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"Gambling on the Internet"

Online gambling in the United States, which has seen tremendous growth with the expansion of the Internet, continues to be an involved issue, and recent events indicate that we are probably not any closer to a single resolution. There is a House bill that is designed to stop the growth of Web sites that allow people to wager money, regardless of whether casinos are legal in their state. There have been several other attempts at passing legislation, but they have died because of lack of support.

At the forefront of the debate is the current bill that allows for some gambling, such as horse racing, to be exempt from the law. This has been a tremendous concern as many feel that the Republican sponsored bill would actually help some groups reach online gamblers. Many critics also suggest that it unfairly restricts state lotteries, and with these two problem areas, the bill may fail to pass again. 

It now appears that the while the federal government continues to spin its wheels, individual states are beginning to take notice to protect or deny the right to gamble online. Recently, the state of Nevada passed a law allowing Nevada residents to gamble from their home computers under a deal that won approval from the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Virtgame.com is being allowed to offer residents the ability to wager on the Internet, betting on everything from football games to horse racing.

Virtgame got approval after demonstrating to the board that its software would prevent any bets from being placed from outside the state boundaries. Itís proprietary technology, which is called eBorder Control, was developed to meet specified legal restrictions for a particular state and can be adapted for different geographic areas. In this particular case, Virtgame is building the online site for Coast Resorts, which owns multiple casinos in Nevada.

In order to log on to the Coast Resorts Web site, Nevada residents will receive a proprietary dial-up connection and floppy disk that contains the Virtgame software. Itís not as simple as installing the software however. In order to activate an account, Nevada residents must actually go to one of the Coast Resort Casinos and register by providing documentation which displays proof of their age and residency. The software is then licensed for the individuals use only, and has built-in protections to make sure that the software cannot be used outside the area.

Interestingly, the Nevada decision comes after a 1999 New York Supreme Court ruling that made online gambling illegal within the state. Many thought that this ruling would pave the way for other states to legislate against online gambling, but Nevada has voted to allow it despite this decision.

With the impending presidential election, the Republican and Democratic parties seem to be balking at taking a stance on this issue. While the federal government attempts to come up with a solution, several states are beginning to take the issue into their own hands. Itís too early to conclude if the Nevada approach will be successful, but if it is, look for other states to follow their lead.

  - by Clayton Crooks

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