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Betting on a Ban on Internet Gambling

22 September 2000

NEW YORK –(Press Release) --Sept. 21, 2000 -- There's a new game in town, which is spreading with little regulatory oversight and no effective screens against participation by the young and the vulnerable. Internet gambling represents one of the fastest-growing segments of online activity with more than seven hundred websites now providing users the opportunity to wager on everything from casino games to sporting events

According to Internet research firms, the industry will reap $1.5 billion in worldwide revenue this year -- a figure that is conservatively estimated to rise to $3 billion by 2002. The newest brief in The Century Foundation's series Ideas 2000: New Ideas for a New Century details how online gambling promotes addiction through easy accessibility and presents great potential for criminal abuse. It calls for the federal government to enforce a ban on Internet gambling in the United States.

According to the brief, there are a number of reasons why this booming industry should provoke concern among policymakers: online gambling is widely available to children and teens, increasing the chances that underage players will participate -- and become hooked; Internet gambling poses particular hazards for adult pathological gamblers and has the potential to increase greatly the number of people with gambling problems; Internet gambling provides an opportunity for illegal activity, including money laundering and fraud.

In addition, online gambling offers none of the potential economic benefits of casino gambling. The brief notes that the National Gambling Impact Study Commission in 1999 unanimously recommended an outright ban, a position that has received the support of a range of organizations.

The brief outlines several proposed methods for putting a ban on Internet gambling into effect: updating and strengthening existing laws that prohibit the use of telephone lines for placing bets or wagers; enacting laws that require Internet service providers to shut down any gambling sites hosted on their networks; and prohibiting the use of electronic payment methods (such as credit cards) in Internet gambling transactions.

The brief also points to the challenges for enforcing such a ban, including identifying operators of online casinos and sports books and prosecuting the owners of those sites when the operations are based in countries where Internet gambling is legal. The brief was written by Richard C. Leone, President of The Century Foundation.

Ideas2000: New Ideas for a New Century produces biweekly idea briefs that examine proposals for reforming and improving policy in the areas of retirement security, education, health care, campaign finance, and foreign policy, among others.

The Century Foundation is publishing the series to help explain and call attention to public policy ideas that are worthy of discussion and debate in the 2000 campaign and beyond. The views expressed in this series are solely those of the authors of each article. These short, informative pieces are ideal for journalists, policy analysts, campaign watchers, students, and members of the public who want to keep up with reform proposals and understand

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