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.