Online Gambling Debts – How to Deal With the Causes and Effects of Online Gambling Debts

One thing there is no shortage of on the internet is opportunities to gamble. We are spoilt for choice, whether your fancy is for betting on sports, playing virtual card games or bingo. One of the things that makes internet gambling so potentially dangerous is that it is easily available for 24 hours a day. The real danger comes when you combine this factor with the fact that it is so easy to feel detached from the reality of money spent online. Gradually racking up a debt online does not feel the same as handing over hard earned cash from our wallet, so it is that much easier to lose track of how your online spending is mounting up.

For these reasons, debt problems from internet gambling are on the increase. In this article I hope to clarify some of the legal issues around online gambling, as well as providing some advice on dealing with the underlying problem and the debts that result from it.

Legal Issues Around Gambling Debts

When we talk about debt from online gambling it is important to be clear about the nature of the debt, because who the money is owed to does make a difference. People are often unsure about the legality of debts from online gambling. In the UK you can gamble legally on credit and incur a debt, but this debt is not then enforceable through the law.

However, there is an important point to make here, which is that this only applies when you are using credit extended by the company offering the gambling (casino, bookie, etc). If you use a credit card company to pay for internet gambling, that is a legally enforceable debt the same as it would be in any other circumstance, because you have borrowed money from the credit card company, not the casino. It is now against the law in the US to use a credit card to pay for online gambling.

You will find that many credit cards will regard a payment to an internet gambling website as a cash advance. This is then clearly borrowing money from the card company and the debt you incur can be pursued through legal action. If you do use a credit card to pay for online gambling this way, you should be aware that cash advances on credit cards are almost always charged at a much higher rate of interest than normal credit for purchases.

How To Deal With Debts Caused By Gambling

In dealing with gambling debts, there are two separate issues to tackle. One is the debt itself, and the other is the habit of gambling that led to the debt. Even if the debt is dealt with, it is likely to build up again if the root cause is not tackled too. Let us first consider the problem of paying off the debt.

The principles for tackling debt are nearly always the same, irrespective of the causes of the debt. To permanently deal with debt you should not be considering borrowing more money or paying anyone to deal with your debt for you. These courses of action are likely to deepen your debt in the long run.

With a little advice, you can deal with your debts yourself, by contacting your creditors and agreeing terms for repayment that you can afford. There is clearly more to it than that, but it is beyond the scope of this particular article. The process is straightforward and allows you to take back control of your finances.

Factors Leading To Internet Gambling Debts

It may help to have an understanding of why some people can become addicted to online gambling. The following are often contributory factors:

Gambling can be thrilling, leading to an adrenalin rush and feelings that we want to recreate time and again.

Many addictive gamblers think that they can win money and that this will solve all their other problems. It actually just leads to more problems by creating debt, which can then make it seem even more important to win the money, creating a vicious circle.

Addiction to gambling can actually be a mental disorder, which can lead to a compulsive need to gamble.

Being addicted to online gambling is often associated with other personal difficulties, including depression and stress.

Online Gambling Debts – The Warning Signs You may have a problem if you can answer yes to any of the following questions:

When you are not gambling, do you think about gambling and how you are going to get back to it?

Have you ever missed work because of online gambling?

Do you feel the need to gamble again after winning or losing?

Is the length of time you spend on gambling getting longer and have you ever spent longer online than you thought you had?

Are you secretive about your gambling with family or friends and do you dislike other people bringing it up?

Practical Steps To Tackle Online Gambling Addiction If you think you may have a problem with online gambling, here are a few simple steps you can take to begin to reduce or stop the habit:

Be open with friends and family and seek help with the problem.

Cancel any accounts you have with websites for online gambling.

Consider using software that blocks your access to online gambling websites.

Keep a proper, ongoing record of everything you spend – take steps to bring home the fact that the money you are using is real.

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When Gambling Takes Over

The casino is a world onto itself. There are no windows, no clock, but there are flashing lights, and the din of clacking coins and whirring slot machines. Beyond the slots, figures are mesmerized at the crap table. Interest in poker hit new heights with televised Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments. For the majority of gamblers, this is excitement, recreation, a fun diversion or escape from the ordinary and a chance to beat the odds. For others, an estimated three percent of the adult population, it’s an addiction, an endless roller coaster of excitement and despair.

