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The number of people gambling from mobile devices is expected to increase by 100 million people over the next five years.

Juniper Research released a report today that said 164 million people will either place a bet, visit a mobile casino, or buy a lottery ticket on their phone or tablet by 2018.

The strongest growth will come from right here in North America, where a handful of states are legalizing online gambling or have bills on the books to consider it.

“All advantages and drivers that favour the growth of fixed Internet gambling also apply to mobile gambling,” Juniper said. “Moreover, the mobile platform has certain inherent advantages, such as convenience and larger potential market as compared to the fixed Internet.”

The main drivers of this trend are the relaxation of laws surrounding online gambling and the proliferation of mobile devices. Juniper said that a majority of mobile gamblers will be people who are already gambling online but will switch to mobile from desktop services.

Mobile devices are well suited for gambling because they provide that anytime, anywhere advantage. Our phones are always with us, which means that the opportunity to buy a lottery ticket, place a bet, or play a remote game of poker is ever-present.

The report gave the example of in-play betting, which means you can place a bet without having to get up from the couch while watching a game.

“Mobile can frequently provide a more immersive and convenient gambling experience than a desktop PC or laptop,” said the report’s author Sian Rowlands. “As a result of this, gambling operators have been required to shift the nature of their organisation away from legacy services such as telephone betting towards becoming a more mobile-oriented company, with the aim of achieving over half of their online revenues from mobile in the next 1-3 years.”

Online gambling is a hotly debated issue that has had a long and tumultuous history. It is currently only legal in Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey as of earlier this year.

The regulatory environment for online gambling has become friendlier over the past couple of years. In 2010 the House Financial Services Committee relaxed provisions of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, legalizing and regulating some forms of Internet gambling.

Then in 2011 the Department of Justice changed one of its long-held positions on Internet gambling by saying that the Wire Act only included sports betting. This meant states could pass laws to allow online gambling so that they could sell lottery tickets online and legalize online poker.

Juniper expects that mobile gambling will gain steam in 2014 as more states pass legislation and as game publishers, casinos, and consumers get more comfortable gambling from their phones. The total sum wagered in mobile casino games is expected to surpass $48 billion by 2015.

While states, game publishers, and casinos stand to make billions of dollars, making gambling as simple as a few clicks on your phone raises ethical concerns. Gambling can be addictive, even with the barriers that are currently in place. Mobile casino games could be the next big thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.


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