The U.S. government is gearing up for the war on terrorism, and last week it looked as though online gambling might be one of the casualties of this conflict. Things have changed somewhat since then, but the future of Internet wagering is far from certain.
Two weeks ago, Rep. James Leach attempted to attach anti-gambling legislation to The Financial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001. Leach’s amendment would have prohibited the use of credit cards in online wagering – allegedly to shut down money laundering efforts by terrorist organizations.
It appeared as though the legislation would be green-lighted when the money laundering portion of the anti-terrorism legislation passed through a House of Representatives committee last week. But the provision failed to get any further when representatives in the House could not reach a consensus on the legislation.
Although the money laundering provision won almost-unanimous support (62-1 in favor), the online gambling provision was a much more contentious issue. A motion to dismiss the ban on online betting was narrowly defeated by a 37-25 margin.
Nonetheless, Congress was prepared to include the money laundering provisions in the terrorist bill. That didn’t happen, however, because financial services committees from both houses could not agree on terms. These provisions were ultimately dropped from the final version of the bill.
The anti-terrorism act was voted on in the Senate last Thursday night, and passed 96-1. A House version of the bill that excluded the money laundering provision passed on Friday (October 12) by a 337-79 margin.
The money laundering bill will likely be resurrected as a piece of free-standing legislation in the near future, but industry insiders are warning that anti-gambling forces are still attempting to use this opportunity to pass a bill that would otherwise die.
Online wagering enthusiasts have been encouraged to write their Casino Malaysia representatives at House.Gov/WriteRep if they wish to express their concerns regarding online gambling components of a money laundering bill.
Net Gambling’s Popularity Continues to Grow
Many people have been saying that there’s no stopping online gambling, and a just-released study seems to confirm that.
The Internet wagering business is expected to grow from $6.6 billion this year to $20.8 billion in 2005, and much of that growth will be due to a huge jump in the number of online gamblers. Industry analysts are expecting that the numbers will rise from 2.9 million people this year to 7.4 million gamblers in 2005.
Aspinalls.com, a land-based gaming company from the U.K. that launched its own online casino last June, has partnered with research company Greenfield Online to see whether real-world numbers actually match up with what the experts are saying.
In a survey of 1,000 experienced Internet users conducted during June 2001, 63% of respondents had already visited an online gambling site (lottery, bingo, sports betting, or casino sites). 29% had specifically visited an online casino during the past year, and 13% had placed real-money wagers.
The study also explored the gender split at casinos. It found that women appear to be more comfortable playing table games in an online environment. The percentage of women to men playing games such as Blackjack at a land-based casino is 32% female to 68% male, but that ratio becomes even at online casinos.
There has been a similar shift with slot machines. Women generally dominate slots play in land-based casinos (88% of female visitors play slots), but only 24% of women played slots at an online casino.
Online security continues to be an issue with gamblers. Almost half the respondents said they would prefer to play at online casinos run by a brick-and-mortar operator. A similar number said they were extremely concerned about submitting their credit card information online or receiving payment of their winnings.
And that information doesn’t come as a surprise to the man behind Aspinalls.com.
Russell Foreman, Chief Executive Officer of Aspinalls Online Plc, said, “There is genuine unease amongst Internet users about visiting online casinos run by unrecognized operators.
“With over 1,400 online gambling sites operating on the web at any time, the public is right to be concerned about security issues. Our advice is simple: always check out the full credentials of any operator before signing-up to them. And if there is any doubt, go elsewhere.”
Whether the projections of numbers and revenue become a reality remains to be seen, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the growing popularity of online gambling.