Treatment for gambling addiction must be made available on the NHS in the face of an industry buoyed by the internet, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).
The gambling industry should tackle its responsibilities and contribute more to research into the links between online gaming and addiction, the doctors' group asserts.
In a report released Monday, the BMA says it is concerned by remote gambling, and the planned expansion of the business through the 2005 Gambling Act may worsen problems.
The UK government has also been courting online gambling firms in the wake of Congress recently banning their activities in the US.
The report, entitled Gambling addiction and its treatment within the NHS states that electronic money transactions can seem less real to gamblers, who are further encouraged by anonymous and always-on web, interactive TV, and mobile phone services.
Separate research by business and technology consultancy Morse released today said gambling at work costs employers £300m per year.
The authors also say online gaming firms deliberately fix practice play to make wins seem more likely and express worries that tracking technology can mean a game operator knows more about how individuals gamble than they do themselves.
Nicola Crewe-Read, communications director of addiction charity GamCare, said the online gaming industry was beginning to take responsible action. The charity runs a certification scheme for operators which has approved the National Lottery and PartyGaming sites and is assessing 18 others. She told The Register: "Online gambling is not going to go away and most commentators would agree it's unlikely operators will come onshore and submit to a UK tax regime."
She said the prohibitive American anti-gambling legislation would drive problem gamblers underground and that industry and those working with addicts must work together.
In its recommendations, the BMA calls for the gaming industry to contribute £10m annually to fund reseach, prevention, and intervention for problem gambling.
Report co-author Professor Mark Griffiths of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University said: "Online gambling in the UK has doubled since 2001 and further research in this area should be seen as a priority." ®