The relatively new phenomenon of the online casino, about a decade or so old, means that blackjack, bingo, slot machines or the casino game of your choice can now be played on an Internet-connected computer. Thanks are owed to both the growth of the online gambling industry and the penetration of the Internet into American society.
One thing about the online casinos that have made them so popular is the choice of games. The number of casino games online is simply astounding, as is the variety. Naturally, the choice of a casino is equally important, and once again the speed and ubiquity of the Internet allows people to move quickly and effortlessly (and cheaply) through various casinos until they find their favorite. The virtual world has opened a whole new (and lucrative) niche in the market for gambling.
Of course, one thing online casinos cannot replace is the atmosphere of an “on-land” casino – dressing up, being served free drinks, the lights and the glamour are all part of the Vegas-style casino experience. However, it is this very experience that has allowed the online casinos to lure customers away from the Strip or the Indian reservation to their sites.
Behind the glitz and glamour at the brick-and-mortar casinos, many people see potential intimidation, criminality and fakery. It is particularly the new or inexperienced gamblers who are likely to feel this way, especially at fast-moving table games where they are expected to be on the ball like everyone else. If they’re not, though, they are spotted a mile off as easy prey.
One of the great things about gambling at an online casino is being able to play for free. The online casinos are relatively inexpensive to operate in terms of staff salaries, so they are able to offer players free games where they can play without spending any money. This gives the players the chance to practice the game, develop a strategy and potentially enhance their odds. The more practice you have, the better equipped you are to avoid preventable mistakes that will cost you real bucks later.
Some people, however, are not happy with the online casino boom. People in anti-gambling groups complain that the online casinos are directly targeting vulnerable and possibly compulsive players. Gamblers no longer have to venture out of their homes to place bets, since it is so easy to just turn on a computer and do it all from the house. There is also less chance to monitor or restrict access to online casinos – no matter what limits people may have exceeded or how intoxicated (or underage) they are.
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Of course, it’s not as if the Vegas and Atlantic City casino operations are on one side of the market and the online casinos on the other. Some of the large gaming conglomerates own both kinds. In addition to savings on reduced expenses for rent and staff, online casino owners also realize substantial savings in security-no videotaping, surveillance cameras, rooms full of monitors or other costly measures. As the software is protected behind server “firewalls” and is impervious to external “cyber attacks,” the costs of are reduced to “virtually” nothing.
If threats to online casino security increase in the future, the casino operators will be ready. They run the best security operations anywhere, probably on a par with most governments in the world, with unrivaled expertise in audio and video engineering, surveillance cameras, secure communications, hard disk recording and mobile electronics. They have former intelligence agency operatives, top scientists, retired military personnel and university professors on the payroll-and enough money to buy, or build, whatever they need.
The future will tell
Much of the fun and “event-like” nature of the casino is removed when gambling online. It is not unthinkable that people then begin to gamble more for the possibility of gaining something for nothing than for the fun and experience of gambling with friends in an on-land casino. The opposing argument is one of free choice: should the authorities decide what we can and cannot do with our money when it comes to gambling?
At present, legal gambling of all kinds, online and off, is in no danger of fading away. State lotteries, Indian casinos, horse racing, dog tracks and card parlors dot the American landscape with nearly the frequency of fast-food outlets. There are some movements, however, to reverse the trend. Will gambling continue to thrive or run into a resurgent abolitionist movement? Whatever the eventual answer to this question – and others concerning law, human nature and the future uses of incredibly pow