On-line Sports, Lottery, and Bingo Gambling Features
For many reasons, gambling on sports via the Internet is increasingly financially successful. Unlike casino-style games, Internet sports books do not necessarily use highly complex Web sites that require bettors to download software in order to participate. Whereas casino-style games can generate concerns over the possibility of tampered results, the outcomes of sporting events are public knowledge and are assumed to be beyond the control of the site operator. The integrity of Internet sports wagering results is therefore less open to question.
Included in several sports-gambling operations is the opportunity to bet on live horse racing events. Through the use of real-time audio and video software, races are broadcast live on the World Wide Web. Presently, at least one domestic Internet operation is solely focused on the pari-mutuel industry. The company You Bet! provides information and live coverage of racing as well as the ability to process account wagers on-line. 14 The company has contractual agreements with several racetracks to provide coverage of the races and at-home betting services for pari-mutuel wagering. Like all bets placed through the system of common pool wagering, bets placed using the You Bet! Web site are included in the commingled pools at tracks hosting the races.
Other on-line gambling sites offer only lotteries and bingo. In the United States, Powerball and Interlotto maintain Web sites, as does the Coeur d’Alene Native American Tribe in Idaho. In keeping with the borderless world of the Internet, however, many other sites have appeared outside of the United States. One of the largest Internet lotteries, called “One Billion Through Millions 2000,” is a site launched by the Liechtenstein Principality under contract with the International Red Cross. 15 The United Kingdom has an Internet site for its lottery, and other European government-sponsored lotteries also are exploring the option of providing lottery and bingo games on-line.
On-line tournaments are another type of Internet operation that may fall into the wagering category. These Web sites offer video games that are the same or very similar to popular at-home video game devices used by millions of children. In tournaments and sweepstakes, Web site patrons compete against either the Web site host or other participants, much like playing a video game. Sites often charge “entrance fees,” of which a portion is used in prizes for the winners. Prizes range from small electronic devices to cars and large cash winnings. These games often find legal loopholes based on how the law defines gambling. 16 As one observer notes, “Tournaments, even slot machine tournaments, for example, have been excluded from the definition of games of chance by the FCC.” 17
Because the Internet can be used anonymously, the danger exists that access to Internet gambling will be abused by underage gamblers. In most instances, a would-be gambler merely has to fill out a registration form in order to play. Most sites rely on the registrant to disclose his or her correct age and make little or no attempt to verify the accuracy of the information. Underage gamblers can use their parents’ credit cards or even their own credit and debit cards to register and set up accounts for use at Internet gambling sites.
Concerns regarding underage gambling derive in part from this age group’s familiarity with and frequent use of the Internet. American Demographics reports that 69 percent of 18-to 24-year-olds use computers for hobbies and entertainment, compared with 10 percent of people ages 65 and older. 18 A 1997 study by the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA) showed that 72 percent of people ages 18 to 24 use computers, averaging four hours of use daily. 19
14 (Visited March 17, 1999.) http:// www. youbet. com. 15 Joseph M. Kelly, Internet Gambling Law, (forthcoming 1999) (manuscript at 4, on file with author). 16 Cynthia R. Janower, “Gambling on the Internet,” 2 J. Computer-Mediated Com. 2, (Sept. 1996) http:// jcmc. huji. ac. il/ vol2/ issue2/ janower. html. 17 Ibid. 18 John Robinson, et al., “Computer Time,” Am. Demographics (Aug. 1998) (http:// www. demographics. com/ publications/ ad/ 98_ ad/ 9808_ ad/ ad98086. html). 19 Crist, supra note 11. 4