A Pathological Gambler is Born

Some are concerned with the risks posed by online gaming and are wary of its effect on American. There are more people out there who do throw in that $100 and just hope to win.

When they don't, they throw it again. And again. And again. Soon, a pathological gambler is born.

Tony Boyd, a certified compulsive gambling counselor with the Salem Treatment Center in Southeast Missouri, said almost all the clients he sees have trouble with betting via the computer. One patient lost $35,000 online in a day, he said.

"A lot of the folks I work with say,'I would sit there doing bet after bet,'" Boyd said. The neurological side of an addiction is very real - a brain scan of a person gambling looks very similar to that of someone high on methamphetamines, he said.

Internet gambling gives people the feeling that they aren't playing with real money, he said, which adds to the compulsive element.

"One of the biggest dangers that I see is it gives a representation of fake money," Boyd said, "So, your bet is $5,000, but you don't see that cash."

Some sites offer links to Web pages designed to help players developing gambling problems, but offer few checks to see to it that customers are gambling responsibly.

Christine Reilly, director of the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders, said no study exists that shows Internet gambling to be more dangerous than any other forms of gambling, but the relatively new phenomenon poses problems that haven't been there in the past.

"Social controls are really good," she said. "A lot of people gamble with friends for fun - that's probably a protective factor. The internet is kind of an unknown because it is a solitary activity."

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