Should Smartphone Gambling Be Legal?

August 30th, 2012 by Andrea Bennett

American gamers are a step closer to cashing in – or losing – real money.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

For online gamers, the future of placing real money bets from a smartphone is tantalizingly close.

According to a Bloomberg Businessweek article, Seattle-based Big Fish Games, Inc., is introducing a version of its gambling application Big Fish Casino in the UK, where online gambling using real money is legal. The app is a slot machine game, with versions including poker, roulette and blackjack on the way.

And while such gambling is currently illegal in the U.S., states including California, Nevada and New Jersey are considering passing laws to legalize real-money online gambling to boost tax revenue. The Wall Street Journal reports that game maker Zynga has begun a lobbying effort in Washington, D.C. and California to bring online gambling with real money to U.S. soil. Last year, WSJ reports, the U.S. Justice Department indicated that states could start developing regulations for online gambling, and that federal legislation to regulate it might also be possible. 

In the meantime, what’s the motivation for developers such as Zynga to launch real mobile gambling abroad? Try an estimated $100 billion per year on smartphones and tablets by 2017, according to Juniper Research. That’s up from $20 billion last year – serious motivation for Big Fish and others to launch real-money apps, even if they’re not allowed here in the states. According to a Fast Company story, the average gambler represents $1800 in profits for a gaming company over the course of a lifetime; a casual social gamer is only worth $2. 

Should the U.S. make cashing in – or betting the farm – legal from your smartphone? Fast Company suggests that if the apps take off overseas, “that may be enough impetus for gaming companies to spearhead changes to prohibitive state and federal laws around real-money online gambling.” A winning bet for the U.S., or a major loser? Weigh in.