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Online Communities and Gambling Behaviors — a Systematic Review

Online Communities and Gambling Behaviors — a Systematic Review Purpose of Review The internet and virtual environments have enabled the formation of online communities around a variety of interests. Online communities focused on gambling are increasingly popular and attract users to interact and share ideas and experiences with likeminded others. This study reviews evidence from the latest research examining the role of online communities in gambling behaviors and gambling problems. Recent Findings A systematic literature search resulted in 17 studies. Research shows that online communities are used for diverse reasons like discussing gambling experiences and problems, sharing tips, and celebrating winnings with others. These reasons of online community use can have both adaptive and maladaptive implications. Online gambling communities often grow through social means by inviting friends or social media contacts to join. Active users of online gambling communities are more likely at-risk or problem gamblers. Summary Online communities have an increasingly central role in learning about gambling, continuing, and spreading of gambling behaviors. Participation in communities that support harmful gambling habits involves risks for problem gambling. Keywords Gambling · Problem gambling · Online communities · Online groups · Systematic review individuals to find and connect with similar-minded others Introduction without the restrictions of space and time. Early research on the internet has noted the growing role of different online The rise and development of the internet has drastically communities in networked communication [9, 10]. Fur- transformed the gambling industry and activities [1–3]. thermore, research in social psychology has underlined a There has been a huge growth in the gambling industry as change in human behavior in anonymous online settings well as discussion about gambling-related harms globally [11]. Online interaction is considered to promote a shift [4, 5]. Different forms of gambling are aggressively mar - from personal to group self [12 p. 527, 13] and conformity keted online [6, 7] and much of the potential growth in to group norms [14, 15]. gambling markets is based on the internet [8]. At the same Online communities are defined as social aggregations time, internet and social media have changed how gamblers that have emerged from and exist within the internet, and form and maintain their social relationships, and how they in which interaction takes place or is enabled by technology interact about matters related to gambling. These changes [16]. Online communities consist of a number of people large have potentially very far-reaching implications. Social enough to “carry on those public discussions long enough, media provides fast access to online discussions and enables with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal rela - tionships in cyberspace” [9 p. 5, 17]. To that effect, for an This article is part of the Topical Collection on Gambling online discourse to be considered an online community, par- ticipants must participate in it often and communicate regu- * Iina Savolainen larly with each other [17]. Different types of virtual spaces, iina.savolainen@tuni.fi such as discussion forums, sub forums, and chatrooms can Faculty of Social Sciences, Tampere University, Tampere, also form online communities, as they can provide a means Finland of identification and enable users to build meaningful con - Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University nections [18]. In addition, prior research has noted that of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland 1 3 Current Addiction Reports (2022) 9:400–409 401 different groups consisting of similar minded people can online gambl* OR virtual gambl* OR digital gambl*) AND come together to form online communities [19]. Online com- (“online communities” OR “online community”) OR (“vir- munities typically share heterogeneous characteristics, but tual communities” OR “virtual community”) OR (“online they are homogeneous in interests and attitudes [20]. group” OR “online groups”) OR (“virtual group” OR “vir- Online groups consist of more than two individuals who tual groups”) OR (“online discussion” OR “online discus- share reciprocity and have a similar definition of who they sions”) OR (“chat room” OR “chat rooms”) OR (“online are [21, 22]. Online groups are formed around shared inter- social network*” OR “forum*”))” was used in each data- ests and characteristics of the group members, and commu- base. Supplementary data search was conducted on Google nication between the group members is carried out through Scholar using the same search methods in order to identify the internet and online systems, such as social networking possible additional articles not listed on the other five data - sites [23, 24]. Online group behavior is characterized by bases. This search yielded 38 search results. After removing ingroup bias (e.g., favoring one’s own ingroup in relation to duplicates or otherwise unsuitable search results (such as outgroups which, in turn, are typically evaluated negatively), dissertations, review articles, articles not published in Eng- and conforming to the ingroup’s norms [25, 26]. lish, or articles that did not mention gambling), five articles Online communities and groups may either encourage were included in the final screening list from the Google users to partake in harmful activities or help them to over- Scholar search. come and cope with existing problems [15]. According to a Initial database search was executed by the first author review on online gambling and gaming communities done by and one co-author between February 28th and March 7th, Sirola et al., some online communities may normalize harm- 2022. In the screening phase, two reviewers independently ful gambling and gaming behaviors, but there are also online read the abstracts of all listed articles and selected suitable communities that are supporting in nature and help people articles based on three inclusion criteria: (1) gambling or cope with gambling problems [27]. Another review study gambling problems are empirically analyzed in the article, [6] focused on the role of social media in gambling. The (2) involvement in established online groups or communities review indicates that online forums are specifically attrac - is empirically analyzed in the article, and (3) empirical anal- tive to users due to their constant accessibility. The abil- ysis involves investigation of the role of established online ity to share one’s thoughts and provide and seek gambling groups or communities in gambling or gambling problems. advice, or receive support for gambling problems from other Concerning criteria 1, in addition to studies investigating gamblers, are additional features users are drawn towards. traditional forms of gambling (i.e., placing risk-based bets Research on the area is rapidly expanding, and it is therefore in the hopes of winning greater amounts, such as wagering highly important to review new findings on the role of online on casino or card games, or sports [30], articles examining communities and groups in gambling problems. We aim to trading, investment, or cryptocurrency trading or -investing contribute to this gap by reviewing research from the past were also considered, because these activities share simi- 5 years. Our research questions are: larities with gambling by being speculative, involving risk, and involving the chance of gaining something of greater RQ1: What is the role of online communities and groups value (money, cryptocurrency, shares) after making initial in gambling behaviors? trade/investment [31]. Studies investigating only hypotheti- RQ2: How is the involvement in online communities and cal online communities or groups (e.g., willingness to use groups associated with problem gambling? such online platforms) were excluded because they did not fall under the definition of established online communities where participants communicate regularly with each other Methods and share reciprocity. Quality of the selected articles was assessed separately. The author group decided to keep all We conducted a systematic data collection by using the Pre- inclusions based on their quality. ferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta- In the first phase of identification of studies, abstracts analyses (PRISMA) as a guideline [28, 29]. We conducted were screened. If all three inclusion criteria were not evident literature searches from five comprehensive databases: based on the abstract, the full text was read also during the EBSCOhost (EBSCO), PsycINFO (APA), Scopus (Else- first phase. Fifteen studies were found eligible from the first vier), Social Science Premium Collection (ProQuest), and phase abstract and full