Proponents Say Regulations Could Curb Compulsive Online Gambling - InformationWeek

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7/12/2007
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Proponents Say Regulations Could Curb Compulsive Online Gambling

A special-interest group also points to technology as a way to spot dangerous patterns and control certain gambling behaviors.

A group trying to toss out restrictions against online gambling in the United States argues that regulating the industry will help curb compulsive gambling.

The Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative announced Wednesday that technology used in online gambling provides a platform to spot dangerous patterns and control certain gambling behaviors.

"The graphical and interactive structure of the internet provides a revolutionary opportunity to create informed customers with access to a variety of information designed to encourage safe choices and discourage unsafe behavior," Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, a leading U.S. advocate for programs and services to assist problem gamblers and their families. "Clearly gambling on the Internet raises some difficult issues, but it provides theoretical opportunities for operators to deliver responsible gaming programs that meet or exceed current standards in the bricks-and-mortar gaming industry."

The group argues that online gambling operations can control the amount of money wagered, set limits on deposits, restrict the duration of play, and identify and exclude players with unusual patterns.

Andrew Poole, Head of Online Services for GamCare, a U.K. group that addresses the social impacts of gambling, said Congressman Barney Frank's Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act would allow the U.S. regulators to implement safeguards. He said in a prepared statement that Europe has shown that regulations can counteract increases in "problematic gambling."

Andre Wilsenach, CEO of the Alderney Gambling Control Commission, which governs online gambling activities of operators based in the Channel Islands, said that giving gamblers informed choices and the ability to voice grievances reduces the risk of compulsive gambling.

"Opponents of Internet gambling are using scare tactics and misstating research studies to argue that Internet gambling will result in higher occurrences of compulsive gambling," Jeffrey Sandman, spokesman for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative, said in a prepared statement.

The group also points to a recent study, "Assessing the Playing Field: A Prospective Longitudinal Study of Internet Sports Gambling Behavior," by the Harvard Medical School Division on Addictions, to bolster its argument, saying that among a sample of more than 40,000 online gambling subjects, only 1% showed "excessive gambling patterns" and most bet a dollar or two.

"The current prohibition of Internet gambling is not stopping people from gambling online and does nothing to protect against problem gambling," Sandman said. "The regulatory framework presented in the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act, introduced by Congressman Barney Frank, provides an effective approach to protect consumers and ensure measures are in place to combat compulsive gambling."

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