Online gambling gets 'watershed moment'

NASHVILLE (BP) -- Online gambling got a big boost Wednesday (May 1) as Nevada became the first state to allow real-money Internet gambling with the launch of a Las Vegas-based online poker site.

Observers called the opening day at UltimatePoker.com "a watershed moment for gaming," USA Today said, and the company's chairman said rather than competing for business in traditional poker rooms, the online option "will only grow new business."

"This is like 1978 in Reno when the MGM-Grand opened. We'd never had a corporation like that before, that big a player," Reno gaming analyst Ken Adams told USA Today.

The target audience is the 21- to 45-year-old male who "embraces technology" and has disposable income, the newspaper said. Online poker will be available at all hours, and guidelines say players must be at least 21 and physically within state lines.

Poker games will be played on personal computers, USA Today said, from accounts funded by MasterCard, checks or wire transfers.

Southern Baptist ethicist Barrett Duke said this demonstrates the gambling industry's lust for money knows no boundaries.

"The introduction of state-regulated online poker piles another burden onto America's beleaguered families. Already, the average American family is beset by rising costs. Now, many families will have to deal with the additional burden of gambling-addicted family members losing vast sums gambling on their personal computers," Duke, vice president for public policy and research at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press.

Churches will have a vital role to play as the nation forges ahead into online gambling.

"Our churches will need to prepare their members to understand the dangers involved with gambling and to watch for these additional problems among their family members," Duke said. "Many states are looking to add online gambling. It's going to get really bad if we can't rein it in. Concerned people in other states need to be aware that their states may be considering pumping gambling into their homes as well and contact their state representatives to put a stop to it."

New Jersey and Delaware are among the states that have been trying to launch full online casino-style gambling but have been held back by regulatory negotiations. Nevada this year accelerated legislation to become the first state to achieve the goal.

USA Today noted that Nevada will have to address concerns such as online gambling crossing state lines, "which will require interstate compacts and could spur federal regulatory attention."


Erin Roach is Baptist Press’ assistant editor. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).