Recently, two of the most revered members of the gaming industry came out in opposition to online gaming.
While Global Gaming Business was the first to report Sheldon Adelson’s opinions about online gaming in an interview in 2012, he penned a column in Forbes magazine last month that crystalized his views.
“There’s no benefit to our society from internet gaming,” he wrote in Forbes. “The tax revenue from internet gaming is miniscule. It’s hardly worth the paper it’s written on. So there’s no real benefit.”
Down under, Len Ainsworth, the founder of Aristocrat Technologies and current chairman of Ainsworth Game Technology, echoed Adelson.
“Online gaming is a train wreck waiting to happen, and I think to have a situation where people can sit at home and gamble, I think it’s a very dangerous situation,” he told Channel Nine’s Financial Review Sunday in Australia.
One of the things these two legends have in common is age. Ainsworth turned 90 in July and Adelson will be 80 this month.
Now, I’m not turning this into an ageist issue. After all, I’m not all that far behind either of them. But I do believe it’s a generational thing. I’d wager to say (but not online) that neither of them has a smart phone or has ever texted at any time in their lives. And that’s not a bad thing; it just is part of their generation and explains their viewpoint.
And I’m not sure I don’t agree with their views. Would I prefer to live in a world where people can’t gamble in their pajamas (unless it’s a sleepover at their favorite casino)? Yes, because online gaming is a real unknown right now. I can completely understand why these two executives are uncomfortable with the activity. No one really knows what the impact of online gaming is going to be on the bricks-and-mortar casinos in North America and around the world. Life would be much simpler if there were no online gaming at all.
But that horse has long left the barn. Online gaming proliferates around the world whether we like it or not. Billions of dollars were wagered online in the U.S. before the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, and it has returned to nearly that level since. So to close your eyes and pretend that online gaming doesn’t exist is foolish—and dangerous.
I don’t want to come off as being too altruistic, but it’s really the responsibility of the regulated gaming industry to take control of online gaming and choke off the illegal wagering that is occurring on such a massive scale.
Regulated gaming can mitigate much of the harm that Adelson and Ainsworth are so concerned about. The technology available to control it isn’t perfect, but it’s sure a darn sight better than the illegal sites are offering. We can now very effectively identify who exactly is gambling, where they are located and how they are betting.
Online gaming advocates cite the data we can collect from people gambling online. We can detect their gambling patterns, so if something changed dramatically, a flag can go up and the gambler can be questioned if that’s his desire. Want to self-exclude? That’s a snap with online controls. Someone on the “black list?” They won’t be able to gamble at any regulated site.
Underage gambling is a specific concern of Adelson, but unless the parent is completely negligent or even worse, complicit, in the activity of their children online, that can be virtually eliminated.
Should a state decide online gaming isn’t right for its residents, sophisticated geolocation programs can pinpoint where the customer is wagering, and it can be prevented. Yes, there are ways around this with “spoofing” and the like, but that takes a great deal of effort and technical expertise to pull it off. And if you’re going to do that, gambling at an illegal site will probably be easier.
So I can completely understand why Adelson and Ainsworth have taken their position against online gambling. But isn’t it better for our responsible industry to control this form of entertainment (even if they think it has inherent dangers) because it will actually benefit our world? And that benefit will be a reduction in harm that would come from full-out, illegal and corrupt online gaming sites. Isn’t it better if we control it with sensible regulations, compassionate controls and a unified interest in making it fun and safe?