A pervasive characteristic of addiction of any kind is that the repeated behaviors have led to a range of negative consequences. This may be putting it mildly in the case of pathological gambling, because someone in the grips of compulsive gambling usually suffers severe blows to finances and relationships before seeking help. His or her life may be in shambles.

Often the compulsive gambler’s denial leads him to believe that the next round will save the day. Of course, if the numbers come up right, the cash or credit won is then “invested” again. Gambling addiction is hardly a recent development, but the advent of electronic poker and the break-neck speed of today’s slot machines, as well as Internet gambling have actually sped up the time it takes to gamble for fun and when it slips into problematic, then compulsive behavior.

Pathological gambling, like other addictions, is both a biological and a behavioral disease. While we don’t know all the factors leading to gambling addiction, they often include social, family and psychological elements. We do know that the brain neuropathways involving the brain’s mechanisms are affected in an individual’s perception of rewarding experiences. The emotional escape that an individual finds in gambling may become entrenched.

We have seen from 15-20 percent of patients who suffer from cross-addictive disorders, such as alcoholism or drug dependency with problem gambling. Some estimates state that 35 percent of those with substance abuse or dependence also have met the diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling at some point in their lives. The SOGS (South Oaks Gambling Screen) is the accepted psychosocial diagnostic tool to identify a gambling problem and its progression.

Both substance and gambling addiction are progressive diseases, and may be characterized by inability to control impulses (to use or to gamble) denial, anxiety mood swings and depression and the need for instant gratification. Gambling, like chemical dependency, offers euphoric highs, which are inevitably followed by emotional valleys and usually remorse and shame. A major difference in gambling versus substance addiction is that the alcoholic or drug addict doesn’t believe the substance is the answer to recovery and to his problems, while the compulsive gambler believes the Big Win will be the answer to all his problems.

Gambling addictions can also result in symptoms such as blackouts and sleep disorders and hopelessness. Divorce, relationship and work problems, even arrests are some devastating consequences of compulsive gambling. A person’s general health is often neglected, including medical conditions that have been ignored. Gambling addiction is certainly a family disease, creating a dysfunctional family system that revolves around the individual’s addiction. Children may be emotionally stranded as well as physically neglected. Kids are affected long term too, with studies estimating 35 to 50 percent of children of pathological gamblers eventually experiencing gambling problems of their own.

It is important that when chemical and gambling addictions co-occur, they are treated at the same time. Like chemical dependency, gambling addiction is addressed in holistic treatment based on the Twelve Step Philosophy. Treatment is individualized and takes into account issues of gender and age.

Gambling: is it the money?

Some experts, including Dr. Henry Lesieur, St. John’s University, NY, who co-authored the SOGS screening assessment, believe it isn’t really about the money, even though money becomes a looming issue. Seeking action seems to be the major impetus for many. Being in action may be similar to the high of taking cocaine. “Chasing losses” is term use by habitual gamblers to describe attempting to recoup the gambling losses by winning. The action gambler usually likes to gamble on site, at a casino, racetrack, or other “live” venue. Often they are identified by casinos as “high rollers” and received comped rooms and meals. Others, though, don’t gamble for action so much as numb their feelings with compulsive gambling, so it becomes the ultimate, albeit temporary escape.

Age and gender as factors

A study by University of Connecticut Health Center psychiatrists published in 2002 evaluated gamblers seeking treatment and found significant differences by age and gender in pathological gamblers. Middle aged (aged 36-55) and older gamblers tended to include more women, at 45-55 percent, than younger gamblers (aged 18-35) at 23 percent. Middle aged and older women didn’t begin gambling regularly until the age of 55, while older men reported a habit of lifelong gambling. Perhaps surprisingly, the women also wagered greatest amounts in the month prior to treatment. Younger gamblers reported most problems with substance abuse, social and legal problems, while older gamblers found more employment-related problems.

There is hope for recovery

Pathological gamblers, like others who suffer from addiction can and do recover. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, with Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, can change unhealthy behaviors and thoughts, including false beliefs, rationalizations, and self-destructive feelings. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy also helps individuals to meet life on its own terms rather than escape painful emotions with compulsive addictions.

