The Gambling Debate, An International Update

The debate over gambling has become a volatile issue across the globe. Several major players in the global market place have made very clear that this is not a one sided debate. Four big ones include the U.S, Finland, the U.K and South Africa.

In the United States, Congressmen Steve Israel and Peter King criticized the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (IGREA) in a New York Post editorial recently. They argued that federal enforcement agencies have larger issues to focus on than to crack down on “probably unenforceable” internet gambling.

Congressmen Israel and King are among the 35 co-sponsors of the IGREA and believe that a better way to point enforcement activities in the right direction is to “create a regulatory framework that ensures operators are licensed and protects consumers against underage gambling, compulsive gambling, money-laundering, identity theft and fraud.”

This is the core of what the IGREA is designed to establish. Congressman Barney Frank (D-CT), Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services, introduced the bill in April of this year. There are many loud naysayers that are writing, and insuring they are heard in regard to this bill. Some are happy to have seen the UIGEA passed last October, and would like to see full enforcement measures, of which have yet to be determined, carried out.

In Finland, the debate is focused on the legal age at which gambling should be permitted. The current legal gambling age in Finland is 15, however the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has designed a plan to raise it to 18 years of age, as well as improving enforcement. According to two recent and separate studies conducted by the foremost market research company in Finland, greater than half of the Finnish 14-year-olds in the study reported that they had gambled. The research further suggested that merely seven percent of fifteen year olds who appear particularly young for their age are asked to verify their age prior to gambling.

In the United Kingdom, the “white list” is scheduled to go into effect on September 1st. The “white list” is a list of UK jurisdictions that permit online gambling sites that are licensed in that jurisdiction to advertise their services in the UK. This falls into line with the Gambling Act of 2005, also being enacted on September 1st. The opponents to the legislation however, appear to be in the current cabinet of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who previously as Chancellor added a 15 percent duty or tax to all online gaming sites registered or not that offer play in the UK.

In South Africa, The National Gambling Amendment Bill was put forward the National Assembly last week. Although some assembly members feel that the bill is a “social evil” Congressman Ben Turok being the most vocal about it, and that gambling is an unacceptable activity. Some have expressed the perception that if legal and regulated, gambling will allow primarily white company owners to profit from largely black players, however the bill is expected to see only modest opposition. South Africa’s Mail & Guardian news agency has been reporting the status of the bill since it first was adopted as a draft amendment in December 2006.

Obviously this is a difficult issue to find common ground on. Many countries are endeavoring to do so, with little success, and the four mentioned countries in particular are heated with debate. It will be some time yet before the final vote on the matter is taken and returned. Being astutely attentive will be effective and important during such a rise in the popularity of poker and other card games globally, as their position in this debate has yet to be settled.

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