Leading article: The merits of regulation

Share

Yesterday's international gathering at Ascot racecourse to discuss the regulation of gambling websites, and last month's surprise decision by the US legislature to ban banks from processing payments from such sites, represent two very different responses to the boom in online gambling. Of the two, the approach taking shape at Ascot is by far the more sensible.

There are serious doubts about whether the new US law - passed in an atmosphere of moral hysteria - will be effective. Americans will still have easy access to gambling sites registered abroad. Some will simply circumvent the restrictions by setting up offshore bank accounts. Indeed, it is likely that all this law will succeed in doing is driving America's 4 million internet gamblers underground.

The problem is that the internet, by virtue of its constantly changing nature and the ability of websites to flit between different national jurisdictions, is almost impossible to police. This is not just a problem with respect to gambling. Despite some well-publicised successes, authorities around the world are still finding it hard to locate and shut down sites selling child pornography. As soon as one is shut down, another springs up. Often they are registered in a country with no specific laws targeting online paedophilia, slowing the process of prosecuting those responsible. There is also a very different kind of problem with British patients - perfectly legally - purchasing medicines on US sites that would only be available on prescription over here.

What this shows is that, to be effective, any regulation of the internet has to be by global agreement. No single country will have much success acting alone. Of course, the US has a right to attempt to enforce its anti-gambling laws. And sympathy for those British-based gambling companies that have been hit hard by the US ruling must be limited. They knew that online gambling was illegal in the US, and that enforcement was a possibility. But the lure of the massive US market was too great to resist. Their directors gambled - and lost.

But the point remains that attempting to ban this activity is unwise. The approach outlined yesterday by the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, for a system of internationally enforceable rules for online betting sites is far more attractive. This would give the authorities more leverage to shut down more grossly irresponsible sites, such as those that encourage children to gamble. A system of regulation could also compel sites to inform customers of how much money they had lost. None of this will be possible in a world where online gambling sites are identified as an enemy to be hounded out of business - and online gamblers are treated like criminals.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply special needs assistants Jobs i...

Nursery Nurse

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Bristol: Nursery nurse jobs in Chippenham...

Science Teacher required for a lovely Ramsgate Secondary School

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education is working in...

SEN Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Teacher loo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Scottish polls, canvass returns and arguments. And Top 10 Tweets

John Rentoul
 

Letter from the Personal Finance Editor: Cutting out the middle man could spell disaster for employees and consumers alike

Simon Read
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week