The following is a guest post from István Lipták. The opinions expressed here are NOT of Lazy Man and Money.
Online gambling was banished from the United States in 2006 when a piece of legislation called the “Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act” made it impossible for banks to process payments to and from gambling outlets. Like all other prohibitions, though, the UIGEA didn’t last forever. In recent years, a number of states decided to regulate instead of ban online poker, casino games, and sports betting, bringing the previously “barely legal” business out of the shadows and into the light. This certainly came in handy this year, when the Sin City became deserted due to the pandemic-related lockdowns.
Politicians and NGOs were fiercely opposing the regulation of online gambling for years, though, scaring people with everything from addiction to underage gambling, painting a somber picture of teens mindlessly rambling in the streets gambling on their smartphones, spending all their money on virtual blackjack and slot machines, not to mention the hordes of athletes selling matches all across the country. In this case, in turn, the devil wasn’t as black as they depicted it.
The problem with gambling – especially the online variety – is that there is not enough science involved in it for a truly informed decision. Or better said, there wasn’t until a major betting group joined forces with the Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addiction to bring some clarity into the murky waters of internet gambling dens. And the results were a surprise for most.
Apparently, the percentage of gamblers – no matter if they are poker players, casino gamblers or sports bettors – spending excessive time and amounts on their passion is small. The vast majority of the other players are, for lack of a better word, casuals – they play occasionally, in moderation, and with small stakes, losing, on average, around 5.5% of all their money wagered and generating minuscule rakes for online poker tables.
Playing a few hands of blackjack on the commuter train on your way to work is one thing. Flying to Las Vegas, checking into a hotel, then walking into a casino is another. Aside from the intention, there’s also the ambience that makes a difference. Not to mention the free food, free drinks, room upgrades, show tickets, and other goodies that casinos throw into the mix to make your stay longer – and you spend more. Casinos are designed in a way for the gamblers to lose track of time and leave more money at the gaming tables – and it’s not a coincidence, it’s science.
Have you heard of the recent jackpot win at the River Belle Casino? I bet (sic!) you didn’t. On one hand, the amount (around $9 million) was not exactly “spectacular” and “record-breaking”. On the other, the mainstream media rarely covers winners at an online casino – the notable exception is the case of Jon Heywood, a British veteran who won the online casino jackpot that broke the Guinness World Record.
On the other hand, land-based casinos and lotteries can’t seem to stop handing out novelty checks, showing the world that they did it, you can too! And this leaves a mark.
Gambling is not an economical pastime. For every big winner, there are myriads of other players who barely break even or do even worse. Gambling, in turn, can indeed be fun at times, as long as it is done in moderation – and doing it online may just be the easiest way to stay on the moderate side by allowing you to have your fun while spending less.