Gambling is a huge culture within the USA. Each year, millions of Americans flock to the casinos of Las Vegas collectively spending billions at the slots and table games. Horse races up and down the country attract excitable crowds and heavy betting - most notably, of course, during the Kentucky Derby. There are also a number of state gambling monopolies and Native American casinos.
But what many don’t realise is just how heavily gambling is regulated in the US compared to many other countries. Almost 2 decades after the first online casino opened they are only finally becoming legal in America, and even then only to local operators - not the global giants. New York has just been through a tortuous process (including a referendum), simply to approve land based casinos in the state. In Florida, authorities play “cat and mouse” games with so called gaming parlours, which offer slot-like computer games designed to slip under gambling laws.
The heavy regulatory climate is mostly due to the fact that gambling is seen as a vice which can only be justified if it contributes serious tax revenue. No official statement about a new gambling law would be complete without fantastical revenue projections which, as Chris Christie discovered, can often be quickly proved wrong.
The patchwork of federal and state law, cobbled together by exemptions and tribal exemptions is a mess for both consumers and the government. A more open regulatory model, like that found in many European countries, could provide a solution.
In the UK casinos are treated as a local planning issue, with the upshot that most major towns have at least one. On the online front, casinos and sportsbooks can offer their services to Britons from anywhere in the world, but must hold a licence with the UK’s gaming regulator and pay tax on the bets of British citizens.
Even in countries with a historically tougher stance on gambling have made provisions to protect their citizens. In South Africa all online gambling has been banned since 2004, but South Africans can still gamble online if the casino’s servers are based outside of the country. This allows large operators like yeboyescasino to offer legal online gambling for South Africans. This situation is considered preferable to an outright ban because, with a foreign casino, South Africans are likely to still receive regulatory protection they would not get with illegal domestic operators.
However in the USA the situation is very different. Millions of Americans used to play online Poker - until the FBI seized several major poker sites and froze player funds for over a year. In general, Americans using illegal gambling sites can be in almost as much danger as their operators.
To protect players properly, America needs to legislate a climate where players have outlets to complain about unfair practices and seek help for problem gaming. All too often the power resides with unaccountable local monopolies or there are legal grey areas outside regulatory oversight. Other countries have shown there is a more equitable way to licence gambling - lets hope their example can provide some guidance to American legislators!