Online gaming may be coming to a state near you. Five state legislatures are considering bills that would legalize online gaming within their borders. This would bring the number of states allowing online gaming to eight. Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware have already legalized online gaming. California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York would like to be able to do the same.
The Allure of Online Casinos
The prospect of online gaming is highly enticing to state governments right now. Mired in budget deficits, these states are looking for a way to augment their coffers, and they believe that online gaming is a great way to do it. State legislators can expect online gaming to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for their starving treasuries. In Pennsylvania, researchers estimate that the state could bring in $184 million in tax revenue in the first year. They expect this number to go up to more than $300 million in subsequent years.
The fact that California, Illinois and Pennsylvania are interested in online gaming is highly significant to the industry. These states are extremely populous, and legalized online gaming would give the industry a huge boost in this country and the rest of the world. If their bills pass, these three states will add 65 million residents to the population that is already involved in online gaming.
Opposition to Online Casinos
Although an increasing number of states are enthusiastic about online casinos, not everyone is celebrating them. One such person is Sheldon Adelson who is the owner of several land-based casinos. Adelson began a campaign against the legalization of online gaming when he created the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. His opponents did not take him seriously.
Adelson made millions of dollars of his own money available to this new campaign. His opposition wasn’t worried because the gambling magnate donated millions of dollars to get his presidential candidate elected. He failed.
Furthermore, his opponents didn’t believe that anyone would pay attention to Adelson’s worries. The philanthropist claims to be concerned about underage gambling, the ability to cheat online and addictions. However, very few people think that Sheldon Adelson can lead this crusade on moral grounds.
In the past few months, Adelson appears to have made some progress. The legislation in California doesn’t appear to have momentum, but the same can be said of what is happening on the federal level. Adelson isn’t close to encouraging the federal government to institute a ban on online gaming. At the same time, the opposition cannot convince them to create a regulatory body for online casinos.
Adelson’s opposition didn’t expect it, but they are forced to defend themselves now much more than they were just six months ago. In addition, people are beginning to debate issues like gambling addiction. More importantly, researchers are starting to study this new phenomenon.
What Researchers Have Discovered
Harvard Medical School conducted a two-year study on this issue, and researchers learned that Adelson’s concerns may be unfounded. Rather than gamble uncontrollably, researchers discovered that online gamblers were very conservative in online casinos. They entered online casinos on an infrequent basis, and when they did, they did not risk a great deal of money. Only about 5 percent of the population showed signs of a gambling addiction.
Specifically, researchers learned that people only entered online casinos to gamble about once every two weeks. When they lost, they only lost about 5.5 percent of the money that they wagered. These results led researchers to conclude that if online gambling were to be legalized in more states, the population would not fall victim to mass addiction.
Researchers also discovered that although there has been an increase in online gambling, there has not been an increase in gambling addiction in the past 35 years. Researchers do admit that more people engage in the behavior directly after it is made available to them, but these numbers return to their normal levels, and it doesn’t take long for this to occur. According to Harvard researcher Howard Shaffer, people lose interest in online betting in about two weeks.
As more states succeed in legalizing online casinos, those in the industry believe that Adelson will have difficulties preventing online gambling from becoming even more of a reality.