Ever since online gambling entered the public awareness, there have been fractions fighting for and against the service. Even today, the legality of online casinos is a controversy. In many countries across the world, it is illegal to gamble online altogether, while others only allow it under certain circumstances. The biggest reasons for those fighting against the pastime are the fear of increasing gambling addiction and money laundering.
At the same time, brick and mortar casinos do not seem to elicit the same response. Is the negative view on online gambling justified, and what are the measures online gambling supporters use to create a safe environment?
Online Gambling Concerns
Many of the people who oppose online gambling have legitimate and well-reasoned concerns. Others act out of their self-interest, like the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson who spent much of the last decade campaigning for an online gambling ban in the US. His words find fertile ground in the conservative views of many citizens, but they are clearly not spoken out of concern for problem gambling.
Both the countries who legalized online gambling and the online gamblers themselves recognize the legitimate concerns about online gambling. Other than outlawing gambling altogether, they are working on strategies to lessen and eliminate any negative impacts. A trustworthy “Casino Euro” report on www.casinomeister.com, for example, contains all the necessary information to find the safest casino, while gambling legislation provides the best framework for reputable online gambling operators.
No matter your stance on online gambling, it is impossible not to recognize the harmful potential of unchecked gambling services. Typically, they include psychological and financial harm to the players, minors, and possible criminal operations masquerading as gambling websites.
There are countless studies examining the impact of online gambling on gambling addiction numbers, and not all of them agree. Some studies with sensationalist results, such as 75 % of online gamblers having a gambling problem, were proven to be based on extremely small-scale surveys with no real scientific value.
Surveys by the UK Gambling Commission are held quarterly. In 2010 they have shown that the gambling issues have increased since 2007, but that online gambling (17 %) was less responsible than pubs & clubs (20.3 %) or dog races (19.2 %). Their newest survey from 2024 shows a fall in gambling activity (3.5 % less from June ’20 to June ’21) and a stable problem gambling rate at 0.4 %.
This 2014 study by the University of Buffalo’s Research Institute on Addictions compares gambling addiction numbers from 1999 to 2000 and 2011 to 2013 and found no significant increase. It also mentions previous research results by the responsible scientist, John Welte: People who live within 10 miles of a brick-and-mortar casino, are twice as likely to be problem gamblers.
However, both online and offline problem gambling numbers are not skyrocketing to match the increase in available offers. Welte suspects that after the initial increase in addiction cases after being exposed to a new service, the ‘theory of adaption’ explains how humans adapt to the new opportunities and a further increase in negative consequences reduces.
Governments have voiced concern that the anonymity of the internet increases the criminal activities surrounding gambling websites and their unsupervised electronic fund transfers. Many banks have since spoken up and explained that some digital transfer methods, such as using a credit card or a payment service like PayPal, allow a very detailed record of transactions tied to specific people.
However, many other, anonymous, payment options allow for a variety of money laundering methods. For example: You can deposit money, gamble a little and withdraw the rest of the money, giving it a receipt from ‘a legitimate’ origin (winnings from the gambling site). Especially with the use of cryptocurrencies there has been more concern about anonymous gambling, allowing minors or people from states where gambling is illegal to gamble.
Cracking Down on the Negative Impacts
Online gambling is a growing industry. It creates jobs, revenue and allows countries to gain more money in taxes. These are the main reasons why countries have looked into legalizing online gambling. Those who decided to do so have created Gaming Control Boards to supervise and reinforce the local gambling laws. By doing so, they have implemented strategies to crack down on the illegal activities and unethical behavior in the gambling sector.
Outlawing a practice people have access to one way or another is rarely a good prevention method. Some governments decided to legalize gambling online for this exact reason. They would rather allow their citizens to gamble in a controlled environment than pushing them to use illegal services.
By allowing online gambling, they can create a controlling government body and a set of laws gambling providers have to stick to to operate and register a legitimate business. This is their answer to the rise of criminal activity in the online gambling sector.
These gambling laws usually entail a strict set of rules requiring responsible gambling features on online gambling sites. By using a combination of
- mandated and optional limits,
- information about gambling addiction and
- features that monitor and alert unhealthy gambling behavior,
players get a set of tools to prevent problem gambling.
The Gaming Control Boards have the authority to control gambling providers and grant licenses. To operate as a legal online casino, an applicant must subject themselves and their business to a detailed investigation, proving their expertise, integrity, and honesty. Background checks and continued monitoring of the website’s security and the software’s fairness are some of the tools that allow the licensing process to verify an online casino’s authenticity.
This makes looking for a casino’s license the most important step in choosing an online casino. Due to the digital nature, it is hard for a player to assess a service’s fairness without using physical cues. A license shows that a government authority has evaluated the provider in their stead.
Reading player reviews is another important tool, but they should not be trusted blindly either. In this case, a review website advertised for unsafe gambling options in Australia, which is heavily fined by the Australian government. To find a trustworthy review, look for an online gambling community with in-depth information and comments from both the website admins and users.
If done correctly, the review is an extension to the licensing regulations. Something like this community’s accreditation system uses a strict set of rules that refines the licensing regulations by adding additional standards regarding the player experience.
While online gambling has the potential to increase problem gambling, recent studies have shown that it is not significantly higher, if higher at all, than the risk of regular casino visits. By using licenses, enforcing responsible gambling features, and mandating payment options that reduce the risk of illegal activity, governments can minimize the alleged risks of online gambling.
Often, these restrictions are stricter than any real-life gambling supervision. The important step in finding these safe options, however, is to look for licensed casinos. Many trustworthy casino reviews can help to find the provider with the highest security and responsible gambling features.