Antigambling law fails to stop employees gambling

A law prohibiting US financial institutions from processing payments to online gambling sites hasn’t stopped US employees from visiting sports betting sites, according to cybersecurity vendor ScanSafe.

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A law prohibiting US financial institutions from processing payments to online gambling sites hasn’t stopped US employees from visiting sports betting sites, according to cybersecurity vendor ScanSafe.

Attempted visits to online gambling websites by employees of ScanSafe’s US customers were up 77 per cent in the week between 23 January and 31 January 2006. The Super Bowl, the National Football League's championship game, is Sunday.

ScanSafe provides a web-blocking service to large businesses and it examines 6 billion web requests a month.

In October 2006, President George Bush signed into law a measure prohibiting financial institutions from processing payments to gambling sites. The government has until mid-July 2007 to develop the processing regulations for financial institutions.

But some online gambling sites have begun telling US customers that financial institutions are already distancing themselves. On 31 January 2007, PokerRoom.com told US customers to cash out.

“The remaining companies that process cashouts from PokerRoom.com to our players in the United States have contacted us to say that in the near future they will no longer facilitate these transactions," said a message on PokerRoom’s homepage. “As such we would advise all American players that have not cashed out already, to do so immediately.”

The gambling provision, amended by Congress onto a ports security bill in late September, has had no impact on the number of people visiting gambling websites, said Dan Nadir, vice-president for product strategy at ScanSafe. ScanSafe doesn’t track whether those people completed bets, he said.

“We suspected [the law] wouldn't have much of an impact,” Nadir said. Some gambling sites will develop alternative payment mechanisms, he said.

ScanSafe didn’t provide the raw numbers of visits to gambling sites this past week, but gambling represented about 3.4 per cent of the content it blocked for clients in 2006. By comparison, 15.1 per cent of the blocked content was chat or instant messaging, 14.6 per cent was advertising, 7.2 per cent was web mail and 3.9 per cent was pornography.

Visits to sports betting sites such as Bodog.com were common this past week, Nadir said. About 53 per cent of the US visits to gambling sites ScanSafe observed this past week were to sports betting sites, as opposed to casino or lottery sites. Bodog didn’t immediately respond to an email asking if its business has been hurt by the US law.

About 84 per cent of ScanSafe's customers blocked employee access to gambling sites. Companies block employees from gambling sites for a couple of reasons: because they don’t trust that gambling sites are safe and because they don’t want employees playing games on company time, Nadir said.

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