text screening. Eleven studies went Web of Science (Clarivate). Advanced document searches through an additional full text screening due to discrepancy were set to search scholarly articles published in English in ratings by the two independent reviewers. After additional in peer-reviewed journals between years 2017 and 2022, screening and discussing among the research group about and find query string hits from titles, abstracts, and key - disagreements and borderline cases, full agreement was words. The query string “((gambl*) OR (internet gambl* OR achieved, and the final sample size ( n = 17) was reached. The 1 3 402 Current Addiction Reports (2022) 9:400–409 final sample was based on the consensus that all three inclu - within an application. Respondents were from multiple sion criteria were met. Inter-rater reliability was calculated countries (Australia, Finland, Spain, South Korea, the UK, after first screening and found moderate with 91% agreement and the USA), or not otherwise specified in the study design on final inclusion (Cohen’s kappa = 0.66). To identify addi- due to data drawn from international online forums or mes- tional relevant articles, the reference lists of the 17 articles sage boards within an application. The majority of the arti- included were screened and assessed. Citation search yielded cles were published in 2020–2022 (59%, 10/17). For more no additional studies for the review. See Fig. 1 for details on thorough details, see Table 1 of study characteristics. data collection. Role of Online Communities and Groups Results in Gambling Behavior In total, 17 articles were selected for this review based on Most articles analyzed in this review investigated gambling the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Of the articles, 47% behavior in general (71%, 12/17), two studies focused on (8/17) were quantitative and an equivalent amount, 47% sports betting, and the rest examined online poker [32 ], (8/17), were qualitative. One study utilized both quantita- internet gambling [33 ], and bitcoin investing and trading tive and qualitative methods. Almost half (41% [7/17]) of the [34 ]. Types of online communities related to the above- studies were conducted in Finland, 18% (3/17) in Australia, mentioned gambling activities included online discussion 12% (2/17) in the USA, 12% (2/17) in the UK, 6% (1/17) in forums (e.g., gambling sub-reddits on Reddit), WhatsApp Canada, 6% (1/17) in Switzerland, and 6% (1/17) in Sweden. chat groups, online social casinos, and bitcoin online Surveys were used in 41% (7/17) of the studies and 35% communities. (6/17) analyzed online forum posts or social interactions Identification of studiesvia databases and registers Identification of studiesvia other methods Records identified from: Records removed before Databases (n = 272) screening: PsychInfo: (n = 43) Recordsidentified from: Recordsremoved before Duplicate records removed EBSCOhost (n = 21) screening: Citation searching Scopus: (n = 63) (n = 133) Duplicate records removed (n = 1030) ProQuest: (n = 66) Non-English records (n = 155) Web of science: (n = 41) removed (n=1) *Google scholar: (n = 38) Recordsexcluded: Records screened and Reportsexcluded (n=112) Recordsscreened Not published between assessed for eligibility (n = 875) 2017-2022 (n = 662) (n = 138) Not in English (n = 6) Not peer-reviewed journal article (n = 123) Duplicates to records Reportsre-assessed after identified via databases reviewer discrepancy (n=5) (n = 11) Reportsassessed for Reportsexcluded (n=9) eligibility Reportsexcluded: (n = 79) Gambling or gambling problems not empirically analyzed (n = 45) Online group or community involvement notempirically analyzed (n = 27) No investigation of the role of online groups or communities in gambling or Studies included in review gambling problems (n = 6) (n = 17) Fig. 1 PRISMA flo w diagram depicting the data collection and selection process (as recommended by Page et al. 2020 [29]). *Supplementary data search 1 3 Screening Included Identification Current Addiction Reports (2022) 9:400–409 403 Table 1 Descriptive information of the reviewed articles Reference Sample (n) Method Country of study Type of gambling Type of online community/ group Bradley and James Online posts (2,294) Web scraping, qual The UK General Online discussion forum (2021) Brown et al. (2021) Online posts (199) Sentiment analysis, Sweden General Online discussion forum latent class cluster modeling, qual Deans et al. (2017) Males aged 20–37 (50) Interview, qual Australia General Online gambling forums Howe et al. (2019) Victorians aged 18–88 Online survey, quant Australia General Internet discussion boards (3,361) Järvinen-Tassopoulos Online posts (97) Content analysis, qual Finland General Online discussion forum (2020) Khazaal et al. (2017) Internet gamblers (372) Latent class analysis, Switzerland Internet gambling In-game social behavior quant Koivula et al. (2021) Cross-national (4,816) Survey, quant Finland General Online-gambling com- munities Lee (2022) Bitcoin investors (na) Observation, interview, South Korea Bitcoin investing Bitcoin online communi- qual ties Oksanen et al. (2021) Cross-national (4,816) Survey, quant Finland General Online-gambling com- munities Raymen and Smith Young males (28) Ethnography, qual The UK Sports betting WhatsApp chat group (2020) Reynolds (2019) Extant texts Ethnography, qual, Canada Zynga poker Online social casino Rodda et al. (2018) Online posts (1,370) Content analysis, qual Australia General Online gambling forum Savolainen et al. (2020) Cross-national (4,816) Survey, quant Finland General Online communities Sirola et al. (2018) Young people aged Survey, quant Finland General Online gambling-com- 15–25 (1,200) munities Sirola et al. (2019) Cross-national (2,412) Survey, quant Finland General Online gambling-com- munities Sirola et al. (2021) Cross-national (4,816) Survey, quant Finland General Online gambling-com- munities van der Maas et al. Online posts (multiple Time series analysis, The USA Sports betting Reddit discussion forum (2022) timepoints) mixed According to the studies, online communities and groups forums offer them a common space where to share stories serve multiple purposes for those engaging in them [32 , and emotions. • • 34 , 35 ]. For example, discussion forums were found to be Deans and colleagues found that virtual groups created appealing environments for gamblers and those interested on online social networking sites, such as Facebook, can in gambling due to their accessibility and the possibility for be used to get together with other gamblers for the purpose anonymity. These features lowered the threshold of shar- of sharing gambling tips and celebrating wins. These types ing gambling experiences and tips with other users [36 ]. of online groups differ from larger discussion forums by Online discussion forums were also used for talking about typically consisting of members who already know each emotions attached to gambling and expressing sentiments other offline and share an interest in gambling [ 37 ]. New about gambling to which other members may be able to members were included in the online group, for instance, on relate to. Brown and colleagues investigated problem gam- occasions where a friend of a friend who was also interested blers’ online comments on a discussion forum dedicated in gambling wanted to join. Similarly, Raymen and Smith to gambling problems and identified eight clusters of sen - showed that smartphone and sports-betting apps provide timents, representing eight subgroups of individuals who increased opportunities for betting and socializing around • •• shared common emotions and sentiments [35 ]. These eight betting activities [38 ]. Betting apps are interactive and sentiment clusters were melancholy, surprise, despair, right- dynamic, keeping users engaged, while communications- eousness, revulsion, prejudice, rage, and hatred. The results based apps such as WhatsApp allow collective and real-time indicate that problem gamblers are a diverse group deal- sharing of information. According to the study, modern ing with a wide range of emotions and problems. Online technology has enabled the development of pathological 1 3 404 Current Addiction Reports (2022) 9:400–409 relationship to money and the formation of groups called This was further supported by the finding that showed an “lifestyle gamblers,” as gambling can be done anywhere via increase in activity over time on the discussion board [39 ]. computers or mobiles, while socializing through features Reynolds investigated the influences of game design on •• such as chat forums. Participants of the study [38 ] shared young online poker players and considered the ethical and information and experiences exclusively related to betting risk concerns involved [32 ]. The author utilized virtual on sports events through a WhatsApp group chat. ethnographic methods and participated in a social casino