A holistic treatment program that addresses the root issues of addiction as well as any co-occurring disorders is an effective approach that treats the whole person. Continuing care may be essential, especially for impulse control, as well as ongoing participation in support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. The recovering gambler may also need professional financial advise, and family therapy can help to develop a supportive, healthy family structure for sustained recovery.

Super Casino Gambling – Online and Offline

Land-based casinos and online casino revenues and site releases are growing faster then ever. Even after the dust has settled following the recent American law prohibiting deposits to online gambling companies, large organisations such as Party Gaming, Ladbrokes and VIP Casino club are all increasing their efforts to attract a wider European or global audience.

Gambling itself is a compulsive and addictive activity, with numerous regulatory societies attempting to outlaw and even ban online gambling around the globe. Regulatory environments themselves differ from country to country. While the US has sought keenly to identify ways of banning online gambling, the UK has lead the way to ensuring that online gambling remains a choice for many, but does not become a threat to others.

Its recent release of a new Gambling Act has sought to protect children and problem areas from abusive gambling, while attempting to levy a tax duty on all income from gambling both offline and online. The Act will make it illegal to entice children to gamble and there will be compulsory age checks for online gambling websites.

Its new Gambling Act will provision for the construction of Super Casinos in selected areas across the country, though this has been scaled down from an initial 40 super casinos to around 8, following complaints from the public and opposition parties. The Gambling Act will allow casinos to operate 24 hours, with unlimited jackpots, and gambling will be allowed on Sundays and Bank Holidays. As far as online websites are concerned, when the Act comes into force at the end of September 2007, companies will be able to apply for a license to operate online gambling website from a UK base.

Countries differ in terms of how they levy a tax on gambling. For example, some will tax each bet individually while countries like the UK, tax only the gross profits that gambling organisations make. Territories like Malta and Gibraltar offer competitive tax regimes as well as the benefits of an off-shore financial centre.

Australia has a large gambling population, where statistic show that 80% of its population gambles. Super casinos are also allowed in Australia, with Sydney’s Star City reputedly the size of 7 football fields. A recent study also showed that Australians spend more money each week on gambling than they do on alcohol or clothes. State government proceeds from gambling have increased to around $3.8bn per annum, since 1998.

What of other jurisdictions across the globe?

Below is a list of some countries and some interesting figures relating to gambling.

Australia

80% of population gamble

Legal age to gamble is 18

$80 billion gambling turnover in 2006

States received $3.8 billion in gambling duties 2006

Online gambling is permitted

Sweden

95% of population gamble

Legal age to gamble is 18

58 billion Swedish Crowns turnover in 2006

Government received 5 billion Crowns in tax in 2006

Online gambling is permitted

Spain

70% of population gamble

Legal age is 18

EUR30 billion gambling turnover

Receives EUR1 billion in gambling taxes

Recently allowed online gambling licenses

Macau

60% of population gamble

Legal age is 18

$6 billion in gambling takings 2006

$1 billion state revenues from gambling

Online gambling is permitted

UK

70% of population gamble

Legal age to gamble is 18 (though lotteries and pools and low stake machine permit 16)

£53 billion gambling expenditure in 2006

UK received £1.3 billion in gambling duties in 2006

Online gambling permitted

US

80% of population gamble

Legal age 18 (most casinos age 21 as this is legal alcohol age associated with casinos)

$82 billion gambling expenditure 2006

States received over $8 billion in gambling revenues 2006

Online gambling prohibited

Internet Gambling Laws – US, UK and the World

Legal minds turned to Internet gambling laws as a specialty when the industry went beyond growth and exploded into the public mind. “The law surrounding Internet gambling in the United States has been murky, to say the least,” according to Lawrence G. Walters, one of the attorneys working with gameattorneys.com.

In contrast, Internet gambling laws in the U.K. have made the lives of providers and players a bit easier. The passage of the Gambling Act of 2005 has basically legalized and regulated online play in the U.K.

With the objectives of keeping gambling from promoting “crime or disorder” the U.K. act attempts to keep gambling fair, in addition to protecting younger citizens and others who may be victimized by gambling operation. Unlike the United States, which still clings to the 1961 Wire Wager Act, the U.K. significantly relaxed regulations that are decades old. A gambling commission was established to enforce the code and license operators.

