U.S. Gambling Culture Spreads to Wall Street

In 1995 we saw the emergence of internet casino gambling, which includes playing games of chance such as poker, blackjack, and roulette as well as betting on sports events. By the year 2000, nearly 300 companies around the world operated almost 2,000 internet gambling websites. And in 2005, worldwide online gambling revenue is expected to be over $US10 billion for such operators while a total of $US 200 billion is expected to have been wagered.

Widely an issue of intense debate since its inception, the criminality of online gambling has been argued at the U.S. Department of Justice as well as in the halls of the U.S. Congress. But since internet gaming sites are primarily offshore, U.S. residents are presently not held accountable for breaking federal law in the absence of such precedent. However, individual states may mandate such practices illegal, going after banking institutions to prevent such transactions, for example, but individuals have not been prosecuted.

The prevalence of online gaming and the large revenues enjoyed from it has however prompted major U.S. brokerage firms to claim their piece of the pie. At stake is whether or not the Department of Justice will apply the Wire Act of 1961 in enforcing the law and how long it will be before the Congress can agree on passing new legislation which will help strengthen the Wire Act. The main dispute is that the Wire Act was intended exclusively for placing bets on the phone to bookmakers for sports events, and was largely put in place by then Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, in order to discourage organized crime and bookmaking. Whether the law now applies to communication between a home computer and an establishment or casino not located in the U.S. still remains a gray area.

But in the era of industrial globalization, it appears that firms such as Goldman Sachs & Co., Merrill Lynch & Co. and Fidelity Investments are willing to risk the vagueness of the law in order to make investments on behalf of their clients by way of stocks and mutual funds. By providing financing for offshore casinos the question remains whether they are skirting the law as well as whether they are making reliable investments for their clients, for whom most have no idea that their mutual funds are involved in such ventures.

It is now commonplace for American firms to invest in overseas corporations, even those which may be considered illegal under U.S. federal law, such as those manufacturers utilizing sweatshops and child labor or by outsourcing business to countries which do business with other countries sanctioned by the U.S. government. However, the issue of online gaming is perhaps just the latest industry in worldwide commerce in which laws and customs have not yet caught up to it, given the sophistication of the technology involved.

The argument is whether someone who generates a gambling transaction from their living room to a country outside of the U.S. qualifies as an illegal U.S. transaction and whether or not it can be reasonably policed beyond U.S. shores. In addition to the Wire Act, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was enacted in 1992, which banned all wagering on sports events in all states except those with pre-existing operations in the states of Nevada, Oregon and Delaware. That was followed by both President Clinton’s administration as well as the present President Bush’s administration both of which conveyed that the Wire Act applied to all forms of internet gambling and therefore illegal under existing law.

Yet the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in 2002 interpreted the Wire Act in another way. In Thompson v. MasterCard International et. al., the court affirmed a lower court ruling that according to federal statutes sports betting conducted over the internet is illegal, but casino games are legal. As such, since the Wire Act was specifically enacted to prevent sports betting, it would seem that the court got it right, with the gambling industry arguing that banning online gaming would require additional legislation.

And in 2004 the World Trade Organization got their say when the Caribbean Island nation of Antigua sued the U.S. government in 2003 in an effort to block U.S. actions to prohibit online gaming. The WTO ruled that the U.S. government was in violation of commercial services accords, and that the U.S. could be subject to trade sanctions. But Elliott Spitzer, New York State Attorney General, through his Internet Bureau Office lodged an investigation against national banking institutions based out of New York such as Citibank, N.A., Bank of America, N.A., JP Morgan Chase & Co. and MBNA America Bank, N.A., that process credit card transactions online. They as well as Visa and MasterCard agreed to voluntarily block transactions to online gambling sites with respect to the laws of the state of New York. However, other states must set up their own mechanisms in preventing such gambling.

While the societal impact of gambling has been debated endlessly for decades, from mental health issues to risk of bankruptcy, the evils of gambling will continue to prey upon those most vulnerable. However, the repercussions of online gambling are too new for them to be realized as yet on a grand scale. And while we hear of more and more minor children and young adults using credit cards to participate in online gaming, according to experts, more research and education needs to be done in order to warn children and their parents about irresponsible gambling.

But with respect to those who choose not to gamble, the issue of brokerage houses maintaining mutual funds, unbeknownst to their clients, by investing in offshore betting by way of the internet, will perhaps present unanticipated complaints, once consumers become more aware of how their life savings are being invested.
As such, Americans should have the choice of investing in a product which has been deemed illegal by several U.S. administrations. Without a clear and decisive law, which does not conflict with cyberspace jurisdiction as well as world trade policies, such transactions continue to go on unabated.

Until there is legal clarity, however, the online gambling industry will continue to trump any perceived notion of criminality. And since 2005 saw no new legislation proposed by either the House of Representatives or the Senate to restrict online gaming, it appears that the U.S. would rather gamble itself, in doing nothing about it, rather than protect its consumers and those most susceptible to its ills. Rather than owning up to their responsibilities to protect the interests of the American people and thereby U.S. consumers, both the U.S. government and U.S. corporations would rather wager that most will not care about their cashing in, either.

