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Are gambling scams still common?

Gambling scams have existed since gambling itself began – and while regulators and providers have tried their hardest to improve safety and security, the reality is that scams are not going away any time soon.

A more pertinent question for gamers and providers alike, though, is not whether scams exist but whether they are common – while the evidence suggests that efforts to tackle scams are increasingly successful.

With land-based casino revenues plummeting this year, it’s in the best interests of both the reputable operators and the users that scams continue to be stomped out wherever they happen to show up.

Reliable information on the prevalence of gambling scams in the US is not widely available, for a range of reasons. But the information that does exist goes to show that rates of “game abuse” are dropping. That, coupled with the presence of scam-busting review sites and better regulatory frameworks, suggests that the anti-scam forces are strengthening further. This article will delve into the ins and outs of the topic.

Facts and figures

Before going into more detail about the state of the gambling industry in terms of safety and security, it is worth considering what reputable authorities have to say on the subject. Gambling scam figures from the US are somewhat hard to come by, which may be as a result of the relatively fragmented regulatory landscape: states have different rules and laws around gambling, for example, and collecting information from such a diverse set of locations might be hard.

But the limited research available on the topic does offer some positive perspectives. One investigation featured in Innovation's 2019 Gambling Industry Report found that while growth in cheating and “game abuse” stood at 55% in 2017, the growth rate slowed the following year to just 12% – suggesting that some additional steps may have been taken by gambling firms to minimize weak points in their systems.

More proactive regulation?

In better news, however, regulation of gambling sites has surged in recent years, which adds another layer of protection to consumers looking to place a wager. In the US, it was in fact the case that online sports gambling was so heavily regulated until relatively recently that it was almost impossible to place a sports wager at all. The existence of PASPA, or the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, ensured that almost all sports betting in the US was out of bounds, apart from in very specific locations.

PASPA was repealed in 2018, which certainly opened up sports betting to a wider audience. But the culture of regulating gambling in the US, which PASPA arguably created, has persisted. In many jurisdictions, firms must do certain things to ensure the safety and security of their sites – including maintaining strong accountancy systems, filing comprehensive reports every so often, and more.

Review sites

In a sense, the Internet has disadvantaged gamblers, given the increased risk of fraud in the relatively lawless environment of the web. But it’s also the case that gamblers now have more resources with which to tackle fraud than ever before. The existence of review sites is a prime example: thanks to sites like scams.info, gamblers can now play on online gambling sites with more confidence. These sites have sprung up in great numbers in recent years, and they are designed to alert gamblers to potential scam sites. Often, these review sites are user-maintained – meaning that someone who has had the unfortunate experience of being scammed can share their knowledge in a submission and reduce the risk of others falling victim to the same fate.

In addition, gamblers can easily find information about how to approach the authorities in the event of fraud being carried out against them. At the touch of a button, they can pull up information about their state’s online crime-fighting or anti-fraud division, for example, while they can also approach the relevant regulator in their jurisdiction with ease. While the opportunities to gamble were perhaps more limited a decade or two ago, the opportunities to find out how to get redress in the event of a scam – and to tackle problems in the industry – were similarly restricted.

Overall, it’s certainly the case that gambling scams still exist. They are, unfortunately, likely to exist no matter what regulators and firms do to prevent them. But it is also a fact that the prevalence of gambling scams can be tackled. Thanks to the efforts of governments, providers, regulators and anti-scam review sites, gamblers can play with increased confidence that someone is on their side to protect them and their hard-earned cash.