Online gambling has been getting a lot of coverage lately in the mainstream press, most of which has been negative. Newspapers like to talk about broken marriages, massive credit card debt, and shady offshore operations because those kinds of stories sell papers. But they don’t seem to be interested in writing much else, and that’s hurting the online casino industry.
Two of the most recent examples of this growing trend appeared in the New York Times and the National Post over the past few weeks.
The Times article was about the credit card processing problems that some casinos are facing, and it started off with a bang: “Mining the margins of legality” was the first line. The article paints a glum, but relatively accurate, picture of an industry that is struggling because of its bad reputation. And that bad reputation is due in part to – wait for it – bad press.
The second article, which appeared in the Canadian Post, was about a new ‘organization’ that has been created to supposedly safeguard players from the scourge of online Togel Hongkong casinos. Unlike the Times article, this piece wasn’t encumbered by the normal constraints of balanced reporting.
Much of the article is devoted to the so-called problems with online casinos and the (questionable) solutions offered by this company. The worst part was the last sentence, a quote from a disgruntled player: “‘You didn’t really seem to have a fair chance of winning.'”
That was particularly tough to swallow in light of the fact that the author didn’t bother to talk to a casino operator to get that side of the story. But that wouldn’t have added much to the piece, would it?
Even though these articles deal with different issues, they both approach the topic with a similar bias: online gambling is bad and players are likely to get burned. I can understand taking that stand in an editorial, but unless I’m sorely mistaken, these were supposed to be news pieces.
So why do articles like this keep showing up in the mainstream (i.e. non-gambling) press? Because greed, corruption, crime, and personal loss – all of which are rampant in the online gambling industry if you believe what you read – make for good copy.
The business of Internet wagering has developed a reputation, in no small part thanks to the media, for being a Caribbean-operated shell game designed to defraud honest, hard-working people. People who just happened to find a casino site, register, download the software package, enter their credit card information, buy credits, and wager money. But that’s not the point here.
The biggest problem with most of these stories is that they conveniently ignore the issue of personal responsibility in the search for online gambling’s latest victim. No one is forcing these people to place a bet on the Internet, and anyone who gets burned after blindly sending off their credit card information doesn’t exactly deserve a whole lot of sympathy, never mind a few hundred words in an international publication.
Industry experts would be the first to agree that there have been unfortunate incidents in the past with casinos folding and players losing their money, but things have changed a fair bit in the last few years. What’s more, those incidents don’t mean that the whole industry is Evil – contrary to what most newspapers would have people believe.
The reality, however, is that all this bad press has a ripple effect, especially on people who don’t know anything about the industry or play at Internet casinos. Every casino gets tarred with the same sensationalized brush, regardless of the type of operation they run.
The online wagering industry needs to get off its collective butt and do a little spin doctoring of its own to improve its image. People who don’t already play need to hear – from a reputable source – that gambling online is fun, that it’s safe, and that people do actually win big money.
This is going to be an uphill battle because the Net gambling community doesn’t have a unified voice like the American Gaming Association to sing its praises, but it is an important one. And if casino operators aren’t careful, they may wake up one morning to find that all the bad publicity has put them out of business.