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Technology And the Future Of Gambling

30 March 1999

Changes in technology are playing havoc with the law of gambling. Different forms of gambling have traditionally been viewed as creating different problems.

Lotteries have been considered dangerous because tickets can become too easily available. In 1849 and again in 1880, the U.S. Supreme Court declared: "The wide-spread pestilence of lotteries... infests the whole community; it enters every dwelling; it reaches every class; it preys upon the hard earnings of the poor; and it plunders the ignorant and simple."

Casino gaming has traditionally been considered dangerous because it took working men away from factories and farms, and because wealthy, but foolish, individuals would sometimes, overnight, lose everything they owned.

Betting at a track on horse races has often been legal, while betting on college and professional sports events is almost always prohibited. The anti-bookmaking laws were designed to limit where and when wagers were made and to fight organized crime.

Charity bingo has been considered a low-stakes, social game. Laws were enacted that basically left the game alone, while ensuring that profits went to the sponsoring worthy cause. But, gambling is being transformed by technology in ways that make these distinctions meaningless. Even worse, for law-makers, the changes are unpredictable.

Daniel J. Boorstin, Director Emeritus of the Library of Congress, wrote a book in 1994 entitled "Cleopatra's Nose," about how the accidental and unexpected can alter the course of history. The title is from a statement by French mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), who wrote, "Cleopatra's nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed."

Today we might call this chaos theory: Small changes can lead to enormous, unpredictable results. If Cleopatra had had a smaller nose, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony might not have fallen for her, and transforming the history of the Roman Empire.

Boorstin believes we have a new "Machine Kingdom" with different laws and rules from the traditional designations of "Animal, Vegetable and Mineral Kingdoms." In the Animal Kingdom, for example, species evolve through natural selection and survival of the fittest, by adapting to their environment. Machines, on the other hand, create their own environment, particularly by creating demand.

Boorstin's observations about the ways in which new inventions affect human experience help explain how technology is changing the way people make bets:

Technology creates its own demand. One of the most popular forms of gambling today is the video poker machine. Did anyone want to play video poker, before video poker was invented?

The most potent machines invade all environments. For gambling, the most potent inventions have been the video screen and computer chip. Every form of gambling, from lotteries, through bingo, poker, horse racing and casinos, can now be played on a screen, for money. And the video screen need not be restricted to a licensed location.

Inventions expand experience. Video games and home computers created the ability to play faster games more conveniently, almost wiping out slower forms of gambling. New inventions do not mean that old forms disappear - but the games do change.

Inventions blur traditional boundaries. The Internet made national borders seem like little more than lines on a map. Technology defies existing legal categories. The New Jersey State Lottery and casinos in Atlantic City battled over which would have the right to run Keno games. Is blackjack on an Internet casino a lottery? Casino gaming? Bookmaking? And where does the bet take place?

Inventions are increasingly intrusive. Cars and television are dramatic examples, but so are computerized gambling games.

Technology becomes ever more unintelligible to its users. Are customers at Indian casinos in California going to know or care that they are playing "video lottery games," not house-banked slot machines, if the games play exactly the same?

There is no task that cannot be done by a more complicated machine. The mechanical three-reel slot machine has been replaced. But even bingo today is not played with hand-drawn numbered balls and paper cards covered with beans.

Inventions cannot be uninvented. The law can react, after the fact, to unexpected developments. But if the demand has been created, technology will eventually find ways of getting around the legal barriers.

Will the law be able to cope?

Law constantly has to adjust to technological developments in gambling, designing new means of control. As Boorstin put it, "For us invention has become the mother of necessity."

Technology And the Future Of Gambling is republished from iGamingNews.com.
I. Nelson Rose

Professor I. Nelson Rose is an internationally known scholar, public speaker and writer and is recognized as one of the world's leading authorities on gambling law. A 1979 graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a tenured full Professor at Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, California, where he teaches one of the first law school classes on gaming law.

Professor Rose is the author of more than 300 books, articles, book chapters columns. He is best known for his internationally syndicated column, "Gambling and the Law ®," and his landmark 1986 book by the same name. His most recent book is a collection of columns and analysis, co-authored with Bob Loeb, on Blackjack and the Law.

A consultant to governments and industry, Professor Rose has testified as an expert witness in administrative, civil and criminal cases in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, and has acted as a consultant to major law firms, international corporations, licensed casinos, players, Indian tribes, and local, state and national governments, including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas and the federal governments of Canada and the United States.

With the rising interest in gambling throughout the world, Professor Rose has spoken before such diverse groups as the F.B.I., National Conference of State Legislatures, Congress of State Lotteries of Europe, United States Conference of Mayors, and the National Academy of Sciences. He has presented scholarly papers on gambling in Nevada, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, England, Australia, Antigua, Portugal, Italy, Argentina and the Czech Republic.

He is the author of Internet Gaming Law (1st & 2nd editions), Blackjack and the Law and Gaming Law: Cases and Materials.

I. Nelson Rose Websites:

www.gamblingandthelaw.com

Books by I. Nelson Rose:

> More Books By I. Nelson Rose

I. Nelson Rose
Professor I. Nelson Rose is an internationally known scholar, public speaker and writer and is recognized as one of the world's leading authorities on gambling law. A 1979 graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a tenured full Professor at Whittier Law School in Costa Mesa, California, where he teaches one of the first law school classes on gaming law.

Professor Rose is the author of more than 300 books, articles, book chapters columns. He is best known for his internationally syndicated column, "Gambling and the Law ®," and his landmark 1986 book by the same name. His most recent book is a collection of columns and analysis, co-authored with Bob Loeb, on Blackjack and the Law.

A consultant to governments and industry, Professor Rose has testified as an expert witness in administrative, civil and criminal cases in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, and has acted as a consultant to major law firms, international corporations, licensed casinos, players, Indian tribes, and local, state and national governments, including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas and the federal governments of Canada and the United States.

With the rising interest in gambling throughout the world, Professor Rose has spoken before such diverse groups as the F.B.I., National Conference of State Legislatures, Congress of State Lotteries of Europe, United States Conference of Mayors, and the National Academy of Sciences. He has presented scholarly papers on gambling in Nevada, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, England, Australia, Antigua, Portugal, Italy, Argentina and the Czech Republic.

He is the author of Internet Gaming Law (1st & 2nd editions), Blackjack and the Law and Gaming Law: Cases and Materials.

I. Nelson Rose Websites:

www.gamblingandthelaw.com

Books by I. Nelson Rose:

Compulsive Gambling and the Law

> More Books By I. Nelson Rose