Q Are Internet casinos safe? Some people say they are against the law, but I see advertisements for them everywhere. What's the deal?
A When you use the term "safe," I assume you're asking,Basil Nestor is the author of the new Playboy Complete Guide to Casino Gambling. This wonderful book teaches players how to avoid sucker bets and win more when playing gambling games. He is also the author of The Smarter Bet Guide series for video poker, slots, craps, and many other books about gambling. Basil's website is www.smarterbet.com
"Are Internet casinos legal businesses? Are the financial transactions secure and reliable? Is it legal for me to play at one of these casinos?"
Unfortunately, there are no absolute yes-or-no answers to these questions. Keep in mind that traditional "brick and mortar" casinos are regulated in the United States. In other words, individual states certify that licensed casinos are honest and that payoffs will be properly settled.
In contrast, Internet casinos operate outside of the United States. Thus they are unregulated (from the U.S. point of view). Essentially, "you pays yer money, and you takes yer chances." Some operators are honest, and some aren't. It is like buying a DVD player from a stranger at a yard sale in another city. Will you be cheated? You never know. Of course, some Internet casinos are licensed and regulated in the countries where they physically reside, but that is cold comfort if you have a dispute about a payment. Your state's attorney general doesn't have much influence in Costa Rica.
Practically speaking, many Internet casinos do conduct business reliably, and they do pay their debts. Online gaming
is a multi-billion dollar industry, and about half of that money comes from the Unites States, so clearly, most Internet casinos play and pay fairly. But you can't be "safe" just anywhere. It takes some research to separate the honest operators from the scammers.
And here's something else to consider... Internet gambling isn't just unregulated in the United States; it's illegal. Federal and state statutes are mostly aimed at prosecuting casino operators, so that's why you haven't seen stories about FBI teams arresting people who are playing blackjack in their pajamas. Placing a bet online is a "gray-area" activity...not necessarily illegal in some states, but definitely against the law in others. Ditto for Internet casino advertising. Confusing? Yup, it's clear as fog.
So is gambling online safe? Probably, yes, for now...if you choose a casino carefully, and if you don't break any state laws. Should you do it? That's a personal decision. But if you decide to take the plunge, just be prepared to lose your entire bankroll
. And I don't mean from a streak of bad luck.