Internet Gambling: 2000 and Beyond
Kevin O’Neill, LCSW, CCGC, CADC, CPS
Everywhere you go today you hear some type of promotion for the Internet. The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, Inc. (CCGNJ) developed a homepage to serve compulsive gamblers, those affected by their gambling and researchers. Persons may access information and download files on various topics. Cyberspace is here and will make important information available to anyone in the world who has a PC, modem and Internet provider. It is estimated that in i2001, over 100 million persons were on-line in the United States and Canada.
Unfortunately, the Net also has a negative side. Anyone can access pornography, adult theme materials and, of course, gambling. There have been several articles in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Star Ledger, Time, Wired, and World Business all describing the growth of Internet gambling. With the proliferation of land-based (brick and mortar) annual wagering, a $650 billion business in the United States in 1998, it was only a matter of time before someone would find a way to tap into their share of the pie. It is estimated that by the year 2005, almost $10.7 billion will be expended on Internet gambling (Christiansen Capital Advisors, LLC, 2000)
When you browse the Net today you’ll find about 1,400 gambling sites that you can place bets. One of the concerns that many persons in the compulsive gambling prevention and treatment field have voiced is the lack of many monitoring of these games. Anyone can sit in front of their PC in the privacy of their home, office or school computer lab and access numerous legal and illegal gambling services. The computer does not ask you for proof of age or have a security force checking your ID.
The Federal Wire Act may even prohibit gambling over the Internet. In 1998, 21 operators were indicted by the federal government for Internet gambling. Since then, most have pleaded guilty, of violating federal gambling laws. One individual, Jay Cohen, is presently appealing his conviction and hopes to have his case one day heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate, in 1999, passed Senator Kyl's (R-AZ) "Internet Gambling Prohibition Act". The House defeated a similar bill in 2000 and new "prohibition" legislation is now being crafted.
Proponents of cyberspace betting indicate that children will not be able to access these accounts. Security measures may include personal identification numbers (PIN), passwords, credit card numbers or E-cash (electronic money). Unfortunately, many kids have easy access to their parents’ accounts and most adults are not aware of their child’s PC activities. In the future we may see voice recognition, video verification, iris recognition and thumb print identification. Some companies actually invite kids to "play for fun" on their site.
The real threat comes from the isolation and secrecy of the betting activity itself. I call this threat the "cave syndrome", due to the gambler’s isolated behavior and hidden activity. When a child goes to the racetrack or casino, he or she will hopefully be restricted entry to the window or floor. But when they are alone in front of their screen, they can bet and get out of control.
So we now have additional terminology to absorb, "cybergambling." This cybergambling, according to Evan Schwartz of Wired Magazine, could become the next frontier that’s paved with gambling dollars. Besides casinos, racetracks and sports betting, we may look forward to endless gambling activities i.e., video game tournaments, real world events and odds on all of these events. According to Smith Barney’s Jason Ader, gaming in the United States could be a $100 billion industry if it were available "on demand" at any time. You can now even obtain statewide lottery numbers over the net 24-hours a day.
What all of this expanding technology means to potential compulsive gamblers is they have yet another opportunity to become addicted. We have been one of the first organizations in the world addressing this issue and hopefully will act as a trailblazer for others. Just as law enforcement is now surfing the Net, so will our Council and many other Councils be out there advocating for the suffering compulsive gambler and those affected by this devastating illness.If anyone would like more information on this topic, contact Ed Looney, Executive Director of the Council at (609) 588-5515 ext. 17. We have conducted numerous radio, TV and newspaper interviews on Internet gambling and anticipate this type of gambling to explode as more and more people go on-line. Our on-line address is www.800gambler.org.
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