Last month's alarming claims by a UK academic that Online Gambling is more likely to create problem gamblers than offline equivalents have been challenged by a gambling expert.
The claim that online gambling is more likely to contribute to problem gambling was made by Dr Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Britain's Nottingham Trent University, who used data from the most recent British Gambling Prevalence Survey. Griffiths enjoys a relatively high profile in the British media and his findings were widely publicised.
This week Dr Jonathan Parke, senior lecturer in gambling studies at the Centre for the Study of Gambling at Salford Business School, and himself a widely published author on responsible gambling, challenged the conclusions drawn by Griffiths, with whom he at one time worked at Nottingham Trent University.
Dr. Parke described Griffith's finding as invalid, because the research had failed to include key data that should have prevented Griffiths from drawing the conclusions that he did.
Parke told the industry publication eGaming Review: "While the survey data was sound, the researchers did not take into account how often those who said that they gamble online actually do so, and doesn't distinguish between those who gamble online once a year and those who gamble online once an hour. Also, the researchers did not take into account whether those who gamble online also participate in other forms of gambling."
Parke used data from the same source to demonstrate that those who gamble online are also more likely to participate in a range of different forms of gambling.
Britons who play the National Lottery are the least likely to engage in other forms of gambling, the survey found, while those who place spread bets are the most likely. Those who gamble online are at the wider end of the spectrum, and are more likely to participate in a range of gambling behaviours than those who take part in forms including offline bingo, football pools, racing or offline casinos.
"To compare this to drug use, if someone were to do all sorts of drugs and happens to include marijuana in that mix, it wouldn't then follow that marijuana causes use of more drugs, just that marijuana is easier to get access to than other drugs," Parke said.
"Key decisions are being made commercially, politically and clinically regarding internet gambling research, and it's important that we are basing those decisions on accurate information," he told EGR.
The disagreement between the two academics assumed added relevance this week when French legislators debating the liberalisation of that gambling market referred to the UK Gambling Commission's prevalence study to support anti-liberalisation arguments.
Parke is well qualified to comment. His main areas of expertise include internet gambling, poker behaviour, social responsibility and electronic gaming machines.
Several years ago he led what was at that time the largest ever global academic research study into online poker and casino gambling, commissioned by the non-profit player protection association eCOGRA. He was also prominent in the development of the UK's first ever education programme for counsellors in the area of problem gambling, and delivers training on the psychology of gambling and social responsibility to various stakeholders in the area of gambling.
Parke is widely published in an academic sense, and acts in a consultant capacity in legal cases, to regulators and various sectors of the gambling industry.
His qualifications include:
2000 - 2007 Structural Factors in Gambling PhD Nottingham Trent University
1994 - 1998 Social Psychology BSc (Hons) University of Ulster
1996 -1997 Economics and Psychology (BEdI) John Carroll University, Ohio
Parke has taught gambling studies in higher education for eight years, and has seven years of supervisory experience of gambling research projects including both undergraduate and post-graduate research. At the University of Salford, he co-ordinates gambling studies programmes including short programmes such as the GamCare programme 'Professional Development in Gambling' and the modules for the Gambling and Leisure Management Programmes.