Few adults admit
to gambling online

Feb 28, 2006 2:28 AM

Online gambling has garnered a great deal of press recently, as the U.S. Congress considers a measure to ban Internet gaming altogether.

That effort was probably bolstered by a recent news story of an underage gambler who cheated players on a major poker site out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

And, while online gaming appears to be a thriving, albeit cryptic, industry, very few U.S. adults admit to ever making an online bet.

Specifically, 95 percent of adults who use the Internet say they’ve never gambled in an online casino; 94 percent say they’ve never played online poker; and 97 percent say they’ve never made a sports bet on the Internet.

Those are some of the results of a Harris Poll conducted in January.

While the survey indicates there is only a small portion of Internet users who gamble regularly, there doesn’t seem to be much interest in playing at online casinos.

When asked if they would play at an online casino in the next six months, 94 percent of U.S. adults said they would not likely do so.

Although very few admit to gambling online, there are strong feelings as to whether the activity should remain illegal (under U.S. law).

When asked if online gambling should remain illegal, 53 percent somewhat or strongly agreed it should remain illegal, while 47 percent somewhat or strongly disagreed.

One possible reason for the cautionary view of online gambling is the perception of control and security.

Three-quarters (76 percent) of U.S. adults disagree that online gaming sites are a safe way to bet, and 85 percent don’t believe the current technology can effectively keep out underage gamblers.

Not surprisingly, younger adults are more likely to support online gambling sites. One-third (33 percent) of "echo boomers" (ages 18 to 27) and 30 percent of Generation X (ages 28 to 39) say online gambling can be effectively regulated. This compares to 26 percent of baby boomers (ages 40 to 58) and only 17 percent of matures (ages 59 and older).

Furthermore, while 76 percent of those 65 years and older believe these sites should remain illegal, only 46 percent of those 18 to 24 and 38 percent of those 25 to 29 years agree that Internet gambling should remain illegal.