Participation in a virtual group requires a certain level of community built around online poker, Zynga. The poker commitment from their members. Raymen and Smith noted community emphasized social connections within the game that failure to maintain a presence in gambling and con- and immediately upon entry, the player could interact with sumption behaviors was associated with losing contact with the dealer or start chatting with other players by using the •• the group [38 ]. Breaking ties with betting-based online chat box feature. Players could also see and connect with groups may be an unpleasant experience, cause anxiety, and other poker players given design features of the game and even result in maintaining gambling activities in order to interact with each other by sending and receiving gifts. The solve or avoid the conflict following possible leaving of the game was network-based where players were invited by the group. game to play via their personal Facebook homepages. Play- Lee investigated the online culture of bitcoin investors by ers were also able to invite their friends to join with a mon- following and analyzing online bitcoin communities [34 ]. etary incentive offered for every friend that joined the game. These communities were immensely active and mainly uti- By harnessing the potential of social network connections, lized in exchanging up-to-date cryptocurrency news and a social game such as Zynga can grow the size of its com- sharing know-how about investing. The communities’ dis- munity and the size of its business in an effective manner. cussion boards were diverse and included various topics Online discussion forums also emerged as a valuable around cryptocurrencies. For instance, when bitcoin prices source of support for gamblers and particularly for those soared or plummeted, the discussions peaked as community who experience gambling problems or harms. Bradley and members responded with a high immediacy to market fluc - James analyzed posts from a discussion forum provided by a tuations. Through their posts, community members boasted gambling help website [40 ]. The study found that the most about gains or expressed anguish about losses using curse common topic discussed was negative emotions caused by words or memes. Discussion boards were also used to specu- gambling. Posts included such feelings as shame, hopeless- late on the changing price of bitcoin based on chart analy- ness, and anguish. Members also actively shared informa- sis. Members of the community were encouraged to attend tion concerning aid recovery resources, including how to courses on chart analysis so they could make scientific and utilize online forums in ways that help and support recov- rational investments and so that members of the community ery (e.g., seeking posts demonstrating positive results and wouldn’t become “hogu,” i.e., easy touch in the bitcoin mar- commitments). Similar results were reported by Rodda and ket. The members also organized frequent online and offline colleagues who investigated change strategies for problem meetings where they could learn together how to interpret gambling by analyzing posts of problem gamblers from two the price chart. discussion forums [41 ]. The study discovered that when In the context of Lee’s study, online community discus- gamblers started to experience problems related to gam- sion activity typically occurred in correspondence with the bling, they were most likely to try to solve the problems real-time fluctuations of the bitcoin market [ 34 ]. In simi- themselves. Discussing the situation online with others who lar fashion, discussions taking place on online communi- have similar experiences was a natural and helpful resource ties could also be activated by and tied to larger societal that was also easily available. The study [41 ] identified situations or events. This was found by van der Maas and 27 discrete change strategies gamblers discussed on the colleagues who examined participation on a problem gam- forums. The most popular posts were related to the action bling sub-reddit before and after an expansion of legal sports phase which included coming up with alternative activities betting outside of Nevada in the USA [39 ]. According to to gambling and managing the urge to gamble. Other popu- the study, a significant jump in discussion activity was lar posts on change strategies related to the pre-decisional recognized around the time when legal sports betting was (e.g., contemplating about change and removing barriers to launched in different locations. The authors acknowledged change) and multi-phased (e.g., seeking external and social that the increase in discussion activity was probably not support) stages. solely attributed to the event of legalization, but the concur- Online communities were also found to be beneficial for rent large media attention over the legalization of sports bet- gamblers’ close ones. One study examined help-seeking ting likely increased general interest toward gambling, which behaviors of concerned significant others of gamblers. The manifested in higher activity on online forum discussions. study analyzed messages partners had posted on an online 1 3 Current Addiction Reports (2022) 9:400–409 405 forum. According to the results, the online forum was often A cross-national study by Oksanen and colleagues the first source of help concerned partners sought. Main rea - applied a social ecological model to analyze problem gam- sons for posting on the forum were to share stories with oth- bling among young people in Finland, Spain, South Korea, •• ers who have similar experiences and to seek peer support and the USA [46 ]. The social ecological model considers [42 ]. Posting on an online forum was also considered easier the development of gambling problems from the perspective than talking with friends or relatives, because of feelings of of four nested spheres: individual, interpersonal, organiza- shame that gambling caused in the concerned partners. tional, and societal. According to the model, online commu- Multiple articles found that using gambling-themed nities belong to the organizational sphere. The study showed online communities and showing interest in gambling was that out of all the predictors included in the model, par- • • • •• particularly common among males [33 , 36 , 37 , 38 , ticipation in online gambling communities had the strongest •• 43 ]. To that effect, in the study analyzing online mes - association with problem gambling. Spanish young people sages of gamblers’ significant others, 38/40 online commu - were most active in participating in online gambling com- nity messages were written by concerned female partners munities, followed by Finnish and US youths, participation [42 ]. Collectively, the results showed that involvement in being lowest among South Korean young people. Echoing gambling communities online has contributed to the nor- the findings by Sirola and colleagues [ 36 ], online com- malization of gambling, especially among younger men who munities were mainly used for sharing gambling tips and •• perceived gambling as part of an identity-based lifestyle. experiences [46 ]. A related study investigated problem gamblers’ life sat- isfaction [47 ]. Samples consisted of young people aged Association of Online Community and Group 15–25 from Finland, Spain, South Korea, and the USA. The Participation with Problem Gambling study analyzed online-gambling community participation in relation to life satisfaction, and how these are related to Multiple studies (41%, 7/17) investigated the connection of gambling status categorized as those with no gambling prob- online community participation to problem gambling. Study lems, at-risk gamblers, or probable pathological gamblers. by Sirola and colleagues examined the significance of visit - The analyses showed that those young individuals who were ing gambling-related online communities to excessive gam- daily users of online-gambling communities were also more bling among Finnish young people between ages 15 and 25 satisfied with their lives. The analyses further revealed an [36 ]. Results showed that visiting gambling-related online interaction between online-gambling community partici- communities was associated with both at-risk gambling and pation and problem gambling by indicating that problem probable pathological gambling. Most popular discussion gamblers who used online-gambling communities reported topics in the gambling-themed online communities were higher life satisfaction. The authors also tested the mean- gambling tips followed by gambling experiences and gam- ing of offline relationships in gambling-related activities. bling in general. Similar results were also reported by an The effect of online-gambling community participation Australian study examining predictors of gambling and prob- was found to be smaller among those young gamblers who lem gambling among a sample of