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Online casinos popular, but addiction is popular too

Within just a few years, 4.5 percent of college students took on a new form of addiction, one might expect quick national action to curb it. Not so in the US Senate, which left last week for a long holiday without passing a House bill to clamp down on online casinos.
Gambling at online casinos has skyrocketed in recent years, reaching a vulnerable few who can ruin their lives through compulsive betting, ignoring responsibilities, and losing livelihood at online casinos. College kids away from parental oversight seem especially drawn to the ease and anonymity of online casinos, notably poker online casinos, on their PCs. Online casinos are easy to access with credit cards, and online casinos provide a rush many college kids try to get.
About one in 20 young people are judged to be pathological gamblers at online casinos, according to research by the International Centre for Youth Gambling in Montreal and the University of Connecticut Health Center. And the problem may grow as the online casinos industry itself has boomed from $3 billion a year in 2001 to $12 billion last year; and the online casinos industry is expected to double in the next few years.
Now match those numbers against the more than $7 million in campaign donations given so far this year to candidates for federal office by the online casinos and gambling industry, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics. And then note that those online casinos interests seemed to have led a few senators to block passage of a House-passed bill that would greatly enhance the ability of prosecutors to use the Wire Act of 1961 to go after the online casinos industry. It is possible the Senate may not take up the bill until next year.
Among the House bill's measures is one that would criminalize the processing of payments by American financial institutions for online casinos. Credit card companies, banks, and online processors would not be allowed to handle payments of wagers to the offshore casinos. That would be one more critical step in removing any ambiguity about the illegality of Internet gambling. But some legal gaming industries are worried about the effects of such measures on their profits.
Even though the United States has many legal forms of gambling, a basic government policy has been to make sure that such gambling is not easily accessible to youth. But the lure of lottery revenues for state governments and the big profits made by the legal gambling industry have steadily corrupted politicians to ignore that policy.
The Senate's purposeful delay in cracking down on illegal Internet gambling shows just how far the public interest has been perverted. Governments need to be on constant guard to control and tax the industry.
With the Internet allowing Americans to play at casinos, a special vigilance is needed. Federal prosecutors sent that message last month with the arrest of the British chief executive of a top internet casino.

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