Risk versus Opportunity
Despite poker’s recent ascent into the national spotlight, several issues surrounding the game have become hotly contested by both activist and government groups. Both gambling-related health issues and questions of legality cast a shroud over this popular trend.
To quote tuftsdaily.com, “The compulsive and uncontrollable side of this form of recreation often goes unrecognized. According to a study conducted by researchers at Harvard University, college students are 20 percent more likely to suffer from gambling addictions compared to young adults…Whether it is watching players on television, gambling in a dorm, casino, or trying their luck online students say they are just looking for some fun with their friends, and the chance to make a quick buck…highly dramatized World Championship poker tournaments on national television are an influencing factor on students. The extreme convenience of online gambling venues makes them dangerous to borderline-compulsive gamblers.”
Indeed, the risks associated with online poker (and all online gambling) are well documented. In his article on the rise of gambling problems, Matt Conn states that “Although they [online gambling Websites] don’t increase the number of compulsive gamblers, additional gambling outlets hurt those who are problem gamblers.”
Problems associated with compulsive gambling are not the only quandary linked to online poker and other forms of Internet gambling. At the heart of the issue is the legality of Web-based gambling and it’s lack of regulation. It is a known fact that gambling is strictly regulated and confined within the U.S., which is why most (if not all) of popular gambling sites are based in regulation-void countries such as Antigua and Barbuda. Native American casinos, which are represented by the National Indian Gaming Association, are also overwhelmingly adamant against governmental steps toward gaming regulation.
Despite the notion that Internet regulation is something akin to a pipe dream, popular U.S. search engines such as Google, Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. have made efforts to rid themselves of any association with online gaming. Online poker news states, “…Google expects to drop all casino ads by the end of this month [April 2004]…Yahoo is simultaneously phasing out the casino ads in its U.S. market.” No matter what regulatory or voluntary steps that U.S. entities take, however, the fact remains that the Internet will provide alternative routes for online gamers to get their gambling fix. In fact, the majority of countries who are members of the World Trade Organization have scorned the United States’ contempt for Internet gambling: “The WTO has ruled that the U.S. policy prohibiting online gambling violates its obligations under international trade law…the ruling by a WTO panel Wednesday is being hailed by online casinos operators overseas as a major victory that could force the United States to liberalize its laws.” (www.onlinepokernews.com/?action=casinopages&option=k4qyj7rv.page)