For years, online gambling and lotteries have been largely outlawed in the U.S. In the early days of the internet, online poker games were all the rage, but it didn’t take long for the government to shut down these types of games. Since then, gambling has been limited to casino environments or state run lotteries that require players to purchase tickets at designated retail locations. Now, technology and regulations have both advanced enough that some states are revisiting online gambling and using it to produce additional revenue. This most recent development clearly points to a future where casinos and states will be able to utilize technology to move the industry forward while also promoting responsible play.
Pennsylvania Launches iLottery
On June 4th, 2018, Pennsylvania launched their iLottery, which is the first of its kind in the country. This program allows PA residents to play games on their computer or mobile device and win prizes of up to $250,000. The iLottery is designed to meet the demands of users and provide a more accessible mode of game play that can be used while on the go. In its first month, the lottery earned $21.6 million and hosted 45,000 new players. The extra revenue is slated to be used to support older residents in PA who need assistance.
Safeguarding Game Play
As mentioned above, the early days of online gambling were a bit like the wild west. The internet was a completely new tool and there was little regulation on any front. Ultimately, this left players open to dishonest companies looking to make a quick buck. It also meant that there weren’t any protections in place to help ensure responsible game play. Fortunately, all that has changed and the PA iLottery may provide a useful example of how states and other institutions can allow gambling while also protecting players.
The iLottery allows players to put certain settings in place that will help them adhere to customized limits and help them avoid spending beyond their means or getting too caught up in trying to win that big pot. Players can use time limits, spending limits and deposit limits to control their gambling. They can also opt to take a break for 30 days or even exclude themselves from being eligible to play for one to five years.
In addition, to play the iLottery, users must create an account and then make a deposit. Players aren’t allowed to use credit cards, which also helps reduce the risk that they will build debt through gambling. These safeguards should help mitigate any of the potential ricks associated with gambling and allow people to play more responsibly.
Opposition to Online Gambling
The road to Pennsylvania’s online iLottery has not necessarily been a smooth one. Even after the initial bill was passed, lawmakers showed strong opposition. Ultimately, they expressed fears that there wouldn’t be adequate regulations to ensure that underage people weren’t abusing the system. There was also some fear that the games would be addictive and people outside of PA would be able to access the system and participate illegally.
However, it appears that these arguments were largely unfounded. From the very beginning, PA’s legislation was specifically designed to avoid abuse and create an environment for safe and responsible gaming. We have clearly learned some lessons from the late 1990s when the internet was completely unregulated and people immediately looked for ways to make a dollar.
Perhaps the only real argument against online gambling is that it can become addictive. However, it is difficult to pin down any reliable statistics about how many people suffer from gambling addiction. There are so many organizations lobbying for their own interests that it is hard to distinguish fact from fiction when it comes to gambling addiction. Those who oppose gambling on moral grounds have a tendency to inflate numbers and people within the industry downplay the problem. It doesn’t help that much of our information comes from self-reporting. We only know about incidents of addiction if the addicts themselves are willing to share their experience.
The most accurate estimate of gambling addiction indicates that it affects 1-3% of all Americans. Incidentally, gambling addiction is often paired with other addictions, such as alcohol and drug abuse. In order to help address concerns surrounding gambling addiction, the PA iLottery website prominently displays helpline numbers and other resources to help addicts deal with their problem. This is perhaps the best and only way to deal with addiction, which appears to simply be a part of human nature.
The Future of Online Gambling
Support for online gambling is picking up momentum in state’s across the country. As technology continues to improve, states are able to offer effective security, regulations and safeguards that solve many of the problems that caused online gambling to become taboo and illegal in the first place. As more states legalize online gambling, iLotteries and other forms of gaming that involve wagering and prize money, there will be increased pressure on the federal government to weigh in with an updated stance on the issue. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if we were to see gambling laws made on the federal level within the next few years.
The PA iLottery is just the latest noteworthy milestone in a larger trend that is seeing the casino and gaming industry fully embrace technology and what it might be able to do for business. Casinos are redesigning their spaces to accommodate large eSports arenas that can house hundreds of spectators. Traditional slot games are being replaced with more interactive games that encourage players to socialize. Behind the scenes, technology is reducing fraud and cheating and software, like Casino Schedule Ease, is helping casinos attract and retain customers by providing a new level of customer service.
After less than two months in operation, the PA iLottery has generated significant revenue and there haven’t been any problems with fraudulent use, etc. If the iLottery continues to demonstrate that the combination of technology and commonsense regulations can support safe online gambling, it won’t be long before other states adopt this type of gaming. From there, the sky just might be the limit when it comes to how technology can improve the casino and gaming industries.