Us Patological and Yoth Internet Gambling
According to the American Internet User Survey, younger users communicate more often on-line and browse more Web sites than older Internet users do. 20 Moreover, younger Internet users are most likely to download video clips and to access bank account information. 21 Given their knowledge of computers and familiarity with the Web, young people may find gambling on the Internet particularly appealing.
Of particular concern is the special attraction of youth to on-line sports wagering, tournaments, and sweepstakes. 22 The National Collegiate Athletic Association has voiced its concern over the problem of Internet sports gambling among college students. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information, Director of Agent and Gambling Activities Bill Saum stated that sports gambling “remains a growing problem on college campuses…. If left unchecked, the growth of Internet gambling may be fueled by college students. After all, who else has greater access to the Internet?” 23
Pathological gamblers are another group susceptible to problems with Internet gambling. In addition to their accessibility, the high-speed instant gratification of Internet games and the high level of privacy they offer may exacerbate problem and pathological gambling. 24 Access to the Internet is easy and inexpensive and can be conducted in the privacy of one’s own home. Shielded from public scrutiny, pathological gamblers can traverse dozens of Web sites and gamble 24 hours a day. Experts in the field of pathological gambling have expressed concern over the potential abuse of this technology by problem and pathological gamblers. The director of the Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addiction Studies, Dr. Howard J. Shaffer, likened the Internet to new delivery forms for addictive narcotics. He stated, “As smoking crack cocaine changed the cocaine experience, I think electronics is going to change the way gambling is experienced.” 25 Bernie Horn, the executive director of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gaming, testified before Congress that Internet gambling “magnifies the potential destructiveness of the addiction.” 26
The problems associated with anonymity extend beyond youth and pathological gambling. Lack of accountability also raises the potential for criminal activities, which can occur in several ways. First, there is the possibility of abuse by gambling operators. Most Internet service providers (ISPs) hosting Internet gambling operations are physically located offshore; as a result, operators can alter, move, or entirely remove sites within minutes. This mobility makes it possible for dishonest operators to take credit card numbers and money from deposited accounts and close down. Stories of unpaid gambling winnings often surface in news reports and among industry insiders. 27 In fact, several Web sites now exist that provide analysis of the payout activity for Internet gambling operations.
20 Thomas E. Miller, “Segmenting the Internet,” Am. Demographics (July 1996) (http:// www. demographics. com/ publications/ ad/ 96_ ad/ 9607_ ad/ 96 07af04. htm.) 21 Ibid. 22 Cynthia R. Janower, “Gambling on the Internet,” 2 J. Computer-Mediated Com. 2, (Sept. 1996) (http:// jcmc. huji. ascusc. org/ jcmc/ vol2/ issue2/ janower. html). 23 Bill Saum, Testimony before the Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information Senate Judiciary Committee (March 23, 1999) (transcript on file with the Subcommittee). 24 Bernard P. Horn, Testimony before the Subcommittee on Crime, Committee on the Judiciary, U. S. Congress (Feb. 4, 1998). 25 Crist, supra note 11. 26 Horn, supra note 24. 27 An example of the risk involved with unscrupulous Internet gambling operators are the experiences of Internet gambler Steve Rudolf. Rudolf has lost several thousand dollars from Internet gambling sites, including $7,000 from one gambling operation that refused to pay winnings and closed operations without leaving forwarding information.