One of the most common arguments by opponents of online gambling is the fact that children are more easily exposed to internet casinos and will some may make attempts to play. Children cannot help but be attracted to the flashy software, fun games and even the chance of winning cash. We all agree, however, that online casinos and the very act of gambling, should not be part of the world of any child.
The fact of the matter is that this is a justifiable argument and one which should be - and is being - addressed by the international online gambling community. There is no reason why those under the age of 18 should be able to access online casinos, and this point is obviously one that everyone agrees on. The question is: what should online casinos really be doing to protect minors. In addition, what part do parents play in keeping their children protected?
The Protection of Minors in Australia
First of all, it should be noted that Australia is part of the OECD and is a signatory on the report entitled "The Protection of Children Online." One of the policies recommended in the report is that interest groups should encourage the development and adopt technologies for the protection of children online, including "fostering further research on privacy protective, interoperable and user friendly technical measures, including parental controls and age verification systems".
How Online Casinos Protect Minors
Online casinos are by and large committed to responsible gambling, as well as dedicated to a positive gaming experience for all players. However, these sites also recognize that there will be a small percentage of players who will attempt to play when they are not of the legal age to do so - generally under 18 years of age.
Online casinos are committed to protecting those who should not be playing at their sites and they therefore have a number of policies in place to minimize the risk of minors accessing games.
Age verification is the most commonly used method to ensure that minors do not play at online casinos. In general, anybody signing up for a new account at an online casino has to indicate that they are at least 18 years of age. This is the first step in notifying players that minors will not be accepted.
Once an account has been created, more details are submitted, including name, address and date of birth. This is to confirm that the player is legally of the age to the gamble. Customers who fund their accounts with at-risk payment methods are always locked at the point of registration until their true age has been verified, and more verification checks are carried out throughout the process.
Casinos also make it very clear on their websites that if anyone under the age of 18 is found using the website, and they have somehow managed to slip through the obstacles put in place to prevent minor's accessing the site, their winnings will be forfeited. In some cases, minors will also be reported to the authorities.
Australia's Interactive Gambling Act (2001) makes it an offense for online gambling groups to offer real-money online interactive gambling to residents of Australia, and to advertise their products for these services.
Having said that, multiple off-shore online casino groups attract Australian players and offer them the opportunity to pay for their gaming sessions in Australian dollars.
What the vast majority of these online casinos do not - and rightfully, SHOULD not do - is target underage players through their marketing and advertising. It is neither considered good business behavior nor socially responsible to market gambling products to minors or other vulnerable sectors of the community.
The Role of Parents
While online casinos should do everything in their power - both through business policies and technology - to keep minors from accessing their accounts, it should not be ignored that parents play a vital role in keeping their children protected.
Steps recommended to parents include:
- Filtering systems: Parents can regulate minors' access to the internet based on selected criteria. In doing so, gambling sites can be kept out of bounds. Casinos 'label' their pages so that filter systems can detect them and keep their pages blocked.
- Parental supervision: Parents are told not to give their kids free reign of the computer and should be mindful of which sites are being accessed.
- Creation of Separate Profiles: Parents are advised to create separate profiles on their computer systems for their children to use, so that minors are kept away from regular sites that their parents use.
- Casino precautions: Parents who have existing accounts at online casinos should remember to log out when away from the computer and not save passwords for easy access. A good rule of thumb is never to use the Save Password feature for an online gambling site so as to prevent anybody unauthorized to access the site.
Are Casinos Doing Enough?
It can be safely said that leading online casinos, especially those powered by top brand software providers, take their responsible gambling policies very seriously. As such, they do everything in their power to protect minors.
Having said that, it should always remain on the top of these sites' priority list to keep up to date with the latest internet security technologies and developments so that they can continue to protect minors as best as they can.
If the online casino industry and parents work hand in hand to keep minors protected and underage players away from these sites, opponents of i-gambling will realize that this matter is being seriously addressed.