adults [44 ]. According reported higher belonging to offline groups (i.e., family, to the findings, discussing gambling online (e.g., on internet friendships, school, or work community). Examining coun- discussion boards) was correlated with gambling participa- try differences revealed that the association between weak tion. Furthermore, participating in online discussions about offline relationships and problem gambling was strongest betting on gaming tables at casinos was among the top five among Finnish young people. predictors of problem gambling among the sample. In another study examining cross-national samples of Another study by Sirola and colleagues examined Finn- young people, problem gambling was found to be associated ish and US participants’ (aged 15–30) daily participation with belonging to any online community via involvement in online gambling-communities and motivating factors in social media identity bubbles [48 ]. These results were of using such communities [45 ]. They found that exces- further elaborated by Sirola and colleagues who examined sive gambling was associated with daily online gambling- whether involvement in online social media identity bubbles community participation across the samples. Daily users predicts interest in gambling content and following observed •• of online gambling-communities were also found to prefer group norms on social media [43 ]. Analyses were based on pro-gambling content in a behavioral measure assessment. samples of young people from Finland, Spain, South Korea, Among Finnish online gambling-community users, loneli- and the USA. The study also included an experimental part ness moderated the relationship between daily online gam- observing group effects taking place in online interaction. bling-community participation and excessive gambling and According to the results, self-reported involvement in social the association between the two was stronger among those media identity bubbles associated positively with interest who experienced higher levels of loneliness. toward gambling content seen online. Conformity towards 1 3 406 Current Addiction Reports (2022) 9:400–409 perceived positive group norm about gambling (i.e., stance Online discussion forums are convenient outlets for where majority seems to like gambling), was related to problem gamblers to express feelings they might not respondents’ positive interest towards gambling. Combined, feel comfortable sharing in face-to-face situations. They •• • the results of these two studies [43 , 48 ] suggest that con- offer gamblers and problem gamblers a place to share current involvement in social media identity bubbles which their stories without the fear of being judged, talk about are based on shared identity, homophily, and reliance on in- how gambling has affected their lives, and disclose how group information, and belonging to an online community they currently feel about themselves. These notions were is associated with a higher rate of problem gambling. The also supported in this review. Also consistent with prior identity bubble effect might be a factor that makes online research [6, 27, 49], gambling was mostly portrayed and communities influential for their users [ 15, 25]. Especially perceived in a positive light in various online contexts young people are likely to be susceptible to social influence examined in this study. This perception seems to be sup- within online groups and conform to observed group norms ported in communities that engage in gambling behaviors more often than individuals who do not perceive to share and subsequently attract more users who have a pre-exist- •• commonalities with other group members [43 ]. ing interest toward gambling. Joining a gambling-themed online community is a socially transmitted behavior, as community members invite their friends or online contacts to join. Sports betting in particular is socialized through Discussion peers [37 ]. As found in this review, gambling communi- ties are likely to help individuals establish new gambling This systematic review explored the role of online commu- rituals and behaviors. nities and groups in gambling behaviors. An additional aim The sense of belonging that online communities and was to investigate how involvement in online communities groups offer might be an important factor for individuals and groups is associated with problem gambling. System- participating in gambling communities and groups. A num- • • • atic literature search identified 17 articles that qualified for ber of research so far [e.g., 36 , 47 , 48 ] show that a weaker analyses based on inclusion criteria. According to the results, belonging to primary groups offline, such as family, friends, online discussion forums are easily accessible and mostly school, or community is associated with using gambling- used for sharing gambling experiences, tips, and sentiments, themed online communities. Strong social relationships and learning together about betting and gambling techniques. offline could thus function as a buffer against experiencing Some online communities are based on real-life gambling gambling problems. contacts that have extended to online spaces. These types Results of the reviewed studies support past research of online groups expand gambling and betting opportunities by showing that gambling and problems related to it are and support gambling habits, thus strengthening the notion typically associated with male gender [50, 51]. It should be of gambling as a lifestyle. Discussion forums offered by gam - noted, however, that majority of gambling-related online bling help websites and authorities are helpful for those seek- community users are male which may deter female or other ing support and are often the first source of help for problem gendered members from engaging in the community discus- gamblers and their significant others. We further found that sions as they may consider the online community environ- online gambling community participation was consistently ment intimidating [33 ]. At the same time, studies are more and positively associated with problem gambling in several likely to focus on investigating samples consisting of male • •• studies using samples from different countries. participants [37 , 38 ] while female and other minority With the rise of the internet and social media, it has perspectives remain unexamined. Therefore, there is a need become considerably easier to form and join communities to further explore gender differences in the motivations of where people with similar interests can interact. Because of use and involvement in gambling-themed online commu- peoples’ communication patterns and algorithms of social nities. Future research should also increasingly consider media platforms, the communities tend to become homo- online communities involving non-traditional forms of philic and users are more likely to rely on information com- gambling, such as cryptocurrency trading, as more ways to ing from other community members. One-sided communica- speculate on the markets are being developed [52]. Future tion among perceived similar others and without contrasting research should also further consider the role of social views may influence online community users’ thoughts, media in gambling, as gambling opportunities and activities beliefs, and decisions about gambling. Providing oppos- are becoming more attached to social media networking. ing views to the group or removing oneself from gambling Methodologically, there is a lack of longitudinal studies. activities could mean the end of online community’s friend- Future studies should include longitudinal research designs •• ship that is based on a shared interest in gambling [38 ]. in investigating the meaning of online communities in gam- bling. Also, investigations using experimental designs are 1 3 Current Addiction Reports (2022) 9:400–409 407 Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attri- welcomed. Further approaches could involve large-scale bution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adapta- social media datasets and methods of computational social tion, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long sciences. Due to emerging technologies, it can be expected as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, that the field of gambling research requires responding to provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are these old challenges in new settings. included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not Limitations permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://cr eativ ecommons. or g/licen ses/ b y/4.0/ . This study reviewed literature from the past 5 years, but some relevant articles might have gone unnoticed in the lit- erature search given the specifications of the search phrase. 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Online Communities and Gambling Behaviors — a Systematic Review

