Should Internet Gambling Be Legalized?

[NOTE: The following article is a New York Times op-ed by Les Bernal, Executive Director of Stop Predatory Gambling, a national organization with which ALCAP is associated.]

The potential boon for cash-strapped states versus the social costs associated with addiction.

A Predatory Business

Les Bernal is the executive director of Stop Predatory Gambling, a nonprofit group that is against casinos and state lotteries.

Internet gambling is one of the most predatory businesses in the world which is why public opinion polls show that two out of three Americans oppose its legalization.

Allowing Internet gambling is like opening a Las Vegas casino in every house, apartment and dorm room in America.

It is totally different from social gambling like playing cards at the kitchen table or buying a square in the Super Bowl office pool. Instead, it represents one of the purest forms of predatory gambling, which is the practice of using gambling to prey on human weakness for profit.

What makes it predatory compared to a kitchen table poker game? The speed of the game, the frequency of play (gambling operators allow users to play multiple games at once), the intensity of the high or buzz people get when they play and the enormous amount of money people lose, all of which goes down 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is the equivalent of opening a Las Vegas casino in every house, apartment and dorm room in America.

Gambling operators say these facts justify why we need to “regulate” predatory Internet gambling. Yet casinos like Harrah’s make 90 percent of its gambling profits from the financial losses of 10 percent of its visitors, according to Christina Binkley’s book, “Winner Takes All.’’ The obvious question is this: How do you regulate a business in which nearly all its profits are based on people who are addicted and out of control?

You can’t. Which is why the business model for predatory Internet gambling (and for land-based casinos and state lotteries as well) only works if our government, in its role as regulator and promoter, takes away the freedom of millions of Americans. By definition, someone who is an addict is not free. They have lost their free will and their freedom to choose.

The issue is not whether citizens are free to gamble. The issue is whether billion-dollar gambling interests, in partnership with our government, can use predatory gambling to take away the freedom of millions of citizens.

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