The religious right is probably the most vocal opponent of online gambling, opposing gambling in any form for moral reasons, but there are some very valid social and economic reasons to oppose the legalization of online gambling (and all forms of gambling) as well. These reasons are explored below.
One reason that legalized gambling, whether in the form of land-based casinos, online casinos, sports books or online poker rooms, garners so much opposition is its tendency to stimulate illegal gambling and related types of crime. There is a historical connection between organized crime and gambling that would likely surface as well if online gambling were legalized. Gambling also encourages white-collar crime because addicted gamblers or those who get in debt over their heads must sometimes resort to embezzlement or stealing in order to pay off their debts and support their gambling habit. Some say that the risk is even greater with online gambling since online casinos and other online gambling sites are so accessible.
Another concern is that legalized gambling would substantially increase the number of compulsive gamblers. Research shows that communities experience a 100-550% increase in the number of addicted gamblers once gambling is legalized. Online gambling with its wide availability and easy access is likely to raise that percentage even higher. And, since many compulsive gamblers end up committing felonies to support their habit, white-collar crime rates would go up as well.
Legalized gambling is also notorious for hurting the poor the most. People from the lower and lower-middle class segments of society typically gamble the most and these are the very people who can least afford to lose their money in the off chance that they may strike it rich. Again, the problem is magnified with online gambling because of its easy access and wide availability. With online casinos virtually on the doorstep of anyone with a basic computer and modem, the temptation to gamble is greater and, therefore, so is the risk of losing large sums of money. Research studies repeatedly show that the poor are three to seven times more likely to bet on the lottery than the rich, effectively making lotteries a regressive tax on the poor.
There are other economic and ethical arguments to be made as well and there are equally compelling reasons for legalizing online gambling. It’s not an issue to consider lightly. It is one that requires careful examination of all sides.
Posted on: January 19, 2007