The United States people and their government have always had an ambivalent view of gambling, including lotteries, casino games, and betting on sports games. Even today, with gambling being legal in various states and Indian tribal areas, most people view the activity as either illegal or immoral. And the state of the law in regards to betting in any form just makes the situation even more difficult to unravel for the majority of people living in the US.Throughout the history of the country, the legalization and criminalization of gambling has proceeded in cycles. First, no gambling is legal, but it is impossible to enforce such laws. Reforms are made to allow some types of games, which then leads to more liberalization of the laws and more types of betting becoming legal. Inevitably, corruption comes into the picture on a small scale, then on a large scale, and scandals become the focus of media attention. As a result, the reform is made back to all gambling being illegal.This cycle has repeated numerous times in American history, and we are currently experiencing a third wave of legalization. This third wave started during the Great Depression as some states went from a complete ban on legal gambling to allowing certain types of betting on horse races and off track betting. Nevada also allowed casino gambling during the 1930s. The cycle picked up steam in the 1960s with the first state-sponsored lottery in New Hampshire and the promotion of legal casinos on Indian tribal lands.Once the door was open to state lotteries, numerous types of gambling started to become legal and legitimate types of business, if not openly embraced and accepted in general. Governments started to allow different types of casino games and betting in order to generate tax revenue, and even participated in various plans to promote such lotteries and casinos. New Jersey allowed legal casinos in the 1970s, and Indian tribal lands gained the ability to create them during the 1980s.In the early 1990s, Iowa allowed riverboat gambling, and then several more states allowed legal types of gambling. The point of no return had been reached, leading to the situation today: 48 out of the 50 states in the US allow some form of commercial gambling, and three out of the five territories owned by the government also allow it. The only two holdouts are Utah and Hawaii, and even Hawaii now allows social gaming, although it does not sponsor gambling at the state level.The only real hurdle left to for the US to jump over is the legalization of offshore online casinos operating in the country. With literally thousands of different online gaming websites out there, most of them based in foreign countries, the worldwide trend is towards legalizing, licensing, and regulating gambling institutions, rather than just banning them or restricting trade. And it is probably only a matter of time before even these companies are legally allowed to operate in the United States of America.
The huge and exponential growth spurt in Internet technology has attracted and made fans out of millions of people worldwide, making this an industry of behemoth proportions. This has drastically changed the way people spend time and also work nowadays. There is now an instant access to information and things that can be done online. This has affected all kinds of things that were done offline.There seems to be a conceivable effect of this on the gambling industry also, which is explored below:All the games that can be played in a casino can now be played online, giving the gambler an option to gamble to his heart’s content sitting in the comfort of his home. Is this good enough, will it attract the same number of people as a casino does, is what needs to be looked at.Though a lot of effort has been made to give an authentic feel when compared to offline gambling, it just isn’t enough. The main things that are missing are the ambience of a real casino which can never be recreated in an online environment. The other draw back is the adrenalin rush that comes with offline gambling, in the brick and mortar world a gambler often gambles with his friends around so there is a charged atmosphere created and there is also a palpable exciting environment created which can never really happen when gambling online.There is also the scope of a lot of socializing in offline gambling which is not there online as the player is alone. There are also other issues with online gambling as there is a perceived or implied threat of financial security while even doing small things like shopping online let alone gambling. There is a general feeling of discomfort in using a credit card on the net, people fear that it can be misused without their knowledge.When a person is doing offline gambling he can choose on what he wants to gamble on instantaneously, he can move from table to table and choose what is he comfortable playing, which is limited when it comes to online gambling.Also when it is offline gambling there is that added attraction of the light and sound effects found in a regular casino, the various shows that they put up the multiple avenues of entertainment that are available when the gambling happens in a building with a lot of people around.
