A Comparison of Online Versus Offline Gambling Harm in Portuguese Pathological Gamblers: An Empirical Study

Int J Ment Health Addict. 2018;16(5):1219-1237. doi: 10.1007/s11469-017-9846-8. Epub 2017 Nov 29.


Over the past decade, gambling has become a very popular activity across Europe including the growth of Internet gambling. Portugal is one of the few European countries where little research has been carried out. Given the lack of studies, a Portuguese sample (N = 1,599) was surveyed concerning their online and offline gambling habits. More specifically, the aim of this study was to identify and compare from the total sample, online pathological gamblers (PGON) (n = 171) and offline pathological gamblers' (PGOF) (n = 171) characteristics, and eventual risk factors for the development of problem gambling. Results demonstrated that PGON had different profiles compared to PGOF, although there were also similarities. Situational characteristics were much more significant for PGON than PGOF (e.g., availability, accessibility, affordability), but PGOF had higher scores than PGON on factors concerning individual characteristics (e.g., intensity of feelings while gambling, depression, suicidal ideation, etc.). Findings also showed differences concerning attitudes toward responsible gambling measures. The fact that situational characteristics are more attractive to online gamblers confirms differences between PGON and PGOF and suggests that this preferred attractiveness may enhance problem gambling potential. Further research is needed to better understand the interaction between Internet situational characteristics and the individual characteristics of gamblers, as well as the profile of the growing population of gamblers that uses both online and offline modes to gamble.

Keywords: Gambling disorder; Gambling in Portugal; Gambling situational characteristics; Online gambling; Problem gambling.