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Abstract

Purpose of Review The internet and virtual environments have enabled the formation of online communities around a variety of interests. Online communities focused on gambling are increasingly popular and attract users to interact and share ideas and experiences with likeminded others. This study reviews evidence from the latest research examining the role of online communities in gambling behaviors and gambling problems. Recent Findings A systematic literature search resulted in 17 studies. Research shows that online communities are used for diverse reasons like discussing gambling experiences and problems, sharing tips, and celebrating winnings with others. These reasons of online community use can have both adaptive and maladaptive implications. Online gambling communities often grow through social means by inviting friends or social media contacts to join. Active users of online gambling communities are more likely at-risk or problem gamblers. Summary Online communities have an increasingly central role in learning about gambling, continuing, and spreading of gambling behaviors. Participation in communities that support harmful gambling habits involves risks for problem gambling. Keywords Gambling · Problem gambling · Online communities · Online groups · Systematic review individuals to find and connect with similar-minded others Introduction without the restrictions of space and time. Early research on the internet has noted the growing role of different online The rise and development of the internet has drastically communities in networked communication [9, 10]. Fur- transformed the gambling industry and activities [1–3]. thermore, research in social psychology has underlined a There has been a huge growth in the gambling industry as change in human behavior in anonymous online settings well as discussion about gambling-related harms globally [11]. Online interaction is considered to promote a shift [4, 5]. Different forms of gambling are aggressively mar - from personal to group self [12 p. 527, 13] and conformity keted online [6, 7] and much of the potential growth in to group norms [14, 15]. gambling markets is based on the internet [8]. At the same Online communities are defined as social aggregations time, internet and social media have changed how gamblers that have emerged from and exist within the internet, and form and maintain their social relationships, and how they in which interaction takes place or is enabled by technology interact about matters related to gambling. These changes [16]. Online communities consist of a number of people large have potentially very far-reaching implications. Social enough to “carry on those public discussions long enough, media provides fast access to online discussions and enables with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal rela - tionships in cyberspace” [9 p. 5, 17]. To that effect, for an This article is part of the Topical Collection on Gambling online discourse to be considered an online community, par- ticipants must participate in it often and communicate regu- * Iina Savolainen larly with each other [17]. Different types of virtual spaces, iina.savolainen@tuni.fi such as discussion forums, sub forums, and chatrooms can Faculty of Social Sciences, Tampere University, Tampere, also form online communities, as they can provide a means Finland of identification and enable users to build meaningful con - Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University nections [18]. In addition, prior research has noted that of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland 1 3 Current Addiction Reports (2022) 9:400–409 401 different groups consisting of similar minded people can online gambl* OR virtual gambl* OR digital gambl*) AND come together to form online communities [19]. Online com- (“online communities” OR “online community”) OR (“vir- munities typically share heterogeneous characteristics, but tual communities” OR “virtual community”) OR (“online they are homogeneous in interests and attitudes [20]. group” OR “online groups”) OR (“virtual group” OR “vir- Online groups consist of more than two individuals who tual groups”) OR (“online discussion” OR “online discus- share reciprocity and have a similar definition of who they sions”) OR (“chat room” OR “chat rooms”) OR (“online are [21, 22]. Online groups are formed around shared inter- social network*” OR “forum*”))” was used in each data- ests and characteristics of the group members, and commu- base. Supplementary data search was conducted on Google nication between the group members is carried out through Scholar using the same search methods in order to identify the internet and online systems, such as social networking possible additional articles not listed on the other five data - sites [23, 24]. Online group behavior is characterized by bases. This search yielded 38 search results. After removing ingroup bias (e.g., favoring one’s own ingroup in relation to duplicates or otherwise unsuitable search results (such as outgroups which, in turn, are typically evaluated negatively), dissertations, review articles, articles not published in Eng- and conforming to the ingroup’s norms [25, 26]. lish, or articles that did not mention gambling), five articles Online communities and groups may either encourage were included in the final screening list from the Google users to partake in harmful activities or help them to over- Scholar search. come and cope with existing problems [15]. According to a Initial database search was executed by the first author review on online gambling and gaming communities done by and one co-author between February 28th and March 7th, Sirola et al., some online communities may normalize harm- 2022. In the screening phase, two reviewers independently ful gambling and gaming behaviors, but there are also online read the abstracts of all listed articles and selected suitable communities that are supporting in nature and help people articles based on three inclusion criteria: (1) gambling or cope with gambling problems [27]. Another review study gambling problems are empirically analyzed in the article, [6] focused on the role of social media in gambling. The (2) involvement in established online groups or communities review indicates that online forums are specifically attrac - is empirically analyzed in the article, and (3) empirical anal- tive to users due to their constant accessibility. The abil- ysis involves investigation of the role of established online ity to share one’s thoughts and provide and seek gambling groups or communities in gambling or gambling problems. advice, or receive support for gambling problems from other Concerning criteria 1, in addition to studies investigating gamblers, are additional features users are drawn towards. traditional forms of gambling (i.e., placing risk-based bets Research on the area is rapidly expanding, and it is therefore in the hopes of winning greater amounts, such as wagering highly important to review new findings on the role of online on casino or card games, or sports [30], articles examining communities and groups in gambling problems. We aim to trading, investment, or cryptocurrency trading or -investing contribute to this gap by reviewing research from the past were also considered, because these activities share simi- 5 years. Our research questions are: larities with gambling by being speculative, involving risk, and involving the chance of gaining something of greater RQ1: What is the role of online communities and groups value (money, cryptocurrency, shares) after making initial in gambling behaviors? trade/investment [31]. Studies investigating only hypotheti- RQ2: How is the involvement in online communities and cal online communities or groups (e.g., willingness to use groups associated with problem gambling? such online platforms) were excluded because they did not fall under the definition of established online communities where participants communicate regularly with each other Methods and share reciprocity. Quality of the selected articles was assessed separately. The author group decided to keep all We conducted a systematic data collection by using the Pre- inclusions based on their quality. ferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta- In the first phase of identification of studies, abstracts analyses (PRISMA) as a guideline [28, 29]. We conducted were screened. If all three inclusion criteria were not evident literature searches from five comprehensive databases: based on the abstract, the full text was read also during the EBSCOhost (EBSCO), PsycINFO (APA), Scopus (Else- first phase. Fifteen studies were found eligible from the first vier), Social Science Premium Collection (ProQuest), and phase abstract and full text screening. Eleven studies went Web of Science (Clarivate). Advanced document searches through an additional full