roughly the same today as it was 30 years ago.”

In Europe, the United Kingdom’s Gambling Commission, which is responsible for the regulating of legal online and physical gaming and gambling subsequent to the UK’S Gambling Act of 2005, has published its British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010, a follow up to similar comprehensive studies conducted in 1999 and 2007.

The survey identified a prevalence of problem gambling of 0.9 percent in 2010, comparable to a prevalence of problem gambling of 0.6 percent in 1999 and 2007.  The study noted that the earlier surveys were somewhat different in content and any statistical significance between periods surveyed might warrant re-examination.

The Commission also reported that this prevalence was similar to problem gambling rates in other European nations, including Germany, Norway and Switzerland.

Of gambling forms, slot machines are of particular concern. Natasha Dow Schull is the author or “Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Law Vegas.”  In a recent New York Times column, she cited research by Brown University psychiatrist Robert Breen that “found that individuals who regularly play slots become addicted three to four times faster (in one year, versus three and a half years) than those who play cards or bet on sports.”

Other considerations.  Chatlin said that there are already multiple venues for legalized gambling at present, including state-sponsored lotteries (47 jurisdictions), scratch-off games and Keno; physical casinos (20 states), American Indian jurisdiction casinos (30); and charitable games and bingo halls (everywhere).

“With licensing and regulation, allied to responsible industry operators, we believe that there are far fewer issues in human-to-human online gaming, as opposed to house games at casinos or pure gambles like state lotteries,” Chatlin says.

According to Chatlin, with today’s technology, platform-dependent online gaming can be configured and regulated to screen and authenticate players, establish advertising standards, ensure the integrity of competition, set playing limits and detect abnormal or compulsive playing activity, and ensure the integrity of financial transactions.