In what is becoming an all too familiar refrain, I will spend the next 700 words refuting many of the claims regarding the ills of online gambling from an op-ed that appeared in a Pennsylvania newspaper.
In the op-ed, which you can read here, the author decries the evils of gambling online, and calls on the legislature to vote down an online poker bill expected to come up for consideration in the very near future, perhaps as early as this week.
The current claims under investigation were made by John Morganelli, the district attorney for Northampton County.
Claim #1: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before
In his column Morganelli states, “Before Pennsylvania jumps into this quagmire, there has to be an honest and full debate as to the social impact that online gambling would bring to Pennsylvania.”
On this same line, Morganelli also claims:
“One problem with online gambling is accessibility. It offers folks the opportunity to gamble wherever and whenever they please, including at work and school. For addicts, the temptation is sitting right there in their phone, at their computer or at their desk. With brick and mortar casinos, individuals have to at least get up out of their chair, navigate their way to a casino and then navigate back home. The privacy and seclusion that on-line gaming offers is dangerous. People can sit in the comfort of their homes and gamble for hours on end.”
What Morganelli is overlooking is something I touched on in a previous rebuttal to these fire and brimstone op-eds: Online gambling is already available in Pennsylvania, it’s simply unregulated.
Instead of protecting “addicts” with the stringent responsible gaming protocols Pennsylvania’s online gambling bill requires, Morganelli would apparently rather leave them to fend for themselves and play at unregulated, and often unscrupulous offshore sites.
Far from protecting these people, if Morganelli has his way, he’ll leave them vulnerable.
Furthermore, online gambling has been legal in New Jersey for two and a half years, and there is no proof of underage access or increases in problem gambling rates as a result of online gambling.
Claim #2: Casino employees are the last line of defense
Morganelli’s next claim is one I haven’t heard before:
“With accessibility also comes a lack of monitoring. The vulnerable such as children, problem gamblers, addictive types and the mentally impaired can use the site without any supervision. In a traditional casino, dealers and staff are there to oversee the amount of time spent at tables and to discourage problematic conduct. Not so with online gaming.”
Again, all of these people can already access unregulated online gambling sites. But even more problematic is his assertion that land-based casinos monitor time and deter excessive or problematic behavior at a table.
Anyone who has ever been to a casino is fully aware that the casino is not going to stop accepting bets from a bleary-eyed patron on a 36-hour gambling bender, or deny a player from plunking down $5,000 a hand at a blackjack table.
This statement by Morganelli contains a level of naivety that is rarely seen.
But what’s worse is his failure to mention the problem gambling protocols online gambling sites are required to have in place in legal, regulated markets.
Stop loss and deposit limits make it far more difficult for a player to lose everything they have online as opposed to a casino.
Furthermore, online gaming sites are able to track every single bet a patron places, allowing them to more readily identify signs of problem gambling.
Morganelli’s history of opposition to online gambling
Of note, John Morganelli just so happens to be the DA for Northampton County, which includes the town of Bethlehem. If that sounds familiar to online poker advocates, it’s because it’s the home of the Sands Bethlehem Casino, a property owned by the notoriously anti-online gambling Sheldon Adelson.
Adelson’s lobby group, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, has been fighting against online gambling legalization over the past several years.
I’ll let the reader draw their own conclusions as to why Morganelli opposes online gambling and uses many already debunked CSIG talking points to make his case.