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RSN Editorial: Online Gambling & Scams
Recently, Former U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln Wrote An Op-Ed Piece In The U.K. Financial Times (see below)
In considering this issue it is important to explore the psychological nature of humans and their propensity for addiction. We live in a world of easy solutions to life’s difficulties. We have instant TV, instant movies, instant communications, instant products, instant relationships, and instant gambling. All of these lend themselves to addiction!
When we apply what we have learned from supporting millions of victims of romance scams, we see a strong parallel between online gambling addiction and online romance addiction. Not only are these real addictions, but they immediately lead to scams. We know that romance scam victims (those who’s scam last for more than a couple of weeks have succumbed to an addiction – while this may be mild for some and allow for easy recovery, for others, it is permanently debilitating and life-changing (both financially and psychologically). Online gambling by its very nature is and will be far more devastating that romance scams, and what’s worse affect the same group of people who are susceptible to romance scams.
In a recent SCARS analysis of 1,720 romance scam victim profiles on Facebook, we found that 61% were also frequent players of online games (such as Farmville and countless others), all with “pay as you go” business models. In effect, this is a form of online gambling and these romance scam victims were falling for them also. We know scam victims are pre-disposed to being scammed over and over, some victims fall for more than a dozen romance scams before they finally turn away. When large-scale online gambling becomes common, then we strongly believe that this class of victims (numbering in the millions) will be instantly susceptible to becoming addicted to it as well.
Children and addicts need protection from online gambling
The DoJ should act to prevent America’s kids from visiting betting sites
BY: BLANCHE LINCOLN, Former United States SenatorThe following is copyright © Financial Times
When 97 of my colleagues in the US Senate — both Republicans and Democrats — and I voted unanimously to pass the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006, we reaffirmed the Department of Justice’s longstanding interpretation that the Federal Wire Act of 1961 prohibits all forms of gambling involving interstate telecommunications. The legislation gave law enforcement the tools it needed to combat online gambling at the time. But we are living in a different world today.
In 2011, a DoJ lawyer opined that the Wire Act no longer applied to all online gambling. That decision not only defied decades of legal precedent and circumvented Congress, it deprived minors and addicts of protection from the industry’s predatory practices. A single opinion emerged as the entire legal basis behind the expansion of US online gambling.
With states having been given the freedom to legalise online betting — and the recent US Supreme Court decision allowing states to offer sports betting — I am tremendously concerned about the rise of online gambling in our country.
The industry’s penchant for predatory practices is well documented in the countries that first took a chance on legalising online gambling. Last year, in the UK, The Times reported that “some of Britain’s biggest gambling operators are targeting children with their favourite cartoon and storybook characters in online betting games”. A father of a six-year-old caught the Australian bookmakers BetStars advertising to his son in a game of Angry Birds.
Given the industry’s relentless marketing schemes, it is no surprise that the UK’s gambling regulator found in 2017 that around 370,000 children and young people were gambling every week. This year, the UK Advertising Standards Authority investigated four internet gambling companies for promoting casino games including “Santa Paws” and “Fairytale Legends” that seemed likely to appeal to children.
A string of embezzlement cases in the past six months demonstrate how tight a grip the online gambling industry has over its victims. Addicts from all walks of life stole hundreds of thousands of pounds collectively from elderly parents and grandparents, a children’s charity and a nursing home.
Then there is LeoVegas, the self-proclaimed “King of Mobile Casino”, which was fined £627,000 earlier this year for sending marketing material to 1,894 people who had previously opted out. According to the UK regulator, LeoVegas did not “take all reasonable steps” to protect problem gamblers who had asked to be blocked from its websites.
The industry’s shameful strategy of tempting addicts was reflected in Ireland’s first-ever national survey of online gamblers, released in February. It found that three-quarters of online gamblers had either borrowed money or sold something in order to bet and that 64 per cent of people felt they might have a gambling problem.
While the status of online gambling has changed in the US, the industry’s tactics are as egregious as ever. Earlier this year, Internet casinos currently operating in New Jersey were caught advertising on websites specifically intended for kids and gambling addicts. In between ads for Lunchables snacks and Star Wars on Girlsgogames.com, were ads attempting to lure new players into claiming bonuses with “no deposit necessary!” Similar ads were spotted on online articles targeted at addicts with headlines such as “Twelve ways to stop gambling addiction forever.”
The FBI’s 2017 Internet Crime Report revealed that the victim count and financial losses suffered as a result of online gambling surpassed that of terrorism-related cybercrimes last year. It is this clear pattern of targeting the helpless that stands out to me. Preying on children and addicts shows how low the industry is willing to go for profit. The DoJ can prevent America’s kids from visiting online casinos open 24/7 by revisiting its 2011 opinion as soon as possible.
I urge it to do so with the urgency our most vulnerable deserve.
The writer, a former US senator from Arkansas, is founder of Lincoln Policy Group and counsel to the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling
Ironically, the gaming industry pundits have been trowing incredible hate posts up about this.
According to one site:
It’s been a while since we have been fed a solid helping of bullshit from a politician about why online gambling should be banned, so it was refreshing to read an opinion piece from former U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln in Sunday’s Financial Times (paywall). Also refreshing was that Lincoln, who last represented Arkansas on Capitol Hill, is a Democrat, as most of the mind-numbing online poker takes have been from Republicans (though Senator Diane Feinstein says hello). While Lincoln’s screed hits on many of the usual talking points, she elevates the art form to another level in finding a way to compare online gambling to terrorism.
What seems to