Online gambling may be banned

Online gambling may be banned

By Chris Brook

Not long after he turned 18, Chris Kiely began playing online poker because he believed it was a good way to compete against new people.

Kiely, a sophomore finance and management major, said he would often play for two to three hours a day if he was on a winning streak. If luck wasn’t in the cards, he’d leave it alone for weeks. Over the past year, Kiely said he has made nearly $1,000, but still tries to limit his playing to $50 per day when he plays.

Kiely is part of a growing trend of college students who gamble online, an activity that will become more difficult to do by next year if a proposed bill goes through Capitol Hill.

In an effort to curb online gambling, the U.S. House of Representatives voted July 11 to ban credit card companies from paying offshore casinos. If passed in the Senate, the bill could make it difficult for people who use mainstream sites like www.pokerstars.com, www.partypoker.com and a reported 2,300 other non-U.S. gambling Web sites to bet with money using their credit cards.

This could prove detrimental to college students, who account for some of the highest percentages of problem gamblers, according to a 2003 study by Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addictions.

The study reported that one out of every 20 college students is addicted to gambling.

“So many people are playing poker these days,” said Margot Cahoon, communications manager for the Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling. “We recognize that this is a time where college students take risks and gambling is one of those risky behaviors.”

Cahoon said problems with college students paying for credit cards to gamble and the solitary element of online gambling have become key problems.

“No other form of gambling is like that; it’s not a social activity,” Cahoon said of online gambling, “As they say, don’t drink alone. The same goes for gambling; don’t gamble alone.”

Kiely said he understands why the government wants to more closely regulate online gambling.

“I know that online poker has gotten crazy the last couple of years,” Kiely said. “I can see how people don’t want it to get out of control.”

John Hunt, a middler pharmacy major who said he occasionally plays online poker, believes college students will find a way to continue to gamble, online and elsewhere.

“Even if the bill goes through, people are still going to continue finding ways to gamble online,” Hunt said. “They’ll bring it more underground.”

Congressman Mike Capuano (D-Somerville) did not support the bill, called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act, claiming it would infringe too much on First Amendment rights, according to a recent newsletter from his office.

“I am always hesitant to legislate morality,” said Capuano, who represents Massachusetts’ 8th District, where Northeastern’s campus is located.

This latest act comes on the heels of the Internet Gambling Prohibition act, which was passed by the Senate but not the House in 1998.

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