You flick on your computer, log into your favorite online poker site, enter a room for stakes, and off you go into the world of online poker wagering. Many of these sites don’t bother checking the age of its players; as long as you have the ability to fund your account, you can wager and play. Young people below the legal ages of 18 or 21, can readily play on many of these poker sites.
Are these sites destroying today’s youth ? Do these sites effectively promote underage gambling and exacerbate gambling problems at an early age ?
Some opponents of online poker gambling, articulate the following reasons as to why it should be banned, and certainly be prohibited for underage minors:
Easy to fund accounts – Some online poker sites put no age restrictions on people gambling at their site. Underage gamblers can effectively fund poker accounts through credit cards, their parents’ credit cards, bank transfer, and 3rd party eWallet intermediaries. The anonymity of the age of the gambler, does not alert the poker site, in this instance, that an underage gambler is wagering on their site. Thus, there are no restrictions placed on underage gamblers on these types of sites.
Local laws not enforced – Despite some jurisdiction’s current laws and restrictions against online gambling, many sites (physically located in different jurisdictions, where poker and wagering is legal) still cater to these players. Again, there is no discrimination in these cases, on the age or locale of the player.
Money management skills lacking – Many opponents of online and underage gambling like to think that online poker caters to “a click of a mouse, and you’ll lose your house” syndrome. Although this bit of reasoning appears to be a bit extreme, online poker can offer a young gambler, who is not well-versed in money management skills, the ability to lose a great deal of money, in a short amount of time.
Compulsive gambling – Many studies have been done, that indicate that compulsive gambling effects a very, very small percentage of overall gamblers. However, does the easy access of online poker encourage and foster compulsive gambling at a young age ?
Money give-away – Are underage gamblers using their lunch money to gamble ? Are they taking their allowances and betting that they will come up with a Royal Flush ? In short, are underage gamblers gambling with their everyday money ?
Obsession – Is online poker becoming an obsession for today’s youth ? Are today’s youth spending their free time in front of a screen (gambling), when in fact, it is taking away time from their family, friends, and school work ? Is this obsession destroying their lives socially ?
These are all valid concerns, and depending on the individual, could be applicable or not. Fortunately, there are some counter-arguments to the above anti-youth-gambling rhetoric. The proponents of online gambling argue the following:
Freedom of speech – There are inherent freedoms in this world today. The internet shows no boundaries and internet gamblers (the youth included) should be able to do what they want with their own money. Freedom of speech is the paramount issue here.
Youth Gambling Detection – Some of the reputable online poker sites already have sophisticated checks in place, to ensure that their patrons are not underage gamblers.
Hypocrisy – The opposition is quick to cry out against Underage online poker players, yet there are many jurisdictions that permit underage gamblers to take part in online lotteries and online fantasy sports pools, which are often played for wager.
Regulation is the answer – If online poker became regulated (for example, in the United States), the online underage argument could be nipped in the bud, and the prevention of underage gamblers could certainly be addressed. There are many reputable online poker establishments running worldwide, that have enforced such checking for years, and the associated technology governing this has reached a maturation process. These technology advancements could be shared with jurisdictions that currently do not have these safeguards in place, to achieve the desired results.