Gambling was officially legalized in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1931, giving American gamblers the opportunity to take their chances at this timeless endeavor. Nevada was the center of the American gambling universe until the 1970’s, when other types of gambling were starting to become legal, such as riverboat and Native American casinos.
Gambling revenue (estimated at $30 Billion in 2014) has grown to the point where it out earns other entertainment activities like theme parks, movies, and music purchases combined. Over 86% of Americans participated in gambling activities in some form in 2014, 47% of gamblers are women, and they are the fastest growing demographic.
Online gambling can be paid for by credit card, electronic check, certified check, money order, wire transfer, or Bitcoin. Gamblers upload funds to the online company, make bets or play the games that it offers, and then cash out any winnings. Most U.S. banks prohibit the use of their cards for the purpose of Internet gambling, and attempts to use credit cards for online gambling are usually rejected.
Few industries explode onto the scene like online casino did when it began operation in 1995. This phenomena has revolutionized the gambling scene, allowing gamblers to wager on a variety of real money games and events right from home. However, this relatively new industry has raised a number of concerns over; 1) the societal effect of unmonitored access and 2) how to regulate the online gambling industry.
In 2006, Congress passed what has become known as the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA). Instated of the desired effect of clarifying gambling rules and regulations it has had the opposite effect. Confusion over this legislation led some sites to close down altogether and led many online gambling sites refused US citizens. Attempts are currently underway to reinterpret the UIGEA.
As the online gambling industry grows, the most profound affect will be felt by the country’s youth – people under the legal gambling age (sometimes significantly under). ID verification is practically non-existent in the world of real money online gambling.
The problem begins with simply defining what the legal age is. Minimum ages vary from state to state, and by the type of gambling. Typically the legal age is between 18 and 21 years old but not all states set a minimum age for all types of gaming. This issue is mired in inconsistencies and confusion.
Given that the current technology isn’t robust enough to prevent all minors from gambling real money online, it’s often just a matter of acquiring or “borrowing” a credit card. The introduction of the payment system Bitcoin in 2009 has only contributed to the problem of youth online gambling because there is absolutely no mechanism to verify the age of any person spending Bitcoins.
According to organizations that track gambling site usage by young people, approximately 20% of college students play online poker at least once a month. They’ve concluded that more than 400,000 male youth (18 to 22) gamble using real money at least once a week online, and more than 1.7 million gamble online at least once a month. All categories studied indicate the number of young people gambling on line increases annually
Today’s teens live in a society where legalized gambling is not only no longer taboo it’s socially acceptable. It’s highly visible and widely promoted (think FanDuel and DraftKings). 48 states allow gambling in some form and many teens are drawn to the promise of instant gratification and fast money. Another primary reason adolescents gamble is peer pressure. Half of the estimated 16 million people struggling with gambling addiction are teenagers, in large part because this age group is between two and four times to develop gambling addictions.
It may well be that the problems associated with real money online gambling can be best addressed by the sites themselves. Consistent ID verification practices and standard could have a huge impact on the problem of underage gambling, the industry is certainly motivated by the revenue to ensure their sites address the issues which will garner the attention of legislatures.
Online gambling is certainly not a fly-by-night trend. And for a majority of players it’s a harmless entertaining pastime. The industries attention to identified pitfalls will ensure its future success. If you or your loved ones has a gambling problem, you can find help at the National Council on Problem Gambling.