TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Internet is a Lawless Territory

Internet is a Lawless Territory

Kate Holton (
Wed, 24 May 2006 12:10:31 -0500

"Lawless" Internet proving costly for gamblers
By Kate Holton

The Internet is a "lawless land," easily accessed 24 hours a day
without stepping out of the house, and for gamblers that can be a
costly and irresistible temptation.

A recent study published in Britain suggested almost three quarters of
the population engage in some form of gambling at some point during
the year, handing the gaming industry an annual turnover of 53 billion
pounds ($99.38 billion).

The biggest growth area in gambling is online, through the Internet's
estimated 2,300 gaming sites, which generate around $12 billion a

The Internet is also helping fuel a substantial rise in gambling

"You can basically do it from your home or your work place, and you
can gamble for 24 hours, seven days a week, 365 days of the year,"
Mark Griffiths, a professor of gambling, told Reuters in an interview.

"If you are a vulnerable individual, the ease of online gambling --
the instant access and convenience of use -- is likely to fuel those
addictive tendencies you have already."

The government says 0.8 percent of the population have some sort of
addiction to gambling.

But sophisticated new software can be used to spot the unusual betting
patterns of gambling addicts, says eCOGRA, an online gaming auditor
set up by firms like 888 Plc, Ongame and software maker Microgaming.

"There are self-exclusion buttons the players can hit, and operators
will sometimes contact players to suggest a cooling-off period," said
an eCOGRA spokesman.


GamCare, a charity for gambling addicts, said those who contacted them
had average debts of over 25,000 pounds, and just under 5 percent of
callers had run up debts of over 100,000 pounds.

In Britain, the government has created the independent Gambling
Commission, which from 2007 will regulate the British companies who
run gaming sites.

Under the new Gambling Commission rules, gambling Web sites will have
to train employees to spot possible problem gamblers and offer help
and advice on their sites.

Online operators must also make sure customers are aware of how much
time and money they have spent.

But with most companies operating from offshore jurisdictions like
Gibraltar, Cyprus, Antigua and Costa Rica, complete regulation is

"It's basically a lawless land," Gamcare's Teresa Tunstall told
Reuters. "We urge betters to use regulated and well known Web sites."

Bookmaker Ladbrokes says that while it is too early to decide whether
to bring its online gaming operations onshore, it is keen to see UK
gambling regulation extending as far as possible.

Analysts and GamCare say the circumstances of online gambling -- the
speed with which people can bet and its solitary nature -- removes a
layer of protection that is present in betting shops and casinos.

"How does anyone operating an online gambling site know if a player
has learning disabilities?" said professor Griffiths.

"How do they know if the player has had too much to drink or taken
drugs? The point is that they don't.

"Even if one online site is responsible and says we're not going to
have that problem gambler, you are just a click away from finding
another online betting site that isn't."

(additional reporting by Pete Harrison)

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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