text screening due to discrepancy were set to search scholarly articles published in English in ratings by the two independent reviewers. After additional in peer-reviewed journals between years 2017 and 2022, screening and discussing among the research group about and find query string hits from titles, abstracts, and key - disagreements and borderline cases, full agreement was words. The query string “((gambl*) OR (internet gambl* OR achieved, and the final sample size ( n = 17) was reached. The 1 3 402 Current Addiction Reports (2022) 9:400–409 final sample was based on the consensus that all three inclu - within an application. Respondents were from multiple sion criteria were met. Inter-rater reliability was calculated countries (Australia, Finland, Spain, South Korea, the UK, after first screening and found moderate with 91% agreement and the USA), or not otherwise specified in the study design on final inclusion (Cohen’s kappa = 0.66). To identify addi- due to data drawn from international online forums or mes- tional relevant articles, the reference lists of the 17 articles sage boards within an application. The majority of the arti- included were screened and assessed. Citation search yielded cles were published in 2020–2022 (59%, 10/17). For more no additional studies for the review. See Fig. 1 for details on thorough details, see Table 1 of study characteristics. data collection. Role of Online Communities and Groups Results in Gambling Behavior In total, 17 articles were selected for this review based on Most articles analyzed in this review investigated gambling the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Of the articles, 47% behavior in general (71%, 12/17), two studies focused on (8/17) were quantitative and an equivalent amount, 47% sports betting, and the rest examined online poker [32 ], (8/17), were qualitative. One study utilized both quantita- internet gambling [33 ], and bitcoin investing and trading tive and qualitative methods. Almost half (41% [7/17]) of the [34 ]. Types of online communities related to the above- studies were conducted in Finland, 18% (3/17) in Australia, mentioned gambling activities included online discussion 12% (2/17) in the USA, 12% (2/17) in the UK, 6% (1/17) in forums (e.g., gambling sub-reddits on Reddit), WhatsApp Canada, 6% (1/17) in Switzerland, and 6% (1/17) in Sweden. chat groups, online social casinos, and bitcoin online Surveys were used in 41% (7/17) of the studies and 35% communities. (6/17) analyzed online forum posts or social interactions Identification of studiesvia databases and registers Identification of studiesvia other methods Records identified from: Records removed before Databases (n = 272) screening: PsychInfo: (n = 43) Recordsidentified from: Recordsremoved before Duplicate records removed EBSCOhost (n = 21) screening: Citation searching Scopus: (n = 63) (n = 133) Duplicate records removed (n = 1030) ProQuest: (n = 66) Non-English records (n = 155) Web of science: (n = 41) removed (n=1) *Google scholar: (n = 38) Recordsexcluded: Records screened and Reportsexcluded (n=112) Recordsscreened Not published between assessed for eligibility (n = 875) 2017-2022 (n = 662) (n = 138) Not in English (n = 6) Not peer-reviewed journal article (n = 123) Duplicates to records Reportsre-assessed after identified via databases reviewer discrepancy (n=5) (n = 11) Reportsassessed for Reportsexcluded (n=9) eligibility Reportsexcluded: (n = 79) Gambling or gambling problems not empirically analyzed (n = 45) Online group or community involvement notempirically analyzed (n = 27) No investigation of the role of online groups or communities in gambling or Studies included in review gambling problems (n = 6) (n = 17) Fig. 1 PRISMA flo w diagram depicting the data collection and selection process (as recommended by Page et al. 2020 [29]). *Supplementary data search 1 3 Screening Included Identification Current Addiction Reports (2022) 9:400–409 403 Table 1 Descriptive information of the reviewed articles Reference Sample (n) Method Country of study Type of gambling Type of online community/ group Bradley and James Online posts (2,294) Web scraping, qual The UK General Online discussion forum (2021) Brown et al. (2021) Online posts (199) Sentiment analysis, Sweden General Online discussion forum latent class cluster modeling, qual Deans et al. (2017) Males aged 20–37 (50) Interview, qual Australia General Online gambling forums Howe et al. (2019) Victorians aged 18–88 Online survey, quant Australia General Internet discussion boards (3,361) Järvinen-Tassopoulos Online posts (97) Content analysis, qual Finland General Online discussion forum (2020) Khazaal et al. (2017) Internet gamblers (372) Latent class analysis, Switzerland Internet gambling In-game social behavior quant Koivula et al. (2021) Cross-national (4,816) Survey, quant Finland General Online-gambling com- munities Lee (2022) Bitcoin investors (na) Observation, interview, South Korea Bitcoin investing Bitcoin online communi- qual ties Oksanen et al. (2021) Cross-national (4,816) Survey, quant Finland General Online-gambling com- munities Raymen and Smith Young males (28) Ethnography, qual The UK Sports betting WhatsApp chat group (2020) Reynolds (2019) Extant texts Ethnography, qual, Canada Zynga poker Online social casino Rodda et al. (2018) Online posts (1,370) Content analysis, qual Australia General Online gambling forum Savolainen et al. (2020) Cross-national (4,816) Survey, quant Finland General Online communities Sirola et al. (2018) Young people aged Survey, quant Finland General Online gambling-com- 15–25 (1,200) munities Sirola et al. (2019) Cross-national (2,412) Survey, quant Finland General Online gambling-com- munities Sirola et al. (2021) Cross-national (4,816) Survey, quant Finland General Online gambling-com- munities van der Maas et al. Online posts (multiple Time series analysis, The USA Sports betting Reddit discussion forum (2022) timepoints) mixed According to the studies, online communities and groups forums offer them a common space where to share stories serve multiple purposes for those engaging in them [32 , and emotions. • • 34 , 35 ]. For example, discussion forums were found to be Deans and colleagues found that virtual groups created appealing environments for gamblers and those interested on online social networking sites, such as Facebook, can in gambling due to their accessibility and the possibility for be used to get together with other gamblers for the purpose anonymity. These features lowered the threshold of shar- of sharing gambling tips and celebrating wins. These types ing gambling experiences and tips with other users [36 ]. of online groups differ from larger discussion forums by Online discussion forums were also used for talking about typically consisting of members who already know each emotions attached to gambling and expressing sentiments other offline and share an interest in gambling [ 37 ]. New about gambling to which other members may be able to members were included in the online group, for instance, on relate to. Brown and colleagues investigated problem gam- occasions where a friend of a friend who was also interested blers’ online comments on a discussion forum dedicated in gambling wanted to join. Similarly, Raymen and Smith to gambling problems and identified eight clusters of sen - showed that smartphone and sports-betting apps provide timents, representing eight subgroups of individuals who increased opportunities for betting and socializing around • •• shared common emotions and sentiments [35 ]. These eight betting activities [38 ]. Betting apps are interactive and sentiment clusters were melancholy, surprise, despair, right- dynamic, keeping users engaged, while communications- eousness, revulsion, prejudice, rage, and hatred. The results based apps such as WhatsApp allow collective and real-time indicate that problem gamblers are a diverse group deal- sharing of information. According to the study, modern ing with a wide range of emotions and problems. Online technology has enabled the development of pathological 1 3 404 Current Addiction Reports (2022) 9:400–409 relationship to money and the formation of groups called This was further supported by the finding that showed an “lifestyle gamblers,” as gambling can be done anywhere via increase in activity over time on the discussion board [39 ]. computers or mobiles, while socializing through features Reynolds investigated the influences of game design on •• such as chat forums. Participants of the study [38 ] shared young online poker players and considered the ethical and information and experiences exclusively related to betting risk concerns involved [32 ]. The author utilized virtual on sports events through a WhatsApp group chat. ethnographic methods and participated in a social casino Participation in a virtual group requires a certain level of community built around online poker, Zynga. The poker