This is part 3 of a multipart series of articles regarding proposed anti-gambling legislation. In this article, I continue the discussion of the reasons claimed to make this legislation necessary, and the facts that exist in the real world, including the Jack Abramoff connection and the addictive nature of online gambling.The legislators are trying to protect us from something, or are they? The whole thing seems a little confusing to say the least.As mentioned in previous articles, the House, and the Senate, are once again considering the issue of “Online Gambling”. Bills have been submitted by Congressmen Goodlatte and Leach, and also by Senator Kyl.The bill being put forward by Rep. Goodlatte, The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, has the stated intention of updating the Wire Act to outlaw all forms of online gambling, to make it illegal for a gambling business to accept credit and electronic transfers, and to force ISPs and Common Carriers to block access to gambling related sites at the request of law enforcement.Just as does Rep. Goodlatte, Sen. Kyl, in his bill, Prohibition on Funding of Unlawful Internet Gambling, makes it illegal for gambling businesses to accept credit cards, electronic transfers, checks and other forms of payment for the purpose on placing illegal bets, but his bill does not address those that place bets.The bill submitted by Rep. Leach, The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, is basically a copy of the bill submitted by Sen. Kyl. It focuses on preventing gambling businesses from accepting credit cards, electronic transfers, checks, and other payments, and like the Kyl bill makes no changes to what is currently legal, or illegal.In a quote from Goodlatte we have “Jack Abramoff’s total disregard for the legislative process has allowed Internet gambling to continue thriving into what is now a twelve billion-dollar business which not only hurts individuals and their families but makes the economy suffer by draining billions of dollars from the United States and serves as a vehicle for money laundering.”There are several interesting points here.First of all, we have a little misdirection about Jack Abramoff and his disregard for the legislative process. This comment, and others that have been made, follow the logic that; 1) Jack Abramoff was opposed to these bills, 2) Jack Abramoff was corrupt, 3) to avoid being associated with corruption you should vote for these bills. This is of course absurd. If we followed this logic to the extreme, we should go back and void any bills that Abramoff supported, and enact any bills that he opposed, regardless of the content of the bill. Legislation should be passed, or not, based on the merits of the proposed legislation, not based on the reputation of one individual.As well, when Jack Abramoff opposed previous bills, he did so on behalf of his client eLottery, attempting to get the sale of lottery tickets over the internet excluded from the legislation. Ironically, the protections he was seeking are included in this new bill, since state run lotteries would be excluded. Jack Abramoff therefore would probably support this legislation since it gives him what he was looking for. That does not stop Goodlatte and others from using Abramoff’s recent disgrace as a means to make their bill look better, thus making it not just an anti-gambling bill, but somehow an ant-corruption bill as well, while at the same time rewarding Abramoff and his client.Next, is his statement that online gambling “hurts individuals and their families”. I presume that what he is referring to here is problem gambling. Let’s set the record straight. Only a small percentage of gamblers become problem gamblers, not a small percentage of the population, but only a small percentage of gamblers.In addition, Goodlatte would have you believe that Internet gambling is more addictive than casino gambling. Sen. Kyl has gone so far as to call online gambling “the crack cocaine of gambling”, attributing the quote to some un-named researcher. To the contrary, researchers have shown that gambling on the Internet is no more addictive than gambling in a casino. As a matter of fact, electronic gambling machines, found in casinos and race tracks all over the country are more addictive than online gambling.In research by N. Dowling, D. Smith and T. Thomas at the School of Health Sciences, RMIT University, Bundoora, Australia “There is a general view that electronic gaming is the most ‘addictive’ form of gambling, in that it contributes more to causing problem gambling than any other gambling activity. As such, electronic gaming machines have been referred to as the ‘crack-cocaine’ of gambling”.As to Sen. Kyls claim about “crack cocaine”, quotes at http://www.alternet.org/drugreporter/20733/ include “Cultural busybodies have long known that in post this-is-your-brain-on-drugs America, the best way to win attention for a pet cause is to compare it to some scourge that already scares the bejesus out of America”. And “During the 1980s and ’90s, it was a little different. Then, a troubling new trend wasn’t officially on the public radar until someone dubbed it “the new crack cocaine.” And “On his Vice Squad weblog, University of Chicago Professor Jim Leitzel notes that a Google search finds experts declaring slot machines (The New York Times Magazine), video slots (the Canadian Press) and casinos (Madison Capital Times) the “crack cocaine of gambling,” respectively. Leitzel’s search also found that spam email is “the crack cocaine of advertising” (Sarasota, Fla. Herald Tribune), and that cybersex is a kind of sexual “spirtual crack cocaine” (Focus on the Family)”.As we can see, calling something the “crack cocaine” has become a meaningless metaphor, showing only that the person making the statement feels it is important. But then we knew that Rep. Goodlatte, Rep. Leach and Sen. Kyl felt that the issue was important or they wouldn’t have brought the proposed legislation forward.In the next article, I will continue coverage of the issues raised by politicians who are against online gambling, and provide a different perspective to their rhetoric, covering the “drain on the economy” caused by online gambling, and the notion of money laundering.