Online gambling is at once thrilling and terrifying, almost like bungee jumping into a volcano, only less hot (and generally less life-threatening). The idea that gambling is available right from a user's own home is exciting, but the various laws that circulate around online gambling that seem to change from state to state—and in some cases aren't even all that clear—are scary. That said, a new report from Juniper Research (News - Alert) suggests that gambling is about to go more mainstream than ever before.
The Juniper Research study—titled “Mobile and Online Gambling: Casinos, Lotteries & Betting 2015 – 2020”—suggests that by 2019, nearly 10 percent of the adult population of the planet will have gambled online or on a mobile device. The biggest concentration of said gambling adults, meanwhile, will come from the U.K. and Italy, though the United States will start to chip in a healthy portion as a variety of newly-licensed services come into play.
Indeed, the study notes, there have already been some significant gains as companies in New Jersey and Delaware—and of course Nevada—have seen substantial boosts in revenues just over the last two years. While there are still plenty of forces opposing the expansion of brick-and-mortar casino gaming, offshore services like TopBet are still claiming a hefty share of traffic. The Juniper Research study uses that as the basis to suggest that more states will step in to bring more legalized gambling into play as a way to bolster sagging tax revenue pictures.
However, that same race to greater taxes may pose a bigger problem. The European Union's latest move on anti-money laundering (AML) policies is offering some value in making gambling policies more universal, but is also putting a substantial burden on potential entrants into the field. Germany, for example, lost both Playtech and Mansion, while Portugal's new tax rates on sports betting sent William Hill packing. Higher taxes, as noted by the report's co-author Dr. Windsor Holden, will simply result in “...an exodus of major players with customers switching to unlicensed operators.”
More specifically, this is going to be a problem for a lot of places. Those same forces that are opposed to brick-and-mortar casino operations will likely be just as opposed to online casino ventures for much the same reasons; problem gambling has been an issue ever since gambling came into existence. Those stories of irresponsible people betting have a way of haunting pro-gambling governments, and nothing hurts a re-election campaign like doe-eyed waifs staring at a camera and saying “Daddy takes our lunch money because he needs to play the ponies.”
But there's no doubt that the tax base is not what it once was, and online gambling could help shore up some badly-needed infrastructure projects. Could an evening of poker pay for crumbling roads and bridges? It could, certainly; the sheer amount of traffic going online to bet could be moved to legal, local sources. Certainly HTML5 has been a huge help in making gambling safer and more accessible.
Online gambling has some great potential as a revenue generator, providing an entertainment service to those interested. But it also has potential for misuse, overuse, and generally destructive ends. That makes online gambling a tool as powerful as it is dangerous, and one that needs to be used carefully.