Diane M. Grassi is a freelance columnist, reporting and writing commentary on current events of the day providing honest and often politically incorrect assessments. From U.S. public policy to Major League Baseball, she is an eclectic thinker, and demanding of her readers to reflect on their own thinking patterns from an alternative perspective. Whether you agree with her or not, Diane M. Grassi will have you coming back to note her opinions, and if at best she wakes you up, then her goal will have been accomplished.

Is Responsible Gambling Possible?

Most people gamble for the fun and excitement of that big win, or to test their mettle against worthy opponents in games of skill, but gambling is about money and there is always the risk of taking the game too far.

Ensuring a conscientious and entertaining gambling environment is both the casinos’/poker rooms’ and the players’ responsibility.

Players need to play at casinos or poker rooms with the highest degree of trustworthiness, transparency and legitimacy. It is also important for players to bear the following in mind at all times during their play:

o Gambling should be entertaining and not seen as a means to making money.

o Keep track of the amount of money you spend and only gamble what you can afford to lose. Do not chase your losses.

o Keep track of the amount of time you spend gambling.

Does your casino or poker room have a responsible gaming policy?

While most people gamble for enjoyment, gambling can create various social and economic problems and very possibly cause harm to some individuals. These problems can range from over-spending to pathological gambling addiction.

Make sure that the casino you choose is committed to creating a responsible gaming environment, and has therefore gone to great lengths to implement and maintain the responsible gaming requirements of the international online gaming industry watchdog – eCOGRA (e-Commerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance). This certification is for the benefit of both players and the casinos or poker rooms themselves.

What does the eCOGRA Seal of Approval mean for you?

To receive the eCOGRA seal casinos or poker rooms must undergo stringent inspections of everything from customer service centers to accounting systems and from responsive complaint procedures to financial guarantees.

The award of the seal confirms that the casino or poker room has met eCOGRA’s strict admission criteria, and signifies that that they have shown absolute commitment to fair and honest gaming, superior player support, and prompt payouts. As a player, this seal of approval can provide you with total peace of mind when enjoying your favorite online games.

With eCOGRA you also have free access to a dedicated third-party dispute resolution service. You can request eCOGRA’s assistance in resolving disputes with any casino displaying their seal. Simply fill in a brief form on their web site at http://www.ecogra.org/disputes.

Gambling problem?
Should you require any assistance or advice on gambling problems, please contact one of the organizations listed below:

USA

National Council on Problem Gambling 1-800-522-4700

Hot Line Number for Northern California 1-800-287-8670

Hot Line Number for Greater L.A. Central 310-478-2121

Hot Line Number for Palm Springs 760-325-2808

Hot Line Number for Greater San Diego 1-866-239-2911

Gam-Anon, International Service Office 718-352-1671

Compulsive Gambling Institute 1-800-GAMBLER

Council of Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey 1-800-GAMBLER
or 1-800-426-2537

Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling 1-800-426-4555

Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling 1-800-34-NOBET

NICOS Chinese Health Coalition Problem Gambling 1-888-968-7888
(Mandarin and Cantonese)

Throw The Dice On Online Gambling Sites

The game of gambling has achieved immense popularity in recent times. Card games like blackjack and poker have become staples of many club houses. This trend has also caught the fancy of the internet, leading to many online gambling websites coming up in recent times. The combination of entertainment with lucrative opportunity has proved to be a very attractive concept for many online users. This has grown to become a main mode of entertainment for both amateur and professional gamblers online. For many professionals the use of online gambling websites is a way to convert their hobbies and skills into a profit.

Over the years, growing professional commitments and lack of time have made it difficult for many amateur gamblers to experiment with their luck. The online gambling sites offer them a chance to play their favorite games online. This allows people to indulge in their favorite games like poker and roulette from the comforts of their offices and homes. The users can choose from the top rated gambling sites on the internet to practice their skills on.

Most gambling sites require the player to register and deposit a certain amount of money to begin playing. As a beginner or an amateur player, it is very important for the gambler to read the rules and regulations of the website and its benefits before choosing to register. Unless the player chooses the right online gambling websites, there is an impending risk of losing their money within a few games. This is why it is important for users to access gambling reviews for finding the best gambling sites on the internet. These websites offer detailed information about top rated gaming sites and the benefits they offer to people. This information can prove to be instrumental in the profit making ability of gamblers on these gambling sites.

Most gambling websites have a range of features which are created in order to attract more users to register and play on the website. The reviews provide detailed information about these financial aspects of the game and offer customers better insight into the process. With the help of these reviews, it is possible for users to choose the easiest gambling sites to deposit at, banking options and other facilities available on the website. It is advised that customers choose the right online gambling websites based on the bonus offered to them.

The easy accessibility of online gambling sites is one of their most attractive features. But not all websites offer the maximum benefits to customers. This is why it is very important that people choose to read through gambling sites reviews before opting to invest their money on one particular site. This will help them understand different factors like the bonuses available, registration fees and other transactional details thoroughly before beginning the game. However, it is important that customers choose a credible and trusted review site for their reviews. This will help them in choosing the best site for their gambling needs..