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Beware – Online Gambling Ahead

21 April 2001

According to John Sutherland in his recent article in The Guardian, the real threat we face from computers is not pornography and hackers – but online gambling. “The real and imminent danger of universal popular access to the net is less dramatic. Not from computer literate fundamentalists with their cyber-bombs or Levantine porn merchants offering us their sisters online, but gambling,” says Sutherland. It is clear, he continues, that controlling gaming by prohibition does not work and only encourages people to search for it in more underhanded ways. Until online gambling came about, governments in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom simply made the experience rather inconvenient by limiting the availability of casinos and betting shops. With the advent of online gambling, the situation has completely turned. Says Sutherland, “Games of pure chance and part skill - slots, blackjack, poker, and roulette - are perfect for computer graphics. The action is magnitudes faster than in the slickest casino.” The simplicity of being able to gamble online, in the comfort of your own home, 24 hours a day, all year round, makes online casinos very attractive. Online gambling is growing at a phenomenal pace. According to Sutherland, its convenience is fueling this growth. He says, “For addicts, net gambling is the great rock-candy mountain. It''s like an alcoholic being given a bathroom in which the taps run with iced vodka.” Over one million people in the US gamble on line every day and this number is set to rise despite the fact that it remains illegal by federal law. The National Gambling Impact Study Commission (established by Congress in 1996) urged that all forms of "convenience gambling" be banned. However, as Sutherland notes, “There''s no convenient way of doing it” and with turnover estimated at US$1.5bn annually and expected to rise to US$5bn by next year, it seems that online gambling is here to stay.

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