commitment from their members. Raymen and Smith noted community emphasized social connections within the game that failure to maintain a presence in gambling and con- and immediately upon entry, the player could interact with sumption behaviors was associated with losing contact with the dealer or start chatting with other players by using the •• the group [38 ]. Breaking ties with betting-based online chat box feature. Players could also see and connect with groups may be an unpleasant experience, cause anxiety, and other poker players given design features of the game and even result in maintaining gambling activities in order to interact with each other by sending and receiving gifts. The solve or avoid the conflict following possible leaving of the game was network-based where players were invited by the group. game to play via their personal Facebook homepages. Play- Lee investigated the online culture of bitcoin investors by ers were also able to invite their friends to join with a mon- following and analyzing online bitcoin communities [34 ]. etary incentive offered for every friend that joined the game. These communities were immensely active and mainly uti- By harnessing the potential of social network connections, lized in exchanging up-to-date cryptocurrency news and a social game such as Zynga can grow the size of its com- sharing know-how about investing. The communities’ dis- munity and the size of its business in an effective manner. cussion boards were diverse and included various topics Online discussion forums also emerged as a valuable around cryptocurrencies. For instance, when bitcoin prices source of support for gamblers and particularly for those soared or plummeted, the discussions peaked as community who experience gambling problems or harms. Bradley and members responded with a high immediacy to market fluc - James analyzed posts from a discussion forum provided by a tuations. Through their posts, community members boasted gambling help website [40 ]. The study found that the most about gains or expressed anguish about losses using curse common topic discussed was negative emotions caused by words or memes. Discussion boards were also used to specu- gambling. Posts included such feelings as shame, hopeless- late on the changing price of bitcoin based on chart analy- ness, and anguish. Members also actively shared informa- sis. Members of the community were encouraged to attend tion concerning aid recovery resources, including how to courses on chart analysis so they could make scientific and utilize online forums in ways that help and support recov- rational investments and so that members of the community ery (e.g., seeking posts demonstrating positive results and wouldn’t become “hogu,” i.e., easy touch in the bitcoin mar- commitments). Similar results were reported by Rodda and ket. The members also organized frequent online and offline colleagues who investigated change strategies for problem meetings where they could learn together how to interpret gambling by analyzing posts of problem gamblers from two the price chart. discussion forums [41 ]. The study discovered that when In the context of Lee’s study, online community discus- gamblers started to experience problems related to gam- sion activity typically occurred in correspondence with the bling, they were most likely to try to solve the problems real-time fluctuations of the bitcoin market [ 34 ]. In simi- themselves. Discussing the situation online with others who lar fashion, discussions taking place on online communi- have similar experiences was a natural and helpful resource ties could also be activated by and tied to larger societal that was also easily available. The study [41 ] identified situations or events. This was found by van der Maas and 27 discrete change strategies gamblers discussed on the colleagues who examined participation on a problem gam- forums. The most popular posts were related to the action bling sub-reddit before and after an expansion of legal sports phase which included coming up with alternative activities betting outside of Nevada in the USA [39 ]. According to to gambling and managing the urge to gamble. Other popu- the study, a significant jump in discussion activity was lar posts on change strategies related to the pre-decisional recognized around the time when legal sports betting was (e.g., contemplating about change and removing barriers to launched in different locations. The authors acknowledged change) and multi-phased (e.g., seeking external and social that the increase in discussion activity was probably not support) stages. solely attributed to the event of legalization, but the concur- Online communities were also found to be beneficial for rent large media attention over the legalization of sports bet- gamblers’ close ones. One study examined help-seeking ting likely increased general interest toward gambling, which behaviors of concerned significant others of gamblers. The manifested in higher activity on online forum discussions. study analyzed messages partners had posted on an online 1 3 Current Addiction Reports (2022) 9:400–409 405 forum. According to the results, the online forum was often A cross-national study by Oksanen and colleagues the first source of help concerned partners sought. Main rea - applied a social ecological model to analyze problem gam- sons for posting on the forum were to share stories with oth- bling among young people in Finland, Spain, South Korea, •• ers who have similar experiences and to seek peer support and the USA [46 ]. The social ecological model considers [42 ]. Posting on an online forum was also considered easier the development of gambling problems from the perspective than talking with friends or relatives, because of feelings of of four nested spheres: individual, interpersonal, organiza- shame that gambling caused in the concerned partners. tional, and societal. According to the model, online commu- Multiple articles found that using gambling-themed nities belong to the organizational sphere. The study showed online communities and showing interest in gambling was that out of all the predictors included in the model, par- • • • •• particularly common among males [33 , 36 , 37 , 38 , ticipation in online gambling communities had the strongest •• 43 ]. To that effect, in the study analyzing online mes - association with problem gambling. Spanish young people sages of gamblers’ significant others, 38/40 online commu - were most active in participating in online gambling com- nity messages were written by concerned female partners munities, followed by Finnish and US youths, participation [42 ]. Collectively, the results showed that involvement in being lowest among South Korean young people. Echoing gambling communities online has contributed to the nor- the findings by Sirola and colleagues [ 36 ], online com- malization of gambling, especially among younger men who munities were mainly used for sharing gambling tips and •• perceived gambling as part of an identity-based lifestyle. experiences [46 ]. A related study investigated problem gamblers’ life sat- isfaction [47 ]. Samples consisted of young people aged Association of Online Community and Group 15–25 from Finland, Spain, South Korea, and the USA. The Participation with Problem Gambling study analyzed online-gambling community participation in relation to life satisfaction, and how these are related to Multiple studies (41%, 7/17) investigated the connection of gambling status categorized as those with no gambling prob- online community participation to problem gambling. Study lems, at-risk gamblers, or probable pathological gamblers. by Sirola and colleagues examined the significance of visit - The analyses showed that those young individuals who were ing gambling-related online communities to excessive gam- daily users of online-gambling communities were also more bling among Finnish young people between ages 15 and 25 satisfied with their lives. The analyses further revealed an [36 ]. Results showed that visiting gambling-related online interaction between online-gambling community partici- communities was associated with both at-risk gambling and pation and problem gambling by indicating that problem probable pathological gambling. Most popular discussion gamblers who used online-gambling communities reported topics in the gambling-themed online communities were higher life satisfaction. The authors also tested the mean- gambling tips followed by gambling experiences and gam- ing of offline relationships in gambling-related activities. bling in general. Similar results were also reported by an The effect of online-gambling community participation Australian study examining predictors of gambling and prob- was found to be smaller among those young gamblers who lem gambling among a sample of adults [44 ]. According reported higher belonging to offline groups (i.e., family, to the findings, discussing gambling