Why Should The US Embrace Online Gambling?

On paper, you’d think the US was liberal in its attitudes to gambling. In 2017 there were 460 licensed land-based casinos in the US, contributing to a gross gambling yield of $42.8 billion. Las Vegas, the spiritual home of world gambling, is host to a quarter of the country’s casinos.

However, you’d be wrong.

Only a smattering of states in the US have legalised all forms of gambling – sports betting, online betting, online casinos and land-based casinos. That’s in stark comparison to other Western nations, where gambling is flourishing as an industry – providing government with hugely valuable sources of public revenue and employing thousands of people.

Let’s take a look at the complex relationship the US has with gambling, and how it might be missing out on the current boom in virtual gaming.

 

Sheldon Adelson: online gambling’s most powerful opponent

The nation’s 11thrichest person is a vehement opponent to the legalisation of online gambling and has declared he is “willing to spend whatever it takes” to stop it.

Adelson has branded the supporters of legalisation as ‘hypocritical’ despite the fact he is the chief executive of Las Vegas Sands – a gambling behemoth. Speaking to the Washington Post Adelson recently said: “My moral standard compels me to speak out on this issue because I am the largest company by far in the industry and I am willing to speak out.”

Last year, Adelson’s company generated revenues of $3.37 billion through gambling, so many are taking his arguments with a pinch of salt – and assuming his tirade against online operators is merely a cover to protect his own interests in land-based casino gambling.

Adelson was one of President Trump’s largest financial backers in his mid-term campaign, and likely carries considerable sway in the White House and the Republican Party. Of course, Adelson’s not the only rich guy who supports Trump, but due to the fact he’s so close to government and the President relies on his financial support, it is highly unlikely that there will be federal legalisation in the current presidential term.

 

The economic benefits of online gambling

The US could do worse than look across the Atlantic to the UK, where online gambling is driving the industry. The gross gambling yield last year was just under $18 billion in the UK. That’s just under half of the US’s gambling revenues, but it seems an impressive number when you consider that the population of the UK is five times smaller. In fact, the UK is a third the size of the state of Texas.

Yet the country’s gambling revenues are proportionally huge in comparison. How? Well, partly because it’s opened its doors to online operators. Hundreds of virtual gambling firms are competing in a crowded market – providing ever-more innovative and engaging casino games and slots for players.

For gamblers, the appeal of playing their favourite games from the comfort of their own home, or if they’re on the move, is far greater than the option of travelling out of their way to visit a land-based casino. The rest of the world seems to agree, as online gambling is now worth more than $60 billion globally.

While online gambling rivals land-based gambling for convenience, it also arguably offers just as much of a real-life, personal experience. Through live casino, players are connected with human dealers in real time, delivering that casino experience into their living rooms. There’s also a sense of community too, with live chat facilities and lively forums where players can interact – as you’ll see when playing these online bingo games.

And then there’s the benefits for society in general. The money that the UK gambling industry draws in doesn’t just go towards jobs and taxes. A percentage of all gambling revenues are sent to gambling charities such as gamble aware that provide help to those struggling with gambling addictions. It’s an intuitive circular economy.

 

Online gambling regulation

As the industry regulator, the Gambling Commission is responsible for ensuring all operators meet strict anti money-laundering regulations. If not, it takes action. Last year in the UK, 17 online casinos were spoken to by the government over concerns that they were not taking the issue of money-laundering seriously. A few were also shut down.

Illegally obtained money had been proven to be used on online betting sites as a means of ‘cleaning’ the money, against their knowledge. The government were concerned that companies did not take the issue seriously, and often hired money-laundering experts without the requisite qualifications or experience to operate reliably.

Gambling operators are bound by legislation that commits them to investigating their players’ sources of funds, to prevent money laundering from happening. In addition, they must also be able to identify and verify their customers’ ages – in case they’re too young to play.

It just goes to show that there are ways to get online operators to play by the rules, and with the right regulation and support networks, online gambling can flourish.

 

How would online gambling impact Las Vegas?

Sin City, as it is commonly known, is undoubtedly the home of gambling. Visitors from all over the world flocking their every year to have a flutter – at the last count, this number was 42 million. However, in recent years Las Vegas has been losing out on casino revenues to a new kid on the block – Macau.

The former Portuguese colony, now part of China, is fast becoming the most popular gambling destination in the world. Yet it’s not a case of American businesses being undercut – it’s a case of American businesses abandoning the country for foreign shores. Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands are just one of many Vegas-based companies that are now focusing on Macau.

The Venetian Macau, Wynn Palace and Sands Macau are three examples of Las Vegas casinos that have sprung up in Macau. The success of the Chinese province has been cited as a reason for the declining fortunes of Las Vegas.

Big casino owners are anti-online gambling legalisation as they claim it would affect the prosperity of land-based casinos in the US. However, the facts show that it’s Macau that’s the main threat.

Many online gamblers use virtual casinos as a way to sharpen their skills ahead of going to a bricks-and-mortar equivalent where they can play for serious amounts of cash. So really, online casinos are merely offering players more choice rather than shutting them off from the physical world.

 

Summary

The next six months could be pivotal in the push for online legalisation in the US. Even the famously anti-online gambling state of Kentucky looks to be moving closer towards legalisation. In the US as a whole, the mood among the public and lawmakers seems to be lightening towards gambling – particularly as, at the last count, the black market for sports betting was estimated at around $400 billion. Imagine how many schools and hospitals that amount of money could fund?

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