A Whole Other Country

According to Walters and many other observers of the Internet gambling laws scene, the United States Department of Justice continues to view all gambling on the Internet as illegal under the Wire Act. But there are details in the federal law that defy attempts to throw a blanket over all online gambling.

The Wire Wager Act forms the basis for federal action on Internet gambling laws in the United States. The law was meant to complement and support laws in the various states, focusing primarily on “being engaged in the business of betting or wagering” using wire communication to place bets or wagers on sporting events or similar contests. The law also comments on receiving money or credit that results from such a wager. The keys are “business,” “money or credit” and “wire communication facility.”

But as many attorneys and proponents of fair Internet gambling laws emphasize, the federal law does not specifically address other forms of gambling. This has left the law open to interpretation when it comes to online casinos specifically and using the World Wide Web to play online games.

October 13, 2006 is a crucial date in the controversy surrounding the legalization of gambling. For anyone wishing to understand Internet gambling laws, the federal law passed on that day is essential knowledge. President George W. Bush signed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which is intended to limit some “financial transactions” used for online gambling.

But even if current federal gambling laws can clearly define something as simple as a legal gambling age, the newer UIGEA has not settled all the dust raised around the issue of online gambling. Attorneys such as Walters (and many others) have pointed out that the UIGEA seems to refer only to financial transactions and wagers that are illegal where the wager or transaction is made. Some wagers may be legal while others may not be legal. It’s as simple as that.

The UIGEA had some effect on Internet gambling, in that many successful companies got out of the business, at least in the United States. In fact, with the passage of the law in 2006, most U.S. online players found they could not play at an online casino or poker room, for a short time. Many of the gambling providers found ways to establish offices and servers outside of the U.S. so that could invite United States players back in.

Break Time

It’s now time to stop, take a deep breath and turn to Internet gambling laws in the various states. Some have passed their own rules and regulations (before and after UIGEA). In a few states, companies cannot operate an online gambling business. In other states it is illegal for an individual to place a bet using the Web. Some legal experts argue that these individual-state rules are unconstitutional since commerce across state lines should only be regulated by federal law, not state law. Commercial online gambling businesses don’t operate in the United States, however. If you want to visit their “home offices” you may have to travel to Malta, Gibraltar or Curacoa.

The 2005 U.K. law generally allows remote sites such as these. The rules are not so relaxed in the U.S. However, a recent appellate court ruling in the U.S. states that, in at least one case, an Web-based gambling site did not violate states laws. Most legal minds urge gamblers and others interested in the issue to stay tuned.

Some have given their attention to finding benefits of legalized gambling, noting that this huge industry might be a key to economic recovery in the United States. At the heart of their argument are examples such as established lotteries run by various states, in addition to the government revenues that flow in to state coffers from riverboats and land-based casinos.

Part of this effort rests on the shoulders of more than 100 legal representatives working for common sense in Internet gambling laws. This hoard of attorneys has the task of trying to keep the World Wide Web/Internet free from government intervention.

Bob Ciaffone is considered one of the experts on the subject of gambling and poker in general, and on the transition to online gambling. He suggests that any regulation of Web-based gambling should reduce competition from outside the U.S., so that the citizens of the U.S. would benefit in legal gambling states. His detailed plan would parallel the U.K. situation since that country passed its 2005 rules. Ciaffone also strongly urges U.S. lawmakers to keep Internet gambling laws separate from the 40-year-old Wire Act, which was passed to control illegal gambling over the telephone.

In essence, Ciaffone writes that the UIGEA attempted to do the right thing, but does it in all the wrong ways. The restrictions have severely handicapped what could be a great revenue source with proper regulation, according to Ciaffone.

Consider a statement on the UIGEA from the most-recognizable poker player in the world, Doyle Brunson. Though is comments apply to his favorite game of poker, they can easily relate to all Internet gambling laws. He said, in essence, that his company received good legal advice that indicates Internet poker is not “expressly” illegal. He encourages U.S. players to learn the laws of their own state.

While this brief summary touches only the high points of a huge and complex subject, there are sources that have already compiled details for the various states. Check these sites:

www.gambling-law-us.com/State-Law-Summary

www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk/ [http://www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk]