The Status of Mobile Bingo Gaming in the USA
The legalization of online gambling is likely within several years in the USA, but it will be a state-by-state process rather than decided by Congress, because Congress is not expected to arrive at unanimous conclusions on this one.
This changing tide of policy has been spurred by two forces.
One, the United States Justice Department recently rolled back a certain 1961 Act that was being used to prosecute states that sold lottery tickets across state lines.
Two, nowadays states are particularly strapped for cash and sizable taxes from gambling would be fiscally and politically efficacious.
The players are all there waiting already: social networks like Facebook confirm the popularity of online casino games, which have exceeded so-called farm games. But the business boon of converting those players into casino customers carries a moral, ethical and social dilemma that could complicate, if not stymie, progress toward the end of prohibition.
In late April an event took place in San Francisco, the Global Gaming Expo, and the consensus of opinion voiced there is probably the best indicator of how gambling will move online for American players in the coming years. The US taking this course will probably encourage mandates for the same in other countries that prohibit online gambling, even in the case of inoffensive bingo games.
Insiders and lobbyists seem to agree with little doubt that online gambling will join the list of civil (in this case, entertainment) liberties, as an activity left to citizens to decide about its morality and value.
There is also little doubt that social gaming will be the vanguard public domain for casino favourites like online poker, video slots, as well as mega-popular mobile bingo. Having a social component in a game app or online interface enhances the fun for players (making things a bit warmer and more realistic in some ways) — it also provides a handy marketing pipe for luring new players through customers’ friendships.
The formidable allure of gambling made so easy and so accessible on the Web (especially in the case of mobile apps) and the possible negative results of millions of currently non-cash players suddenly becoming ‘gamblers’ are reasons that opposition to legalization may stall it for many more years than casino executives can imagine.
On the other hand — and regardless of either social mandate, business pressure or political will — the most absolute hindrance may end up being the technical difficulties of making sure that cash-stakes online casino games are:
- Available only to adults
- Governable across states
- Not susceptible to criminal use
Accomplishing this will require a whole new layer of programming and treaties, if you will, in cyberspace, made much more complex and problematic on a state-by-state regulatory basis.
So far, Nevada, not surprisingly, is moving to enact permissions for online gaming. This state’s rich base of casino investment will mean that these companies could lead the way to new online services. For example, keystone casinos such as Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Luxor Las Vegas, and Wynn Las Vegas will probably offer subscriptions for its online games to customers visiting Nevada so they can continue playing after leaving the state. New Jersey is also forming this strategy.
California is taking a moderate step of legalizing online poker, and perhaps this move shows insight into the necessity of approaching the legalization of online casinos cautiously, as some pro-consumer voices will continue to contend, because its social impact is unknown.
But there is a trend already emerging in the US that offers a middle way toward sanctioning virtual gambling. Illinois and New York have done some petitioning that, when combined with the Justice Department’s recent rulings, clear the way for states to operate their own online games of chance and games of skill. This way, with states controlling the supply of this addictive entertainment, the regulation and safety of this new social world can be ensured. After all, this same method has been used already in many states in which lottery companies were pushed out by state-run lotteries. The economic benefits of not only allowing but also taking control of online gambling at the state-level are clearly understood.
New York is especially pro-active in seeking to integrate legalization with aggressive measures to identify gambling addicts and safeguard them from the ultra convenience of online play. Other states in the neighbourhood, Virginia and Maryland, are following suit, as are Michigan and Delaware. The District of Columbia, a quasi-state and the seat of federal government, has been spearheading its iGaming venture, perhaps in an effort to take an early lead in a business that may become competitive amongst states.
But the willingness of states receiving revenue from gambling to curb or limit problem players (by, for instance, electronically blocking their ability to overspend) is in doubt, ironically, and some go as far as suggesting that states will be no better than the private sector.
No matter what kind of safeguards can be built into systems like iGaming, those critical of online gambling point to psychological findings that link increased addiction with faster speeds of play and repetition, which is exactly the case with casino games that people play at home or as mobile users. Analysis suggests that faster-paced games and ultra convenience tilt the situation against compulsive gamblers, which means that this fraction of society ends up losing the most cash while the state that allowed them to play would be benefiting from their misuse of the games.
Nevertheless, economic recession is a strong influence on the US right now as it flirts with the social experiment of, in effect, putting casino games and bingo in every home, in every hand.
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