Online Gambling Problems

The advances in broadband and wireless technology have made the world come together closer than never before. Now virtually everything is possible on the net-shopping, clinching business deals, social networking, and even gambling, the ever-favorite pastime of men. Online gambling first emerged in the early part of the 1990s and had become an instant hit, with an estimated 3000 online websites on the net today. It totally radicalized the gambling industry and has seen takers from across age groups. However, just like the land version, even internet gambling is fraught with problems. The addiction problem prevails in the online world as well.

What is problem gambling?

Problem gambling is an impulse-control disorder that leads to major disruptions in all areas of life: psychological, social, vocational or physical. It also includes the stage of ‘pathological’ or ‘compulsive’ gambling. Problem gambling is characterized by an increasing preoccupation with gambling. They have an urge to bet money more frequently and become restless or irritable, if anyone tries to stop. They usually are aware of the mounting, serious, negative problems but staying off the bet becomes the most difficult thing for them.

Online problem gambling is a manifestation of the aforementioned problems. But a study has shown that people who indulge in online gambling have more serious addiction problems than those who use the lottery or play slot machines. Online gambling problems are on the rise because of the explosive growth of the internet.

Causes leading to Internet Gambling

o The privacy and anonymous nature of the internet space has led to people taking to gambling without any hesitation.

o Easy accessibility of online games in the internet has led to people spending more time on gambling.

o Those who work on the internet most of the time can easily avail of online games. This gradually leads to addiction.

Signs of problem Gambling

o Gambling much longer than intended.

o Gambling until you spend the last penny.

o Using up incomes or even saving to gamble, while bills remain unpaid.

o Borrowing money continuously to finance your gambling needs.

o Neglecting your family and professional responsibilities.

o Stoop to stealing, cheating or selling household stuff to get gambling money.

o Gamble with the hope that it will solve financial woes or even win back losses.

o Relieve feelings of depression.

o They can easily set up a gambling account and there are a variety of forms of gambling – right from traditional betting, to casino gambling, lotteries and bingo. All this makes online gambling tremendously appealing.

o There is no time limit and in the absence of a supervisor, a person can go on gambling for up to 24 hours a day.

o As you play, there is a decreased perception of the value of cash and players frequently forget that they are playing with cash.

Online Gambling and its effects

Though many believe that legalized gambling is just harmless entertainment, but people already affected by it and continuous study results have veered on its deceptive nature. In fact, it is considered to cause even more harm than playing in a live casino building. The health and emotional difficulties associated with gambling disorders includes depression, circulatory disease, substance abuse and even risky sexual behavior. Recent studies have concluded that online gambling comprised basically of unmarried and younger participants over people who never gamble. Contrary to the fact that internet is associated with high education level and higher income strata, the study pointed out that online gambler addicts belong to lower education and income levels. Online gambling is one of the fastest growing addictions to afflict the youth today.

The American Psychological Association (APA) conducted a study wherein they found that 74% of online gamblers are problematic or pathological gamblers. Among this, the group that is most at risk is the teens. Online problem gamblers spend much more money on the online gambling websites than the amount teenagers spend on drugs. The worse bit of online gambling is its anonymity. Earlier, a person had to go to a gambling house in order to satisfy their urge to gamble and everybody knew how you fare or how much you lost. But now, you just walk into your office or bedroom and there goes your savings in thin air, and not a soul gets a whiff of it. The lenient regulation measures of the online gambling industry have only added on to the problem.

Treatment for Online Problem Gambling

Those addicted to online gambling need to take the following steps to avoid and get over such problems. Its very important to remember the onus of the entire treatment process lies, first and foremost, with you. You should wake up and take control, before you reach the point of no return. The first steps are always the hardest and once you can overcome them; the rest will be a breeze of air.

o Be honest with yourself and accept your problem.

o Manage your money and keep track of the amount you are spending. Gamers should remember to spend only what they can afford to lose. Chasing losses will only lead to a further downward spiral.

o Postpone your gambling urges. Next time you want to play, catch a movie or go out for dinner. Playing sudoku will take off your mind from gambling for a while.

o When you have leisure time, indulge in recreation that has nothing to with gambling.

o Use software to block access to gambling sites and make it password protected. You should not know the password.

o Get professional help as soon as possible.

Online problem gambling may affect anyone. One should be aware of one’s gambling behavior. There are many gory examples of problem gambling which should serve as eye openers for the affected. Any form of addiction is a choice. It becomes a disease because of your loss of control. Speak to your near and dear ones. Help is never far away. One precious lifetime is all you get, and it would be incredibly foolish to attempt to ruin even a second of it by way of unnecessary problems.

