Online gambling is a $40 billion industry in the United States alone. Thousands of people engage in gambling online for fun, entertainment, or to win money. Some people play for money, while others prefer the anonymity and isolation of online casinos. However, the availability of online gambling makes it harder for problem gamblers to control their urges. The Internet provides a convenient way to play online and at any time of day. But beware of the risks of online gambling!
The United States and many other countries have argued over online gambling laws. The World Trade Organization, an international trading organization, has ruled that the U.S. government violates its own international trade agreements when it bans online gambling. Antigua and Barbuda said online gambling had destroyed thousands of jobs and damaged the country’s economy. However, the WTO ruled against the United States in 2004, ruling that U.S. laws on online gambling violate international trade agreements. The United States has steadfastly refused to change its position.
The laws against online gambling are intentionally vague. The law does not specify whether gambling is legal, but prohibits the use of “any device” for gambling purposes. A computer that is connected to the Internet is presumed to be included in that list. The United States authorities view online gambling in the same way as other vice crimes. They focus their efforts on the businesspeople providing the services. They have no way of knowing where a gambler is located.
Many people use credit cards to gamble online. However, some sites do not accept credit card transactions and have turned to alternative methods such as ECash and PayPal. These payment systems allow users to transfer money from their credit cards to intermediary accounts that they can then use for gambling purposes. The money that goes through these intermediaries is difficult to trace and cannot be viewed. Neteller, PayPal, and FirePay are among the online payment providers that offer this service. Some credit card associations refuse to do business with such sites unless they have assurances that the site can be trusted.
Most of the online gambling sites offer a bonus, usually 5% to 20% of the initial deposit, which must be wagered at least two to three times to unlock the bonus. Most online gambling sites also offer prizes for repeat customers. Winnings are either deposited into the user’s online account, or mailed out as a certified check. This way, winnings can be claimed without a hassle. For example, an online player can play blackjack for only $1 per hand. Land-based casinos set a minimum bet of either $10 or $25.
While many websites are licensed by various governmental bodies, not all are. Some are members of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission or the U.S. Department of Justice. Other online gambling sites are operated from other countries, and are headquartered in foreign countries. They process transactions through companies and advertise on nongambling sites. Many major software providers for online gambling sites are WagerLogic, Micro-gaming Systems, and World Gaming. Whether a site is licensed by these bodies or not, the standards of the industry are generally high.