Internet gambling has changed the way gamblers engage in the game, allowing for more betting options, easy access, and greater value for money. Online gambling can include casinos, sports betting, and virtual poker. These gaming venues use high-speed internet connections to allow for fast and convenient bets. Gambling on the Internet is illegal in most states, however, and federal criminal statutes are implicated. Those in favor of legalized gambling have argued that regulation would help protect consumers and generate taxation revenue. However, concerns have been raised about the commercial nature of the industry and its potential to facilitate unlawful gambling. In addition, the First Amendment has been questioned as to whether the Commerce Clause applies to the online gambling industry.
In December 2002, the Government Accountability Office released a report on Internet gambling. The report outlined many of the issues that surround this form of gambling. Several of the most significant findings were that internet gamblers reported higher rates of problem gambling, illicit drug use, and alcohol consumption than non-gamblers. While some problem gamblers attributed their problems to online gambling, it was also found that many Internet problem gamblers had prior problem behaviors.
A recent study on problem gambling among problem Internet gamblers analyzed data from over 1119 online gamblers. It found that those who had a gambling problem had higher rates of alcohol consumption, disability, and smoking. Furthermore, those who were problem gamblers were more likely to self-harm. Problem gamblers were also more likely to engage in land-based gambling.
In Australia, land-based electronic gaming machines are legal. Yet, despite the legality of land-based forms of gambling, one-third of Australian gamblers blame online gambling for their problem behavior. Similarly, a 2007 British Gambling Prevalence Study found that one-third of problem gamblers also blamed online gambling. Some studies have concluded that the prevalence of problem Internet gamblers is low, while others have found that it increases with increased Internet involvement.
One of the main concerns about Internet gambling is that it provides a more convenient and easier way to wager. However, this convenience is only a partial advantage. Internet gambling is largely automated, and is not similar to a casino or telephone call. Unlike land-based gambling, which can be physically accessed from a home, internet gambling is primarily conducted through a computer and wireless devices. This ease of use is a major incentive for Internet gamblers, but it may also create a pathway for disordered betting.
Many jurisdictions have recognized the benefits of regulation and are legalizing Internet gambling. However, the presence of an interstate element in the gaming market has created obstacles to enforcement policies of state laws. Additionally, the commercial nature of the gambling business has prompted questions about the federal government’s ability to enforce the Commerce Clause. Nevertheless, the increasing prevalence of gambling on the Internet could lead to increased disordered gambling, which has the potential to harm individuals.
Several states are also considering whether to regulate internet gambling, primarily to protect the public from the risk of money laundering and other illegal activities. This is an important debate because a regulated gambling industry can enhance consumer protection and taxation.