Gambling Addiction and Its Behavioral Effects

Gambling addiction is a serious mental health disorder, which can be identified in two ways: a person either a) continuously bet on things using money or objects that hold value even though negative consequences arise as a result, or, b) they cannot stop gambling even if they desired to. People suffering from gambling addiction often display a strong urge to bet on a wide-range of gambling mediums-from sports games to poker, to choosing lottery numbers and throwing dice. And although friends and family members of compulsive gamblers don’t see the symptoms physically, like they often do with alcoholics or drug abusers, the consequences gambling addiction has serious implications on their lives as well as the lives of their friends and families. Not realizing its severity or taking it too lightly can be devastating for the addicted gambler in the long run. Gamblers can reach a point of literally losing everything, from cars, to homes, to businesses, and even respect from those they care about.

It’s well-known that Florida is notorious for providing “the hotspot” for gamblers all over the world, as well as its residents. But how many gamblers actually endure financial problems? A recent survey by the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling shed light on card playing, reporting that 70% of these people had trouble paying their bills. But here’s the worst part, which is known to be a side-effect of excessive gambling–1 in 3 of these card players admitted to having participated in illicit activities in order to finance their gambling. Playing cards isn’t as harmless as we thought; criminal activity is still a cause for concern.

Gambling addicts are not always obvious about their situation; sometimes they don’t even realize it themselves. They don’t dwell on what has been lost as a result of their destructive activities and behaviors. Instead, compulsive gamblers only focus on the gains, or the supposed investment aspect of the games they play. And unlike drug or alcohol addiction, a person addicted to gambling will not display symptoms such as heavy fatigue, sickness, loss of energy or dizziness; instead, other factors are apparent, such as falling into deep financial trouble, losing quality time with the ones they love, and heightening the chances of entering into drug or alcohol addiction.

It’s difficult to establish who has a gambling problem and who doesn’t. Where is the threshold between social gamblers, and abusive gamblers? Are there any red flags? The answer is yes. Pathological gamblers often display one or more of the following signs: negligent of family get-togethers, acts on criminal behavior in order to acquire more stuff to bet on, would rather gamble then hang out with friends, talk excessively about gambling and winning money, use drugs or alcohol to distract them from wanting to gamble more, become irritated when not gambling, neglect vital responsibilities for gambling time, and lying to family and friends about going out gambling. A combination of these signs should be a red flag when identifying a compulsive gambler. But remember, none of these signs mention the amount of times a person gambles in a period of time. It’s not about “quantity.” A person can gamble every day and it may not affect his life. Also, gambling addiction isn’t OK if you’re wealthy; rich gamblers can still have issues like neglecting their loved ones and other vital responsibilities.

Florida is well-known for its casinos, entertainment arenas and cruise ship gambling. But environmental factors such as these may cause people to be more susceptible to the development of gambling addiction. Gambling addiction isn’t a problem that stands alone-it may lead to criminal behavior, psychological distress and depression, and fuel other more dangerous addictions. As stated earlier, a person may fall into drug or alcohol addiction in order to supplement or replace their gambling behavior. The combination of multiple addictions can be devastating and more difficult to treat; it would be like tangling a web of loose strings and trying to unravel them all at once.

Addiction specialists and counselors use a variety of methods in treating gambling addiction effectively, including: helping the addict understand what drives him or her to gamble, replacing their betting habits with more productive activities, understanding how it affects the people they care about, and finally, strengthening one’s will to live a more productive lifestyle. If you notice warning signs that you or your loved one is suffering from gambling addiction, it is crucial to intervene and find treatment before it is too late. Doctors treat gambling addiction as a serious brain disease, and people suffering from it are also prone to drug addiction. The importance of acquiring immediate treatment can be the difference between losing everything, and saving someone’s life.

Online Gambling

Internet Casinos Inc. (ICI), the world’s first online casino, started operating from August 18, 1995, with 18 different games. Since then more than 1,400 websites, mostly domiciled in small Caribbean islands, have given rise to an industry that grosses over $3 billion a year. In fact no business on the Internet earns more revenue than online gambling. Out of the estimated 14.5 million online gamblers, almost 30 per cent are from Asia.

A bet can be placed in minutes. Anyone with a credit card can set up an offshore currency account with a gambling site, leaving them free to place bets on sporting events like Wimbledon, cricket, horse racing and Formula One, or join a virtual casino to play slot machines, roulette, blackjack, poker etc. Companies like Flutter and Betmart accept bets on anything from who is going to win the Nobel Prize to whether Madonna is getting a divorce or not. Bets can range from a nickel to thousands of dollars and according to whether you win or lose the amount is automatically adjusted to your account. The final balance can then either be mailed to you or left for future bets.

