For some gamblers, lady luck beckons not from the casino, lottery booth or racetrack, but from the Internet. Though this subset of betters is relatively small, the results of a study published in the March issue of Psychology and Addictive Behaviors, a journal of the American Psychological Association, suggests that they have more serious habits than do other gamblers.

The findings come from an analysis of the gambling behaviors of 389 individuals who sought free or reduced-cost dental or health care at the University of Connecticut's health clinics. George T. Ladd and Nancy M. Petry of the university's health center, who conducted the research, obtained their data from questionnaires. They found that all respondents had gambled at some point in their lives, and some 70 percent had tempted fortune in the past two months. Nearly 11 percent, the researchers found, met the criteria for problem gamblers; more than 15 percent for pathological gamblers. Only 8 percent reported gambling online, but of these, three fourths exhibited problematic or pathological habits. Among the non-Internet betters, in contrast, only 22 percent showed indications of such serious gambling problems.

Overall, the Internet gamblers were more often single and younger than other gamblers. Surprisingly, though, they also tended to have lower education and income levels (Internet access is usually associated with individuals who have higher education and income levels). Exactly what that means is unclear, but the researchers posit that "the availability of Internet gambling may draw individuals who seek out isolated and anonymous contexts for their gambling behaviors. Accessibility and use of Internet gambling opportunities," they add, "are likely to increase with the explosive growth of the Internet."