Illegal Gambling Exposed
CNBC has been running a series called “Crime Inc.” that deals with the landscape of illegal activity in the United States. In mid January, they profiled illegal gambling on the show and the information was shocking to anyone outside of the gambling community.
The modern picture of illegal gambling is much less about organized crime and smoky backrooms, and much more about moving money around on a computer. From those who play virtual poker online to the sports betting crowd, the numbers are staggering. One new online site mentioned handled more than 200 million dollars in bets its first year in operation. Considered a multi-billion dollar a year industry, the newer, computer based version is both more tidy and anonymous for gamblers, and more lucrative for the criminals. It costs very little to set up a website and is much less risky. As costs go down, profits go up.
Like previous iterations of the scourge of gambling, the Holy Grail for the crooks is to influence the outcome of otherwise ethical and aboveboard events, particularly sporting events. The problem is severe enough that it’s reached into amateur sports and even the International Olympic Committee addressed the issue.
The new chairman of the IOC, quoted by CNN, said, “I don’t think you have to make a ranking between doping and match fixing and illegal betting. Both are very dangerous for the credibility of sport, but you know there is not one that supersedes the other one.”
In a poignant clip from the show (video here) Scott Damiani describes his decent into the consequences of a gambling addiction. The nature of it hasn’t changed – gamblers are bled dry in the pursuit of the high of a big score.
As legislators continue to debate the benefits of legalized gambling and the tax revenues that flow from it, the stories of the harms need to be told as often as necessary.