|Gambling Internet websites lack adequate safeguards to prevent children and teenagers from placing illegal bets, federal regulators said Tuesday. |
In a survey of 100 popular Internet gambling sites, the Federal Trade Commission found that one in five had no warnings for minors and most had disclaimers that were hard to find. The sites also lacked screening mechanisms to keep children out or had blocks that kids could easily get around.
'There is a growing problem with kids engaged in online gambling,' FTC Chairman Timothy Muris said at a news conference. He said minors gambling online may use their parents' credit cards, costing them money and damaging their credit ratings.
'Our informal review of gambling websites, child-oriented sites, and non-gambling sites was a valuable education,' said Muris. 'Here's what we learned: Online gambling and kids is a bad bet.'
The agency is investigating at the request of Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., who said the Bush administration is not doing enough to protect children from online gambling.
'Young kids are becoming addicted,' Wolf said. 'This Internet stuff comes right into the family room.'
Muris said the FTC is continuing its research and plans to work with the online gambling industry to develop voluntary steps to protect children.
The majority of the gambling websites surveyed were based outside the United States, the FTC said. The agency did not identify the sites.
Sachin Jain was barely out of high school when he began four years of Internet gambling.
He said he spent up to three hours each day gambling online on sports, placing bets for between $50 and $150. He lost nearly $10,000 before his parents made him stop and get counselling.
'The attraction was you could bet on anything from soccer to golf to tennis,' said Jain, 22, a college student from Newark, Del. 'It got out of control.'