According to a new Finnish report, online gambling games are becoming widespread, with the border between gambling and digital entertainment becoming increasingly blurred.
Reviewing the report, YLE.fi comments that almost any kind of online game can be converted into a high stakes gamble, where players bet money against game outcomes.
Researcher Jani Kinnunen found that different kinds of games attract different kinds of players. And he claims that skill games - legal under most regimes - attract players who would not necessarily get involved in traditional gambling games, such as bingo, lotto, or casino offerings.
Kinnunen delivered his findings last week at a seminar under the auspices of the Finnish Ministry of Health and Social Services and the National Institute for Health and Welfare in Tampere, Finland.
The subject has become topical in light of changes that will widen the range of online gaming options available in Finland, say YLE. In August 2010 the Finnish Slot Machine Association (Ray) will introduce online casino games like poker and roulette. And Veikkaus, the Finnish Lottery will also migrate online with its own offering of games of chance.
Kinnunen told delegates: "On skill-based gaming sites such as topkani.fi, players are immersed in an online community, which must be joined before they can play for money. Players then compete against their own community members." He went on to point out that communities can protect players from the problems normally associated with online gambling.
"Players don't necessarily want to wager money in games with acquaintances and when players know each other, it's easy to intervene when someone is going too far," he added.
Officials at the Ministry of Health and Social Services are concerned that the possible increase in online gaming will contribute to associated problems, YLE reports. Lottery legislation currently being prepared obliges the Ministry to develop measures to prevent gambling-related problems as well as care programs.
The new online games will challenge efforts to develop preventive programs, as skill gamers don't necessarily see themselves as gamblers at all, even if they sometimes wager bets.
"For the moment these gamers play for small stakes, and the winnings are relatively small, but these can grow as the number of players increases," Kinnunen explained. "The larger the player community grows, the greater the number of anonymous players, who may be seen as a potential source of winnings," he added.