As the online gaming world undergoes dramatic changes — mainly the result of a crackdown by U.S. authorities — a major study reveals some interesting facets of online gamblers.
For instance, more middle-aged women gamble using online casinos than any other gender or age group, according to the study.
The women, aged 46 to 55, played mostly virtual slot machines and logged on for longer periods and more often than men, but in general spent less money.
The report found the profile of the typical Internet poker player was almost the opposite, as young men aged 26 to 35 outnumbered women almost three to one in the game, and played at virtual tables two or three times a week.
A gambling expert said the findings may reflect the habits of the sexes in the real world, as the clients of high-end casinos were almost exclusively male while a majority of women enjoyed bingo halls.
Professor Peter Collins, director of the Centre for the Study of Gambling at the University of Salford, said: "Women may be a little intimidated by table games. Slots are something they can do in private.
"It may be simply like the case of women not liking to go into betting shops."
He added: "For all sorts of reasons people prefer doing gambling on the Internet rather than in real life. They like the anonymity, for example."
An industry expert who attends Gamblers Anonymous and asked to remain anonymous said: "Companies are getting bigger marketing budgets to spend targeting new areas like women."
Researchers from the International Gaming Research Unit and Nottingham Trent University questioned 10,865 people from 96 countries during September and October last year in the study commissioned by the industry body, eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance.
It found online gamblers played more for excitement than to win a fortune.
When asked to name the "best things" about Internet gambling, 3,925 said convenience and accessibility, 1,075 fun and excitement, while winning and financial reward came third, followed by anonymity and relaxation.
The majority of those interviewed said they were "up" or "down" within a range of plus or minus $200 a month. The typical wager is between $15 and $30 a session in casino games.
The most popular online gambling games were video slots, poker and video poker. A large majority of online gamers (90 percent) play at home in the evening. But one in 10 women claim they prefer gambling at work.
Professor Colling said: "A question for policy-makers is should we allow this [Internet gambling] or not? And what do we do concerning the fact it’s there anyway?
"The British way appears to be regulation, while the American way is ban it.
"As technology becomes more user-friendly we’ll get much more gambling online, on interactive televisions and on mobile phones."
He said what was needed was an anticipation of any potential problems with compulsive Internet gamblers.