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Fun in Cyberspace

If I'm playing slots or video poker, I like to wave bye-bye to my $20 bills as they go into the slot. It's a sentimental thing. Gambling on the internet is so... virtual.

Fun in Cyberspace

You know, I remember when the biggest issue in the casino industry was whether or not players would touch slot machines that didn’t take coins. As I recall, my expert analysis at the time was that coins were part of the slot experience, and that they would stay part of the experience one way or another.

It was right after I invested in beta VCRs and Blackberry smart phones.

These days, it’s all about iGaming. I must admit, I was against internet gaming at first. OK, I wasn’t “doing a Sheldon” on the subject. I didn’t send bales of money to lawmakers to support bills to ban internet gaming. (I couldn’t anyway; all my money was invested in slot-machine coin hoppers.)

But I was always of the opinion that as far as gambling went, I wanted to look into the eyes of the person who was taking my money. I wanted to watch those hard-earned dollars disappear as the dealer rammed them into the nether regions of the table with that bill-ramming thingamabob they use.

Yes, bill-ramming thingamabob. I do believe that’s what the technical term for it is. You could look it up.

Alternatively, if I’m playing slots or video poker, I like to wave bye-bye to my $20 bills as they go into the slot. It’s a sentimental thing. Gambling on the internet is so… virtual. You can’t watch your dollars as they fly away from you through cyberspace.

However, my own personal gambling preference doesn’t mean that internet gaming is bad. Besides, I’m sure I will become accustomed to cyber-gaming just as I have become accustomed to playing slot machines without pumping quarters into a slot and pulling a handle.

Yes, kids, I used to do that. Go ahead and say it—I’m old. When I started playing, slot machines were powered by steam. Hey, when I started playing, rainbows were black and white. The Dead Sea was only sick. My Social Security number is 1. I have an autographed Bible.

OK, I’ll stop.

My point, as if I ever had one, is that internet gaming is simply another distribution channel for the same gambling we’ve been doing all along. Heck, I’ve warmed up to it to the point where, as editor of this magazine, I even embrace the term “iGaming,” even though, as a professional writer, I have always considered placing a capital letter inside a word to be a capital offense. No pun inTended.

I have also come to realize that the arguments against internet gaming are pretty much hooey. It will hurt brick-and-mortar casinos? Not likely. When you can play online and earn points, free rooms, free meals and other stuff you can only redeem at an actual casino, are you going to tell me people aren’t flocking to the physical property to redeem them?

We don’t turn down free stuff. It’s what separates us from the animals.

Internet gaming causes problem gambling? No. First, people with gambling problems are going to find a way to gamble, and if they want to do it online, there are plenty of offshore sites that will be glad to accommodate them, whether it’s legal or not. Second, safeguards against problem gambling can be implemented more easily online than in a land-based casino.

Finally, there’s empirical evidence now that iGaming doesn’t cause problems. Gambling Research Australia just issued a report on the online gaming habits of Aussies, which found no evidence that online gambling is connected with problem gambling.

Yes, that’s in gambling-happy Australia, where guys place bets on whether or not their toast will be burnt. They probably placed bets on the outcome of the gambling study. If online gaming doesn’t cause problems for Aussies, that’s good enough for me.

I’m sure that some day, resistance to online gaming will be viewed in the same way as we now look back at the resistance to coin-free slot machines. As for me, I’ll tinker with it when I’m in Delaware, New Jersey or Nevada, and I’ll just learn to imagine my dollars being rammed into the table with a cyber-thingamabob.

And I’ll still go to land-based casinos. (Sea-based casinos too, for that matter.) Hey, how else am I going to get the free stuff I earned playing on my computer? (It’s an Apple I, of course.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go put a tape into my beta VCR. I think I’ll watch Grumpy Old Men.

Frank Legato is editor of Global Gaming Business magazine. He has been writing on gaming topics since 1984, when he launched and served as editor of Casino Gaming magazine. Legato, a nationally recognized expert on slot machines, has served as editor and reporter for a variety of gaming publications, including Public Gaming, IGWB, Casino Journal, Casino Player, Strictly Slots and Atlantic City Insider. He has an B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He is the author of the books, How To Win Millions Playing Slot Machines... Or Lose Trying, and Atlantic City: In Living Color.