The law relating to online gambling in India needs to be understood within the country’s socio-cultural context. At the outset, gambling, although not absolutely prohibited in India, does not receive express encouragement by policy makers. The Indian organized gambling industry is estimated to be worth around US$8 billion. While stringent laws have checked the proliferation of casinos and high street gaming centres as in many other countries, barring the state of Goa, the lottery business remains the most post popular form of gambling.

Though gambling is not illegal, it is a highly controlled and regulated activity. Modern India is a quasi-federal Constitutional democracy and the powers to legislate are distributed at the federal as well as the state levels. Gambling features in List II of the Constitution of India, this implies that the state governments have the authority to enact laws in order to regulate gambling in the respective states. Thus, there is no single law governing gambling in the entire country. Different states have different laws governing gambling in addition to the laws that have an application across the country. While some states have banned lotteries, other states allow state government lotteries marketed and distributed in other lottery playing and promoting states through private entities.

Regulation of gambling

The courts have defined gambling as ‘the payment of a price for a chance to win a prize’. The dominant element of skill or chance shall determine the nature of the game. A game may be deemed to be gambling if the element of chance or luck predominates in deciding its outcome. As a result, Indian courts have held that betting on horse racing and a few card games are not gambling. The right to undertake the business of gambling and lotteries is not considered as a fundamental right protected by the Constitution of India. It may however be pointed out that the state government run lotteries make significant contributions to the state exchequer of several state governments and the Union government, and hence there is a resistance to complete prohibition.

The following legislation is pertinent to gambling:

The Public Gaming Act, 1867

This Act provides punishment for public gambling and for keeping of a ‘common gaming house’. This Act also authorises the state governments to enact laws to regulate public gambling in their respective jurisdictions. The penal legislations in respective states have been amended in accordance with their policy on gambling. However, this legislation does not have any direct impact on online gambling unless a wide interpretation is given to the definition of common gaming house so as to include virtual forums as well.

The Indian Contract Act, 1872 (ICA)

The ICA is a codified umbrella legislation that governs all commercial contracts in India. Under the ICA, a wagering contract is the one which cannot be enforced. The Act lays down; ‘Agreements by way of wager are void, and no suit shall be brought for recovering anything alleged to be won on any wager or entrusted to any person to abide by the result of any game or other uncertain event on which any wager is made’. Gambling, lottery and prize games have held to be wagering contracts and thus void and unenforceable. While a wagering contract is not illegal, it cannot be enforced in a court of law. Thus, the courts will not entertain any cause of action that arises out of a wagering contract.

Lotteries (Regulation) Act, 1998

This Act provides a framework for organizing lotteries in the country. Under this Act, the state governments have been authorized to promote as well as prohibit lotteries within their territorial jurisdiction. This Act also provides for the manner in which the lotteries are to be conducted and prescribes punishment in case of breach of its provision. Lotteries not authorized by the state have been made an offence under the Indian Penal Code. Several non-lottery playing states, like Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, have prohibited the sale of other state-government lotteries under this Act.

Indian Penal Code, 1860

Section 294A deals with keeping lottery office. It says that whoever keeps any office or place for the purpose of drawing any lottery not being a State lottery or a lottery authorised by the State Government, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.

And whoever publishes any proposal to pay any sum, or to deliver any goods, or to do or forbear doing anything for the benefit of any person, on any event or contingency relative or applicable to the drawing of any ticket, lot, number or figure in any such lottery, shall be punished with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees.

Internet gambling

The law related to gambling is also applicable to online gambling. All gambling contracts are considered to be wagering contracts and it is not possible to enforce such contracts under the ICA, detailed above.

As pointed out earlier, the online lottery is the most popular form of internet gambling in India. Most companies marketing and distributing or conducting state government-sponsored lotteries through the internet are not allowed to sell their services in the states that banned lotteries. In most cases, these marketers and distributors limit their online services to consumers who are residents of the states where a lottery is permissible. Notwithstanding the fact there has been no reported case of breach by any company promoting online lotteries, most of these companies (as a safeguard) seek an undertaking from their consumers relating to their residence.

There have been instances where one state has banned the lottery of other states, including online lotteries. In a recent case, the Karnatka High Court upheld the decision of the Karnataka government to make itself a ‘lottery free zone’ by imposing a ban on lotteries of all other states, including online lotteries under the Lotteries (Regulation) Act 1998. The state government, in this case, directed the closure of the terminals and kiosks selling the online lotteries.

Enforcement over foreign jurisdictions

If the websites are hosted and operated from outside India, it may be difficult for the Indian authorities to issue any directive to close them down or prohibit their access without using its blocking powers under the ITA. The authorities have little to worry about, as Indian foreign exchange laws do not permit remittances outside India for gambling related activity, such as the purchase of lottery tickets, football pools and sweepstakes. As a result, a gambling website hosted outside India aiming at receiving money from within India cannot do so through legal channels.