April 10, 2013

Internet Gambling

Is it worth the risk?

My View – By Jan Zacharias

Turn on the TV these days and it would be unusual not to run into either a channel completely devoted to poker tournaments or a sports network carrying a poker tournament. These shows feature celebrities wearing the required garb that usually consists of hats, hoodies or dark glasses.

Or pay attention to the ads on these networks that invite you to “educational” sites on the Internet where you can gamble online for fun and learn how to play the games. These educational sites also have links to the ones that involve placing a wager. It’s never been easier to place a bet.

Internet gambling is growing at a rate of 20 percent a year. Some companies, like Ladbrokes, are now traded on the London stock exchange. More than 70 countries have legalized Internet gambling and are cashing in on this $12-billion-a-year industry, which is expected to rise to $21 billion by 2010.

There are over 2,500 sites on the Internet, which provide gambling services that range from casino games (blackjack, roulette, slots) to betting on sporting events as well as horse racing, to bingo and lottery sales, to the recent Texas Hold ‘Em phenomenon. You can even place a bet on whether London will have snow this Christmas.

At this point, both Canada and the United Stated have banned gambling on the Internet. Apart from the B.C. Lottery Corp.’s (BCLC) legal and strictly regulated site that allows you to play Keno, purchase scratch or lottery tickets online, Internet gambling sites are now physically located in Canada or In the U.S. Most of these sites operate offshore in countries like Antigua (536 sites) or Costa Rica (474 sites) where gambling on the Internet is legal. A few of these sites, but certainly not all, refuse to accept bets from Canadian jurisdictions.

To gamble on most of these sites, all you need is a credit card, debit card or the ability to transfer money into an “e-wallet” which is located offshore, such as NETeller, FirePay or Citadel. In the U.S., the government has cracked down on some of these payment mechanisms through the Wire Transfer Act. It even used the USA Patriot Act to launch a $10-million lawsuit against PayPal. To date, no similar action has been taken by the Canadian government.Most sites ask if you are 18 plus or 19 plus, but don’t ask for age verification. Some sites require an email address but don’t check the IP address of your computer to verify the country that you are gambling from.

The U.S. government is attempting to crack down on Internet gambling. On July 15, Federal officials in the U.S. arrested and charged the CEO of a large Internet site – David Carruthers of BetOnSports, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange – with failing to pay federal wagering excise taxes on more than $3.3 billion in wagers. The same week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would make it illegal for American banks and credit card issuers to make payments to online gambling sites.

This bill has yet to pass the senate, where its future is somewhat uncertain.

To fight back, the Caribbean countries of Antigua and Barbados have asked the World Trade Organization to investigate U.S. restrictions on Internet gambling as a breach of the international trade rules.

Clearly, the status of legalized gambling on the Internet is in flux and differs from country to country.

So if all it takes to gamble online is a computer and a credit card what does this mean? What does it mean for kids as they witness the surge in poker playing and the ease of access to Internet gambling sites? The number of people under 18 playing poker regularly is estimated between 30 to 40 percent, according to Jeff Deverensky of the Youth International Gambling Centre at McGill University in Montreal. In B.C., Solicitor General John Les amended the gambling regulations recently to prevent a U.S. company from setting up a summer poker camp that targeted kids as young as 10 years of age. What message are we sending to our kids?

In subsequent articles, I will explore two types of Internet gambling sites; the sites where a player may log on and learn how to play the games for fun without wagering money (.net sites and the sites where players wager money as they play (.com sites).

Both of these sites have inherent risks associated with them and it is essential that parents and future players understand the difference between these sites and the risks associated with play on either site.

I will also discuss the relatively new danger of developing an online gambling addiction.
Jan Zacharias is a clinical counselor and prevention specialist with the provincial government’s problem gambling program. She can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

First published on 09/06/2006

Re-printed with permission.