Will Online Bingo Turn Legal for US Players?

The Legalisation of Online Bingo May Start In Washington DC

The capital of the United States, Washington DC, The District of Columbia, a unique city-state much like the Vatican, is moving ahead with legalising online gambling like bingo. [1] The new strategy aims to regulate the popular hobby, whilst also raking in millions of tax dollars from online casinos. Other states are in the process of passing legislation allowing Internet gambling, or at the very least allowing online poker (since this game has been measured as 90% of the online gaming market). [2]

As soon as the first state supplies a precedent by legalizing online gambling, a snow-ball effect is likely to start: for the obvious reasons that other states will not have to risk taking a political or moral fall alone, and, the early adopters of this new legislation will add the most money to their state budgets by being ahead of the competition (i.e., other states).

Could this trend ¾ which shows a precise place where the Internet is influencing local politics (perhaps even national and global policies) ¾ mean that we are seeing the actual influence of the ‘world wide web’ ethical paradigm? The online world view assumes that everything under the sun is already posted or functioning on the Web. And that being the case, since fighting back the entire world is not feasible, it seems wholly rational to simply tolerate and enfranchise various human interests that had hitherto been censured or even unlawful, while at the same time exacting upon them the same taxation and regulation to which all other (legitimate) business activity is subject.

There is a known example of one society that took up a ‘world wide web’ attitude well before the advent of the Internet. It probably had to do with the fact that The Netherlands was Europe’s most powerful port and shipping country (a port of ideas, we might say), and this required a tremendous amount of collective organization and consensus. Everything in the wide world was available at Amsterdam. The Dutch decided early in their modern history that the best way for a tiny over-crowded country to function was to grant everyone sufficient liberties, a general tolerance of diverse and marginal pleasures and vices, as the incentive to work as a whole with incredible efficiency. One exigency for them was to untiringly ‘reclaim’ scarce land from the sea and keep it dry, which is an achievement of unthinkable technical and social complexity. The upshot of this history is that now, being Dutch, if you wish it you have access to various taboo things (soft drugs, prostitution, gambling) in exchange, ideally, for society as a whole counting upon your allegiance as a citizen in the overall Dutch socio-cultural program, which is an implicitly cooperative endeavour.

Could something similar be happening in the United States, perhaps Britain and more nations on the Continent? Or, moreover, could this new paradigm of tolerance simply catch on as a new form of human rights? If it does it will be among the first global ideas that shows the mark of virtual life (the World Wide Web manifest as online spaces) upon real life. This also marks the importance of the Internet for contemporary (urban) social functioning, as opposed to merely treating it as an entertainment medium.

And yet, entertainment medium the Internet most definitely is! And it probably will come to be regarded as humankind’s cultural portal par excellence, a medium of pure play as well as hard fact (or soft opinions).

Ethically, it makes more sense to preserve pathways between those members of society who are interested in abnormal experiences or even who are vulnerable to addiction (regardless of the substance or game) and society as a whole. Otherwise, those who may experience temporary deviances find themselves alienated and indeed liable to do more harm in the shadows ¾ the simple economic logic is that each person who ‘hits rock bottom’ as a pariah will eventually cost the State more than they would have using safe, visible ways to debauch. People will debauch, no matter what laws are in place, or so goes this logic.

A switch to the tolerance of online gambling could not come at a more opportune time for gaming companies who already have a firm footing in the space. Particularly those keystone bingo brands who have invested in developing mobile applications for their popular online games have good reason to celebrate the growing groundswell for legalisation.

The bingo apps available for iPhone, Android, iPad and other devises are highly addictive. One reason is the tactility that a touch screen offers the bingo player ¾ at moments this breathtaking technical feature makes an online bingo card more compelling than a paper card. The social aspect built into bingo is satisfied by integrated chat windows alongside virtual bingo cards. And, in a cross-pollination within the bingo world, the practice of delivering extra entertainment programming in-between games is also coming to pass in traditional brick and mortar bingo halls (the biggest of which is replacing its paper score cards with handheld tablet computers). This sudden leap in technological and social appeal is a boon for the online bingo business. But what might be some of the presumed benefits to society?

In fact, the initial difficulty of grappling with the change of perspective and greater empathy required of a tolerant society may cast much doubt upon legalised online gambling. It may not seem worth the risk, the trouble, the corruption. Already during the early stirrings to pass a legalisation bill in Alabama, senators are being accused of attracting ‘contributions’ for their pains. [3]

The gains, however, include a significant in-flux of hard cash for local budgets (during very lean years) as well as the inevitable adoption of progressive  policies towards addiction and gambling-related crime, policies guided by a systemic comprehension of the value of facing such problems head on. The Internet’s power as a global medium plus the powerful applications offered by the likes of Google and social networking sites comprise a new cultural landscape that lends itself to practical inclusiveness: a new Web-inspired Realpolitik. In the case of online bingo, what is at stake is not power, but instead the power to entertain oneself as one sees fits (or, more philosophically, the power to cope with the human condition as one sees fits). That power has already had its debut in principle with the Web itself (during its transition to mainstream medium); now is the era in which this principle will be applied across a wide range of concrete situations, altering social interactions and mores.



[1] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/jun/27/debut-dates-planned-for-internet-gambling/

[2] http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2011/jun/26/odds-favor-online-wagers/