online (e.g., on internet friendships, school, or work community). Examining coun- discussion boards) was correlated with gambling participa- try differences revealed that the association between weak tion. Furthermore, participating in online discussions about offline relationships and problem gambling was strongest betting on gaming tables at casinos was among the top five among Finnish young people. predictors of problem gambling among the sample. In another study examining cross-national samples of Another study by Sirola and colleagues examined Finn- young people, problem gambling was found to be associated ish and US participants’ (aged 15–30) daily participation with belonging to any online community via involvement in online gambling-communities and motivating factors in social media identity bubbles [48 ]. These results were of using such communities [45 ]. They found that exces- further elaborated by Sirola and colleagues who examined sive gambling was associated with daily online gambling- whether involvement in online social media identity bubbles community participation across the samples. Daily users predicts interest in gambling content and following observed •• of online gambling-communities were also found to prefer group norms on social media [43 ]. Analyses were based on pro-gambling content in a behavioral measure assessment. samples of young people from Finland, Spain, South Korea, Among Finnish online gambling-community users, loneli- and the USA. The study also included an experimental part ness moderated the relationship between daily online gam- observing group effects taking place in online interaction. bling-community participation and excessive gambling and According to the results, self-reported involvement in social the association between the two was stronger among those media identity bubbles associated positively with interest who experienced higher levels of loneliness. toward gambling content seen online. Conformity towards 1 3 406 Current Addiction Reports (2022) 9:400–409 perceived positive group norm about gambling (i.e., stance Online discussion forums are convenient outlets for where majority seems to like gambling), was related to problem gamblers to express feelings they might not respondents’ positive interest towards gambling. Combined, feel comfortable sharing in face-to-face situations. They •• • the results of these two studies [43 , 48 ] suggest that con- offer gamblers and problem gamblers a place to share current involvement in social media identity bubbles which their stories without the fear of being judged, talk about are based on shared identity, homophily, and reliance on in- how gambling has affected their lives, and disclose how group information, and belonging to an online community they currently feel about themselves. These notions were is associated with a higher rate of problem gambling. The also supported in this review. Also consistent with prior identity bubble effect might be a factor that makes online research [6, 27, 49], gambling was mostly portrayed and communities influential for their users [ 15, 25]. Especially perceived in a positive light in various online contexts young people are likely to be susceptible to social influence examined in this study. This perception seems to be sup- within online groups and conform to observed group norms ported in communities that engage in gambling behaviors more often than individuals who do not perceive to share and subsequently attract more users who have a pre-exist- •• commonalities with other group members [43 ]. ing interest toward gambling. Joining a gambling-themed online community is a socially transmitted behavior, as community members invite their friends or online contacts to join. Sports betting in particular is socialized through Discussion peers [37 ]. As found in this review, gambling communi- ties are likely to help individuals establish new gambling This systematic review explored the role of online commu- rituals and behaviors. nities and groups in gambling behaviors. An additional aim The sense of belonging that online communities and was to investigate how involvement in online communities groups offer might be an important factor for individuals and groups is associated with problem gambling. System- participating in gambling communities and groups. A num- • • • atic literature search identified 17 articles that qualified for ber of research so far [e.g., 36 , 47 , 48 ] show that a weaker analyses based on inclusion criteria. According to the results, belonging to primary groups offline, such as family, friends, online discussion forums are easily accessible and mostly school, or community is associated with using gambling- used for sharing gambling experiences, tips, and sentiments, themed online communities. Strong social relationships and learning together about betting and gambling techniques. offline could thus function as a buffer against experiencing Some online communities are based on real-life gambling gambling problems. contacts that have extended to online spaces. These types Results of the reviewed studies support past research of online groups expand gambling and betting opportunities by showing that gambling and problems related to it are and support gambling habits, thus strengthening the notion typically associated with male gender [50, 51]. It should be of gambling as a lifestyle. Discussion forums offered by gam - noted, however, that majority of gambling-related online bling help websites and authorities are helpful for those seek- community users are male which may deter female or other ing support and are often the first source of help for problem gendered members from engaging in the community discus- gamblers and their significant others. We further found that sions as they may consider the online community environ- online gambling community participation was consistently ment intimidating [33 ]. At the same time, studies are more and positively associated with problem gambling in several likely to focus on investigating samples consisting of male • •• studies using samples from different countries. participants [37 , 38 ] while female and other minority With the rise of the internet and social media, it has perspectives remain unexamined. Therefore, there is a need become considerably easier to form and join communities to further explore gender differences in the motivations of where people with similar interests can interact. Because of use and involvement in gambling-themed online commu- peoples’ communication patterns and algorithms of social nities. Future research should also increasingly consider media platforms, the communities tend to become homo- online communities involving non-traditional forms of philic and users are more likely to rely on information com- gambling, such as cryptocurrency trading, as more ways to ing from other community members. One-sided communica- speculate on the markets are being developed [52]. Future tion among perceived similar others and without contrasting research should also further consider the role of social views may influence online community users’ thoughts, media in gambling, as gambling opportunities and activities beliefs, and decisions about gambling. Providing oppos- are becoming more attached to social media networking. ing views to the group or removing oneself from gambling Methodologically, there is a lack of longitudinal studies. activities could mean the end of online community’s friend- Future studies should include longitudinal research designs •• ship that is based on a shared interest in gambling [38 ]. in investigating the meaning of online communities in gam- bling. Also, investigations using experimental designs are 1 3 Current Addiction Reports (2022) 9:400–409 407 Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attri- welcomed. Further approaches could involve large-scale bution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adapta- social media datasets and methods of computational social tion, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long sciences. Due to emerging technologies, it can be expected as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, that the field of gambling research requires responding to provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are these old challenges in new settings. included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not Limitations permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://cr eativ ecommons. or g/licen ses/ b y/4.0/ . This study reviewed literature from the past 5 years, but some relevant articles might have gone unnoticed in the lit- erature search given the specifications of the search phrase. 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Journal

Current Addiction ReportsSpringer Journals

Published: Dec 1, 2022

Keywords: Gambling; Problem gambling; Online communities; Online groups; Systematic review

References