Remember when gambling was such a chore?
Heck, if you wanted to play slots or roll the dice at a casino a decade ago, you had to leave the state of Ohio. Platforms like DraftKings and FanDuel hadn’t yet come online. And lottery kiosks weren’t as ubiquitous as ATMs (which they’ve since far surpassed).
All of these “advances” in Ohio’s gambling laws have at least incorporated some level of regulation. The intent is to make the platforms safer for the user, particularly as more competition enters the market.
One area lacking any guardrails? Cryptocurrencies.
You can’t make safer what you cannot cipher. Anonymity is key to crypto or what some call virtual money. By design, transactions are untraceable and users are unknowns. Some believe this approach protects data. However, anonymous can be ominous for problem gamblers, according to Maryhaven’s lead gambling addiction counselor Bruce Jones.
“We’ve seen clients whose livelihoods have essentially been hijacked by online crypto schemes because they racked up so much debt so quickly and had no way to pay it off,” notes Jones.
While online casinos or sports betting sites are required to collect information and work to help customers avoid excessive losses, the opposite is true in the world of digital money. This means no one checks on your well-being before it’s too late.
“Measures like Voluntary Exclusion really don’t exist in the cryptocurrency gambling world,” Jones adds. “Often, all you need is an email address and you can start betting. If you lose all of your money, you just create another account.”
Jones is not alone in sounding the alarm on unregulated cyber cash. Alex Costello, from the American Gaming Association told NBC News “This segment has exploded in a very short amount of time, and as a decentralized system, it makes it even more difficult to figure out how to go after them.”
Though not technically legal in any state, one survey found there are already 70 crypto-friendly casinos currently in operation. Jones says this increase can be documented by the rise in clients seeking help.
“We’re to the point now where this needs to become a priority,” he says. “The more I’ve learned about crypto, the more I’ve realized what I don’t know. Some protections, any protections, would definitely be a step in the right direction.”
In the same NBC interview, Costello said the AGA has discussed the topic with federal and state law enforcement. “Unfortunately, federal law enforcement [agencies] are a bit hamstrung, because these folks are obviously not regulated, not registered in the United States, and often not based in the United States, which often doesn’t allow for an easy prosecution.”
NBC also spoke with Keith Whyte, the executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, who, like Jones, sees crypto casinos as a worst-case scenario for those struggling with gambling addiction.
“Crypto gambling is just piling risk on top of risk,” Whyte said. “They are unregulated, and so they are likely to be unscrupulous operators with little or no consumer protection.”
Maybe virtual currency could start by adopting some real life ethics.
Maryhaven is here to help, both the gambler and those who love someone who may gamble too much. Call 614-324-5425 or go to maryhaven.com/gambling for more information.