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Poker & online gambling catch on

by Monica Pleuler, staff writer


In 2003, Chris Moneymaker, an amateur, rose from obscurity to win $2.5 million at The World Series of Poker at Binion’s Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas. His victory sparked the interest of amateur poker players everywhere. Maybe the notion of “anybody” winning catches the public’s attention. Over the past two years, many people have tried to be that “anybody” by playing online at such sites as Party, Poker, and Paradise


Are all these people playing online poker legally you ask? Yes, according to some, these poker Web sites are run off of mainframe computers based outside of the United States.


However, all state laws prohibit Internet gambling. The U.S Department of Justice has taken a firm stand on the position that online gambling is in violation of the Federal 1961 Wire Communications Act, which prohibits electronic interstate wagering. However, according to Sam Braid’s recent book, The Intelligent Guide to Poker, because the Website are offshore--players of online games send secure credit card payments through the Web—the games are legal for U.S. residents.

According to Lt. Walter Ozeki of the Honolulu Police Department, online gambling is a gray area for the federal government, but not for Hawai‘i: “All the laws still apply because you are placing the bet here,” Ozeki said.

The recent heavy infusion of poker into people’s lives has some other drawbacks. According to the National Gambling Impact Commission, 1.2 percent of the total American population (2.5 million) has a gambling addiction. Gambling addictions can negatively impact every aspect of life, from learning and school performance to mental and physical health.

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, the 18-24 year-old age group has the highest rates of addiction. Oddly enough, this age group is usually in college around this time as well.

The college years may represent a heightened risk for developing gambling problems because this period is associated with a wide range of at-risk behaviors, including heavy use of alcohol and because online gambling has become both socially accepted and accessible. The council reports that 6 to 12 percent of 18 to 20 year olds are addicted to gambling. Easy availability and the opportunities to make bets and win big can push college students to start gambling.


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