Sydney: Online gambling is becoming a big hit with people because of its easy availability and convenience.

"Overall, the research showed internet gamblers were not more likely to be problem gamblers, but they do appear to be at higher risk of developing problems," said Southern Cross University's Sally Gainsbury, who led the study.

The findings are part of the largest ever survey of internet gamblers in Australia, involving more than 6,680 participants who answered an online questionnaire, according to a Southern Cross statement.

Over half of the 450 problem online gamblers said the use of credit cards or internet bank transfers increased the amount they spent, compared to less than one in 10 of the 2,270 non-problem internet gamblers.

University of Sydney Psychology professor Alex Blaszczynski, who collaborated with Gainsbury, said: "While internet gambling has been around since the 1990s, its popularity has soared in the past few years with clear trends indicating an increasing number of participants starting to gamble online."

Most study participants showed little concern about the legality of sites and where they are based. "This is a worrying trend as playing on offshore sites may result in identify theft, fraud, losing funds and cheating, leaving Australians with little recourse," Blaszczynski said.

Internet gambling was perceived to be too addictive by 15 percent of players and poses unique risks, particularly for vulnerable populations -- young, single, uneducated and unemployed gamblers.

(Agencies)