What can the Olympics teach us about the dangers of online gambling?

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the struggles the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has dealt with in regards to gambling.  Most recently, the IOC issued a banned for athletes and their coaches for the current 2012 London Olympic Games.  The focus has primarily been on preventing match-fixing scandals and the like, however, little focus has been spent on the wide spread nature of gambling and the type of access online gambling provides.  As the 2012 Olympic Games come underway, The Los Angeles Times explains how widely available Olympic gambling has become, especially in the host country of London:

Walk into any betting shop — and they’re everywhere here — and pick your poison. Think Usain Bolt set a world record in the 100 meters? On Monday morning, the William Hill agency offered 3-1 odds for a yes bet, 2-9 on a no. Got a strong feeling which country will win the most gold medals or how many Britain will capture? Feeling quite chipper, Ladbrokes is offering 66-1 odds on the latter’s low option of under 10.

Betting on amateur sports may run counter to the idealized version of the Olympic Games, particularly for a United States that so regulates the industry. But here, it’s as common as changing weather or afternoon tea.

“Gambling has always been a way of life in Britain — horses, darts, everything,” Robin Hall said as he exited the basketball arena Sunday night. “We can bet on anything — the next person to score a goal, the next person to hit a shot.

The widely held belief of the IOC is that if you can prevent game & match fixing, then you can maintain the integrity of the game.  However, preventing gambling in general is likely the most effective way to maintain the integrity of the Olympic Games.  If you take away the market, then you take away the desire to cheat and game-fix.  The online arena is a highly established and ever growing sector of gambling that creates tremendous access and sustains such a market.  An online source explains just how important it is for the focus to remain on the dangers of online gambling and preventing its access:

“There is a new danger coming up that almost all countries have been affected by – and that is corruption, match-fixing and illegal gambling,” says IOC president Jacques Rogge.

His words should serve as a warning to the many American states that are eager to launch Internet gambling: The integrity of both amateur and professional sports can be put in jeopardy with the increasing ease – and corruptibility – of online betting by organized crime.

Already in Asia many sports leagues have collapsed after fans learned of players or referees being on the take. And in Europe, which is the global hub of Internet gaming, regulators are scrambling to set down new rules to curb such fraud.   

The issues the IOC is dealing with should be seen as a precursor and warning to those considering expanding online gambling.  The United States is at a crossroads with its gambling plans as the Obama Administration has opened the door for wide spread gambling and individual states are following the Administration’s invitation.  Now more that ever, the lessons of the IOC should be understood:

In the United States, Internet gambling was outlawed by Congress in 2006, but many states, such as New Jersey and Nevada, contend that the law remains unclear about their ability to set up commercial, private online gaming strictly for state residents.

Those states need to take a cue from Europe if they open the door to online gambling for pro sports. The European Commission announced in June that the risk of fraud in sports competition has been exacerbated by online betting, posing a risk to the integrity of sports. An estimated 7 million Europeans now gamble online, many of them younger men who follow sports.

In America, states need to cool their ardor for private Internet gambling, especially if it includes sports, until both the IOC and Europe figure this out. An industry that promotes the dubious notion of luck isn’t compatible with sports, which is driven by ideals of merit and fairness.

For more information on the dangers of gambling, please visit CASINO WATCH & CASINO WATCH FOUNDATION

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