Amongst the many benefits of the online revolution, it is unlikely that internet gambling and gaming are considered to be at the forefront. In the last decade the World Wide Web has seen the development of many online gambling organizations, either established by known brands or smaller independent companies. While some of these offer the facility for users to bet on sporting events, their biggest attraction is that they give subscribers the opportunity to play online versions of poker, roulette and other popular casino games.
There has always been severe opposition to online gaming. It is something potentially divisive to those of an addictive persuasion, and makes it especially easy for gamblers to pursue their past time both in private and at their own convenience. This not only makes it difficult for friends and loved ones to spot the traits of addictive behavior, but also creates an environment where individuals can gamble in a virtual setting that is not representative of reality. The common perception is that online gaming not only preys on the vulnerable, but also lures others into the clouded waters of addiction.
Online Gaming and the US
The marriage of online gaming and the US was always going to be one of inconvenience, especially given the stringent and often variable gambling laws that exist within the nation. The news this week that the founders of 3 of the largest Internet poker companies have been indicted on a range of financial charges is not a tremendous surprise, and in many ways was an accident waiting to happen in the US. 11 people have been charged on offences including bank fraud, money laundering and various illegal gambling activities.
The incident has brought online gambling in the US sharply into focus, especially with regards to its presence in states that rule any form of gambling practice as illegal. In this instance, the mere operation of the company is considered illegal, and even those who participate in their online games are guilty of violating the relevant state law. It has long been argued that as approximately half of the states in the US are opposed to gambling, its online form should be completely outlawed due to its accessibility and the difficulty it provides to those who wish to regulate it.
Internet poker and gaming communities have a markedly different point of view however. They claim that Internet poker is inherently different to its corporeal incarnation, and is in fact a game of skill and dexterity rather than chance or opportunism. This fact, and the alternative media through which it is played, have led to many to suggest that it should not be considered as gambling and is in fact more akin to a typical online or interactive game. These arguments carry weight, but not given the vast sums of money that are wagered through online poker in many western nations.
A Campaign Against Online Gambling
There is a growing theory that online gambling has been targeted by those who make and enforce law in the US, who see the concept as something which has been allowed to flourish despite the prohibitive laws that exist in many states nationwide. There is evidence of this within the 52 page indictment prepared against the companies and individuals involved, with charges of bank fraud and offshore money laundering techniques that were allegedly used to navigate anti-gambling laws and engage US players.
The bank fraud charges are not especially well defined, but it is believed that their presence will enable prosecutors to be able to extradite defendants who are based where gambling is a legal practice. These charges appear to be included largely in order to ensure that everyone involved faces trial on US soil, where the subsequent offences that contravene regional gambling regulations can then help to secure convictions. This is a likely consequence, especially as recent cases involving sports gambling have seen both organizers and players forced to serve custodial jail time.
This type of crackdown is inevitable in a country which adopts Americas methodology of rule, especially for actions or practices where a single national law does not exist. Gambling is the prime example, as its legality in certain states has allowed it to establish a strong online presence within the boundaries of the whole of the US. This is clearly to the disapproval of several influential senators and law makers however, who have subsequently sought to combat its presence by targeting the companies who facilitate it.
The Future of Online Gaming in the US
The future of online gaming in the US is at best unclear, and there is even speculation that players who held money in online accounts of the indicted companies could lose their gathered wealth. Regardless of this or the future that awaits those indicted on specific charges, the US must move towards a clearer vision of their attitude to gaming, with the ultimate aim of creating a single national law to either permit or prohibit its practice. By enabling its practice in certain states but seeking to punish companies and individuals who organize it in others, the government is operating a diluted form of democracy which affords choice and freedom only to a select view.