FTC Warns of Kids' Access to I-Gaming Sites

27 June 2002

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission warned consumers on Wednesday that it believes children have too much access to Internet gambling sites.

The agency had conducted an informal survey of more than 100 randomly chosen gambling Web sites and found that 20 percent of them had no warning about underage gambling prohibitions. Timothy J. Muris, FTC chairman, said the study indicates that children can access online gambling sites easily and are often exposed to I-gaming ads on non-gambling Web sites.

"Our informal review of gambling Web sites, child-oriented sites and non-gambling sites was a valuable education," he said. "Here's what we learned: Online gambling and kids is a bad bet."

The FTC issued a press release about its findings. In the release, the agency states that "The FTC staff found that the gambling sites had inadequate or hard-to-find warnings about underage gambling." It was not stated whether this was the conclusion for all 100 sites.

In addition, the press release said many sites had no effective mechanism to block children from entering the sites. It does not say how many of the sites that statement applies to. When IGN asked an FTC spokesman for the percentage of sites that did not block children, the spokesman said he didn't know.

Keith Furlong, deputy director of the Interactive Gaming Council, said the survey results are somewhat confusing because the press release doesn't explain whether kids can actually register and gamble online or whether they can simply visit the sites.

"There's a difference between kids just going to the site and kids actually playing for real money on a site," he said. " You know, kids can go to any site on the Internet, really, and that's why the Interactive Gaming Council is working with the Internet Content Rating Association to set up content labeling."

Furlong said the IGC has been coordinating with ICRA to encourage the IGC's member sites to label their content as gambling so that parents can choose to block their children's access. He also said he believes that regulation of Internet gambling for U.S. residents would better protect children and compulsive gamblers than prohibition of it.

"Prohibition or prohibitory legislation has never been very successful in our society," he said. "It's been six years now that they've tried with legislation to prohibit Internet gaming. There's so many different interests, between the horse racing industry, native Americans, the traditional casinos and the interactive casinos, that there needs to be some kind of regulation set up to establish something that is done right and done fair, so players are protected and kids can't get in."

One legislator who has been trying to prohibit Internet gambling, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., issued a statement praising the FTC on its findings.

"Web users including children, who make up the largest percentage of Internet users, are constantly confronted with unsolicited banner ads linking to Internet gambling sites. These sites operate without all of the necessary safeguards that are in place for the legalized gaming industry, which ensure that children are protected from gambling."

Anne Lindner can be reached at anne@rivercitygroup.com.