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Online Gaming on the Rise

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  • Online Gaming on the Rise

    Online gaming on the rise

    By GREG BONNELL -- Canadian Press

    TORONTO (CP) -- The game is blackjack. You toss out a $100 chip to start. The house is showing the 10 of clubs. You're dealt the eight of diamonds and the three of hearts. "Hit me," you instruct the dealer.

    It's a face card, the king of clubs.

    That's 21, and so your winnings grow. You nonchalantly motion over your shoulder for a drink, but then realize no one's there. You're not in a real casino. You've been gambling online from your home computer.

    The variety of gambling opportunities is enormous for those hungry to cyber wager. Try your luck at blackjack, roulette, craps, baccarat, or the slots. Not sure were to begin? Surf to for a comprehensive list of Web sites to roll the dice on.

    Although online gambling is illegal in Canada and the U.S., the Internet largely ignores political boundaries. And so far regulatory bodies in both countries have been unable to find effective ways to address the issue.

    In Canada, only provinces have the right to operate or license gambling operations. The U.S. also outlaws cyber wagering, but many North American companies are skirting the law by locating their servers offshore in places like Antigua.

    If you're comfortable with that, you might start at, where you can wager pretend credits. But for the serious gambler, there are plenty of cyber casinos where you can risk big bucks, win or lose.

    Although the traditional method of settling and collecting on wagers has been the credit card, some companies are now refusing to let their cards be used for online gambling.

    Another option is PayPal ( Widely associated with EBay, the company based in Palo Alto, Calif., collects fees for arranging e-commerce payments through e-mail.

    Once you've chosen a method of payment, the online casino is open to you, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    That's not a problem if you take a healthy approach to gambling, says Dr. Nigel Turner of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

    When taken as entertainment, losing $100 to an online casino can be equated to spending the same amount in a restaurant on a Saturday night. But Turner says the warning signs of a serious gambling addiction shouldn't be ignored.

    "Increase in bets, especially after a loss; gambling to escape from depression, boredom, and unpleasant moods; gambling as a way of escaping financially from your life," are all telltale signs of problem behaviour, says Turner.

    And the primary reason people develop gambling problems? "Erroneous beliefs about one's chances of winning."

    The number of people in treatment for online gambling is still small, but Turner warns of addiction possibilities among the younger, Internet-savvy generation.

    "There is some evidence that the highest rates for problem gambling are amongst people 18 to 24. If you extrapolate, these are also people who are quite comfortable with computers."

    And younger gamblers are less likely to show up for treatment.

    "It's not until pretty severe financial consequences emerge do people identify themselves as having a gambling problem," says Turner.

    But the very technology used to create cyber casinos could be made to help out-of-control gamblers. The computer records every betting transaction, every wager placed.

    "Perhaps the computer could identify anyone who doubles their bets in a systematic way, and a warning could be sent to that person," Turner said.

    The cyber gaming industry may still be in its infancy, but it is already a significant presence. And its greatest potential for harm is to those with a gambling addiction and a home Internet connection, says Turner.

    "There's no place, essentially, where the problem gambler can go to say 'I'm safe from temptation.'"