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Is It Safe to Gamble Online?

I am not naive enough to believe that there is not some risk in giving your credit card number to an off-shore Internet casino.  On the surface this sounds like an extremely foolish thing to do.  Only the kind of person who would play a craps game where the house uses "invisible dice" would dare to do such a thing.  Or is that accurate?

In looking to exploit the flaw that many Internet casinos exhibit, we must turn a cold and unfeeling eye on the safety of dealing with persons who are beyond our reach if they decide to cheat us.

By and large, online casinos pay because it is in their self interest to do so.  The commitment to set up an online casino is not a small one, and it is in the casino's own best interest to keep its customers coming back.

In my own experience playing at the Internet casinos and through extensive research, I have found few instances of blatant ripoffs.  Some casinos drag their feet on paying out winnings and others are slow to honor bonuses they offered for playing there, but for the most part, Internet casinos pay winnings and return deposits.

Internet gambling operators have to set up sites which can handle thousands of players simultaneously, each one clicking his mouse 40, 50 or even 60 clicks per minute.  They must also support many languages besides English to attract players in Europe and Asia, where online betting isn't such a legal gray area.

Perhaps the most nettlesome are the financial transactions.  Cyber-casinos handle transactions involving credit cards, debit cards, bank drafts, personal checks, electronic currency transfers and even cash.  And even doesn't have to worry about how to pay out $50,000 jackpots.

Gambling entrepreneurs from the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and even Israel have set down roots in the Caribbean islands, especially Antigua.  While Antigua is just one of many countries to legalize online gambling, it is instructive to look at it.

Antigua has a strong self interest in maintaining the reputation of its licensed casinos.  "Gambling provides revenue to the country but also employment and indirect economic benefits," stated Vere Murphy, commissioner of the Free Trade and Processing Zone, which licenses and regulates Internet gambling companies licensed in Antigua.

Murphy sees himself as something of a cybercop, enforcing licensing laws and chasing away lawbreakers.  So far, he's collected $6 to $7 million in license fees from the 32 online casinos and sportsbooks he has sanctioned.

Terry Bowering has paid his $100,000 annual license fee to Antigua and scoffs at the idea that online casino executives run a crooked business, hide from the law or fleece naive players

For Bowering, a vice president of offshore operations at Starnet Communications International Inc., one of the major players in offshore gambling, Internet gambling is a legitimate form of electronic commerce that lawmakers don't understand.  "We're pioneers.  We're the future.  We're sticking to a marketing strategy and a business plan," said Bowering a 38-year old former stock broker and financial consultant.  "We're not typical bookies.  We're MBAs."

Another cybercasino executive with Boss Casinos Ltd., commented, "We don't sit here drinking umbrella drinks.  We deal with other people's money and must have backup procedures and a fire-safe area and strict rules.  It's almost a bank."

Many companies have hired Big Five accounting firms to audit their businesses including the software used to create the virtual casinos.  For example, English Harbour Casino, on the southern tip of the island, uses Deloitte and Touche, while Boss Casinos employs PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Starnet and rival Inland Entertainment in San Diego, which runs three online casinos, like to point out that they're publicly traded firms that must report detailed financial as well as company data.

Managing risks financial, legal and security is what the business is all about.  Bengtsson, a confident 30-year old ex-blackjack dealer runs Boss Casinos.  "Security we take quite seriously."  The credit card, passport and other data requested of players "never leaves this building. All staff is cleared by Interpol," and gun-toting local police watch the premises 12 hours a day.

The investment in setting up an Internet gaming business can be substantial.  An operator needs to be prepared to invest at least $100,000 in software.  Servers and hardware infrastructure can run another $10,000 to $20,000.  Government licensing can run from $25,000 to as high as $350,000 a year.

Monthly operating costs, including promotion, can well exceed $25,000.  The cost of software development can be avoided by partnering with an established software company such as Starnet, which will then take a large share of the online casino's profits.

 The investments required, as well as licensing requirements such as those in Antigua, add credibility and a degree of reliability to the offshore operators.

This information was taken from the Online Gambling Toolkit!


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