Even though Britain has one-fifth of the population of the USA, it spends as much as Americans on gambling, according to figures issued by the Global Betting and Gaming Consultants (GBGC). And much of that UK spend is now taking place online. So, what attracts online gamblers and are there are any dangers involved?
The basis of America’s ban on online gambling stems from a report issued by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission in 1999. The major finding in that study highlighted the fact that ‘the presence of a gambling facility within 50 miles roughly doubles the prevalence of problem and pathological gamblers’. Obviously, with the rise of online gambling that ‘gambling facility’ is sited within the home. So – the argument goes – that gives rise to more gambling opportunities and therefore the possibility that more people will become compulsive gamblers. They are obsessed with gambling, and winning doesn’t minimize that compulsion; the more they win, the more they play. Worse still, the more they lose the more they play to try to recover their losses until the point where their habit becomes unaffordable, and they go under financially.
But, despite the dire warnings from the USA, the vast majority of people who participate online can control their gambling and play comfortably within their means. For most, online gambling is a form of entertainment from which they get a buzz and occasionally a win. The fact that games can be played in the comfort of the home obviously adds to the attraction. Sophisticated software can now replicate the casino experience; full-colour graphics and convincing sound putting the player in the heart of the action, even if in reality they are in front of their computer screen. And because of the rapid uptake in online gambling, revenues are increasing allowing a percentage of it to be returned to players as bigger jackpots and prizes, which in turn attracts even more playersOnline gambling is a fairly recent practice, yet a very controversial one. Its history began in the 90’s, as the internet began increasing in popularity. One of the first events to take place was when the government of an island in the Caribbean, Antigua and Barbuda, passed a law in 1994 which allowed online casinos to base there. This was called the Free Trade and Processing Act. Realizing the almost endless possibilities of making money through online gambling, several entrepreneurs jumped at the now legal chance to start this new venture.
Different companies were formed that same year and more continued to be formed in the years that followed. Some of these companies were creating online casinos, and others were designing the software needed to run the financial transactions of online gambling and developing new games. As online casinos started to increase in number and become an extremely lucrative business, with reported revenues of nearly 835 million dollars in 1998 alone, different layers of the U. S government began to take notice. One in particular, Senator Jon Kyl, a Republican from Arizona, decided he would be the leader against online casinos and introduced the internet Gambling Prohibition Act in an attempt to restrict gambling activity in the united states. The bill failed to pass in Congress, and online gambling continued to flourish, possibly even better thanks to the media attention it had received courtesy of the senator.
As online gambling continued, a few companies created software packages that could be leased by online gaming sites for a percentage of their earnings. This helps many new online gaming sites appear. Around this time, Canada also began to curb online gaming activities, raiding offices and eventually fining one of the largest online gambling servers.
In 1999, Senator Kyl presents a revised version of his Prohibition Act bill, and once again, it fails to gain the support needed in order to pass. Meanwhile, Australia allows the creation of an online casino, which in the end became the only one allowed and is currently still in operation. Although many more would-be casinos attempted to obtain licenses in Australia, the Australian government quickly formed a law preventing any new online gambling operations.
In 2000, Republican Senator Bob Goodlatte of Virginia introduces a further revised Prohibition Act to congress, and it is once more turned down. The following year, two bills that would help cut online gambling are passed in Congress. One was an updated version of the Wire Act, which makes it unlawful for individuals to be involved in the business of betting or gambling. The other bill attempts to prevent online payment to online casinos by prohibiting institutions based in the U. S. from handling such payments, making it more difficult for U. S. residents to engage in online gambling.