With massive profits and huge growth in the legal gambling market what causes and perpetuates the illegal gambling market? We examine the issues surrounding this shadowy trade.
With a worldwide market value of some $513 billion (est. 2015) global gambling is enjoying a heyday of sorts. Growth in Macau is astronomical, online gambling is the best thing since sliced bread and as for the slug racing…
The ease with which we can enjoy our gambling, from lotteries in the US to online poker sites in the UK, from casinos to racetracks, is one of the benefits of an ever shrinking world and modern technology. The convenience and freedom we luxuriate in is unprecedented throughout history.
It is then rather remarkable to note that by some estimates the illegal gambling business almost mirrors that value identically. That’s right, illegal gambling is worth as much as legal gambling, almost $500 billion. That’s not chump change.
But how can an illegal industry rival the legal one in this day and age? Why do people gamble illegally in a time when legal gambling is more easily available to the consumer than ever before? What keeps illegal gambling (around quite a while now) going?
No stigma online
There are quite a few different reasons why illegal gambling not only retains a foothold but a 50% share in the global gambling market. The most obvious is the lack of uniformity in legal status, some countries still retain aging gambling prohibition laws.
Tricky to gamble legally in a country where gambling isn’t legal. Prohibition however, now a few thousand years into its attempt to stamp out gambling, continues to completely fail to actually stop people gambling.
Of course it’s not just in nations that prohibit gambling that illegal gambling flourishes, it also does so in those countries that have legal gambling but not legal online gambling. This is mostly due to historical or cultural negative connotations associated with gambling.
In a culture that looks down on gambling it can be embarrassing for someone to go to a physical location to place a wager. A desire to remain anonymous pushing them into the shadowy world of illegal gambling which is far more discrete.
The discretion of illegal gambling’s facilitators is perhaps not all that surprising given most criminals don’t go around advertising their profession. Those that do don’t last long. Some gamblers rely on that discretion to keep them from jail for simply enjoying a bit of a flutter.
Illegal gambling is harming the good name of honest gamblers
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Whilst stigma might push some gamblers to begin using illegal gambling’s services it is usually the ease and trust that keeps them using them despite the inherent risks. The ability to bet by phone with someone with whom you’ve developed mutual trust is a nice if poor substitute for properly regulated mobile casino gambling.
Then there are the selective gambling laws that prevent people from betting on certain things but not others, most typically sports betting. Alas aging laws are unlikely to dissuade people from putting a fiver on their favorite team and without legal avenues to use the results are obvious.
Sports betting represents the lion’s share of illegal gambling with sizable well organized syndicates the world over. Some offer better odds than the legal alternatives, some are the only available gambling service available, all of them are inherently risky.
Spoiling the game
Where governments fail to provide adequate services that people want that void will be filled by those who see opportunity to do so. This failure of proper legislation and regulation creates the perfect breeding ground for illegal gambling and that has knock-on effects.
The match fixing scandals that have rocked sports in recent years, from Italy to Ghana, reflect the sad fact that illegal gambling’s influence is not always benign. Be it Pakistani cricketers, soccer goalies or match officials in a whole host of sports, the damage is all too clear.
The sports themselves are ruined for what they are supposed to be, the gamblers can never be sure their bets aren’t pre-rigged against them and the malicious profits involved only attract more criminality. Worse still it deprives the legal gambling establishment a sizable chunk of revenue on which they would pay taxes.
Criminals tend not to pay taxes, and their customer complaints department can be quite rough. The appeals system in the illegal gambling world tends to be very different from that of legitimate casinos that have to operate under a proper legal system. The law typically leaves your kneecaps alone.
The negative impact on both sports and the gambling industry as a whole from the constant bad publicity that surrounds illegal gambling’s fixing scandals is growing. To combat this, governments must be willing to grasp the nettle and put in place proper legal facilities.
Whilst some countries have created the forward thinking legislation required to liberalize markets for gamblers removing the base cause of illegal gambling, other are yet to be so bold. Only the future will show us if they can step up to the challenges posed.
Modern technology can provide the facility for safe, secure, regulated gambling in the privacy of a citizen’s home. That this option is denied to people that instead must associate themselves with criminals seems in of itself quite wrong.
Gambling is here to stay, illegal gambling should be asked to leave. The wasted tax revenues, the cost of law enforcement and the damage to legal gambling’s good name should be more than enough to incline governments do their utmost in combating this virulent problem.