The Growing Trend of Mobile Gambling

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Gambling is diversifying. Native American Casinos and increasing legalization on state levels are making gambling more accessible in America than ever before, but so is something else: online gambling. As more in-person gambling locations open up, people continue to use online resources to achieve the same end.

Recently, this has taken a further step than just at home on your computer. Like everything else, gambling is becoming a mobile concept. Whether you’re updating your fantasy team on the go or putting in a bet on the big game, there are apps and websites that allow all kinds of bets to be placed from wherever you are.


International online gambling revenues are valued at $32 billion (that’s billion with a B) and are estimated by Juniper Research to exceed $100 billion by 2017. This doesn’t specify the percentage of which that is done from mobile devices such as smart phones or tablets. Currently, Zynga, the company responsible for such games as Farmville and its ilk, Maffia Wars and Words with Friends launched a real money gambling site in the U.K. in 2012 which had 770 million Euro in revenue inthat year. Several international sports book companies have several legal agreements in the US that allow them to operate in the country while based overseas.

Back in 2005 The Guardian reported about the growing mobile gaming trend. In the article it states, “Java-enabled graphics, colour-filled screens, technology that invoices on the monthly phone bill, and 3G networking combine to provide a service that rivals traditional gambling methods.” If this is true, then why haven’t we heard of any mobile gambling apps in the states in the nine years since the report?

Federal Prohibition

In 2006 the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was signed into law and used to aggressively pursue several online gambling groups. One of the most notable cases was U.S. v. Scheinbergin which PokerStars online casino and two other defendants settled with prosecutors for the forfeiture of more than $731 million. These actions all but shuttered the internet gambling business and preempted the possibility of mobile, real-money gaming in the USA. This is largely because the internet is inherently available across state lines. However, there are signs that mobile gaming will eventually come to involve real-money gambling.

State Based Legality

States like New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada have gotten around this prohibition through a minor loophole. The UIGEA doesn’t regulate internet casinos that operate entirely within the boundaries of an individual state. Slate reports on the formation of an agreement between Delaware and Nevada that allows residents of either state to use sites that are operated in each other’s borders.

Slate goes on to predict that other states will be interested in establishing their own legal online casinos and seek to join the agreement. If this comes to pass it would create a situation in which developers could create applications that will utilize this framework in any states that join the party. From there, the UIGEA would be applicable only to states that decline to join and create a situation that de facto eliminates the agreement.

If this is all true, the creation of online casinos accessible by smart phone or tablet application is around the corner and dependent on the willingness of state legislators. There would be a distinct willingness on the part of many game developers like Zynga, or anyone in the $12-billion mobile gaming industry, to create a programming framework for the states by which this could happen. Currently, it’s great news for anyone who wants to gamble outside of a brick and mortar casino in places like New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware but will likely come to include those who want to game on the go in those locations.

Overall, the outlook is good for anyone who’s interested in mobile online gaming as it promises to grow as individual states seek to get a piece of the pie. However, in spite of the unavailability of mobile gaming, or online gaming in general, in most locations there are still several poker and sports betting sites, to use. Interstate gambling may come to be a powerhouse as people continue to get access to it but there also may be a fight to be had between the Federal government and state governments regarding the potential application of UIGEA to these new interstate agreements.
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