In 2006, the US Congress and President Bush created a law called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). This law made it illegal for purveyors of “games of chance” to accept payments from credit card companies and ewallets. The term “games of chance” was never fully defined. The UIGEA also added a layer of enforcement and prosecution to enterprises violating the law.
A Huge Market Abandoned
The effect of the law was that most online casinos and game developers pulled out of the US online gaming market. A few casinos, Grande Vegas prominent among them, stayed on. Under the law, funding gambling activities at an online casino for US players is never simple.
There have been proposals ever since the law was passed and signed to make all or some online gambling legal. It has long been assumed if not proven that land based casino interests, socially conservative voters, government-run lotteries, and pari-mutuel gambling interests such as horse racing, dog racing, and jai alai formed a coalition in opposition to the legalization of online gambling.
Equable Treatment of Gamblers
The first reason to legalize online gambling is simple fairness. Not everyone who likes to gamble enjoys going to a racetrack, dog racing track, or jai alai stadium. They may prefer slots or the several classic table games. Their analytical bent may be more toward making the right plays in blackjack than determining which horse will win this particular race.
Who will Pay Taxes?
One well-worn objection to the legalization of online gambling is that it would be difficult to collect taxes both from the casino itself and also from winners. This ignores the absolute difficulty of collecting taxes on winnings at any legal gambling emporium. When a gambler cashes in his or her chips, the casino can’t know if the chips represent winnings or the money left over minus losses.
So taxes go uncollected.
Online gambling actually lends itself far more to the collection of taxes because there is a digital record of every play and every movement in a player’s account. Thus, every dollar deposited is followed by the computers. This applies only to the top online casinos that monitor each game and each account in real time primarily as a way to resolve conflicts between players and the casino.
Thus, by legalizing online gambling, the government would either be forcing poorly run casinos to monitor gameplay or fold their tents. It would make online gambling safer for players.
It would also make the streets safer for gamblers and tourists alike. A comparison here with the changes that have occurred in Major League Baseball since the inception of free agency is appropriate.
Counter-intuitivity in Baseball
When free agency was ordered by the court, MLB owners screamed that it would bankrupt the leagues. Instead, revenues are up, baseball is more popular than ever, attendance is up, and crowds are far better behaved than they ever were.
At one time, attendance of 1,000,000 over the course of a season was considered good. Now anything under 2,000,000 is considered bad. Where it was rare indeed to have attendance of 3,000,000, now even small ballparks like Wrigley Field in Chicago fill up regularly and seasonal attendance is always above 3,000.
What happened is that teams marketed tickets to large corporations and other organizations and marketed a visit to the ballpark as a great place to have a date. Where stadiums during Friday night games were once called “open-air saloons”, ballparks became a place to relax, have a few, but always stay in control. And the leagues flourished even as salaries continued to rise.
Not Just Casinos
If land based casinos cease to be the only place Americans can go to play casino games, they can be marketed as vacation destinations with some gambling offered as well. This is the “integrated resort” idea being pushed by Singapore among others as way to offer gambling mixed with shopping, convention centers, top restaurants, concerts, and more that would normally be considered aspects of a full-fledged vacation.
An integrated resort would attract far fewer of the low-lifes that seem to gravitate to places like Atlantic City and Las Vegas. So even as online gambling would grow, land-based casinos would realize a rebirth. It would be a true win-win situation.
The single biggest caveat to this entire argument is that a society suffers when gambling is seen as a get rich quick scheme. We can only imagine the number of families who throw away their hard-earned cash on Powerball tickets.
Online casinos all support the notion of responsible gaming. Most pay lip service to it but some, like Grande Vegas, take the notion very seriously, indeed. These casinos set limits on the amounts players can deposit unless they can show that they can easily afford to do so.
There is a big difference between a high roller who knows not to bet more than he or she can afford and a high roller who is addicted to gambling. The best online casinos monitor their players and make every effort to deny access to those players who they deem are possibly problem gamblers.
No land-based casino can monitor all the people who come through the doors. Land-based casinos honour chips from other casinos. So, a problem gambler can gamble in Vegas until their bankroll is used up and no one will know. This cannot happen at a regulated and responsible online casino.