Child Gambling Protection Project is an organization whose main goal is to develop, maintain and improve software to block child gambling and prevent addictive online gaming. Currently, we focus on poker gambling by blocking access to downloadable software on the child`s computer as well as to poker websites.
We focus on providing parents with a tool to help prevent teenagers` addictive online gambling behavior. There are two purposes of our anti gambling software: preventive and reinforcing.
Parents realize that youth are prone to flashy advertisements as well as to peer pressure when it comes to online gambling. Poker gambling websites draw teenagers to gamble for money, which can lead to many problems in the teenager`s life. Currently, there are limited number of programs to block gambling on the market that block child gambling access to downloadable poker playing software as well as poker websites. Block online gambling is one our two main goals.
Mr. Paul Greenberg is the co-founder of the Child Gambling Protection Project. Mr. Greenberg has more than 10 years of Information Technology security, programming and system administration experience, in addition to consulting experience. Paul is the driving force behind the coding, packaging and development of the product.
Questions and Answers
by Trung Nguyen
Can you tell us a bit about the Child Gambling Protection Project?
Our goal is to educate parents how to control their child’s computer activities, and we provide the software that helps to block or prevent child gambling activities on the Internet. It is important to understand that Parental Control tools are not a 100% solution. In order to effectively control the child’s activity, parents need to be better at computers than their children. It is not that hard, it simply requires a little time to study, just like a Continuous Education Course. The only difference is that the parent does not get a Diploma, but ensures the child’s safety on the Internet.
You have over 10 years of experience in the Information Technology industry, specializing in Software Security, Data Protection, and Networking and Systems. How did you become involved with the Child Gambling Protection Project?
When I was a child, I saw my dad constantly playing card games; I admired my dad so much that I decided to be a professional card player myself at the age of 17. I was playing card games for money, and I was really good at what I did. I was winning, then loosing but overall was making money. Later on, I sign up at one of the first Internet casinos, and started playing there. I was spending 12 hours a day playing cards. As I grew up my dad moved from just a regular weekend game to casino tables 3 or 4 times a week. It all happened very fast….within a year he lost our family’s money, and became depressed for long time. As soon as I started to realize the affect of gambling, I was conscious enough to stop with my own gambling habits. I think it was a self-defense instinct.
Since cards were not the center of my universe anymore, I found my new hobby - computers. Over the years I gained necessary experience and knowledge in many areas of Information Technology. I believe that if I get something from the society (education, support, or knowledge) I always need to give back to the community.
One day one of the colleagues at work came to my office, and asked me for help. He needed a program that would block his son’s Internet poker gaming. His son was coming home after school and playing all day long at famous poker “non-money” gambling sites that are usually advertised on ESPN. His dad realized quickly what might be an outcome of such late night gaming. The child was totally addicted to it, he was spending long periods of time playing poker online. I researched the Internet and it was full of Parent control software that blocks gambling websites, but it would not block poker applications. That is why children are able to gamble - the fact is that Parent Control software doesn’t block applications (programs installed on the computer), it only blocks access to the websites. Also that kind of software is not free of charge.
It took me a while to write a program to stop him from accessing these applications, but it was not that sophisticated, and it took him a week to break it, and he was on his gambling track again. Then I wrote an update to this program, which was able to outsmart the tech savvy child. After that his dad suggested to me that it would be a great idea if I could develop “real” software for the public’s use.
That’s how it all started. It took me and a group of programmers a year to develop sophisticated programming code, which will be updateable and scalable in the long run. One of the goals was to make it simple to install/uninstall, and that its basic version should be Freely available.
Can you provide some statistics or facts about under-aged gambling that parents should be concerned about?
American Psychiatric Association labels people into four categories of gamblers:
• Social and recreational
The California Council on Problem Gambling reported in 2006 based on the telephone helpline statistics from 20,000 people that 3% of the callers were under the age of 21 and 3.6% of the callers were parents. This means 1,200 teenagers had gambling problems in California in 2006, based on the helpline statistics. Similar statistics appear to be in other states, which leads us to the conclusion that there are at a minimum 60,000 teenagers who have gambling addiction problems in the US. Additionally, Annenberg Foundation phone survey of 900 youth reports that 1.5% of teenagers polled used the internet to gamble weekly in 2007.
The youth could be anywhere in these four categories of gambling, however, the worrisome categories are in the bottom three as even the social and recreational category can become a problem and later an addiction.
Jerry Yang won $8,250,000 in the 2008 World Series of Poker Champions. Jamie Gold won $12,000,000 in 2007. Joe Hachem won $7,500,000 in 2006. People can become millionaires playing poker. Why try to stop kids from learning?
Some parents are so busy with their own lives that they forget about their children’s lives. How about to become next Bill Gates, Larry Page or Sergey Brin? Their knowledge and skills are worth much more than all poker winnings combined. And the most important thing is that nobody talks about consequences of gambling losses, they are just as big as the winnings. People always try to find an easy way out. There is no point to look for it. You know why I started to play card games? The answer is simple - I didn’t have the skills needed to earn the money any differently. Playing cards doesn’t require education, consistency, knowledge. If as a child someone educated me how to make money differently at the age of 16 I would have taken a different path. I was lucky enough to get out of it, and enter an industry that required consistent education, teamwork, respect. Others might not get to be so lucky, thus parents need to concentrate their efforts on preventing this behavior not only by installing this software, but to educate their children as to the dangers of gambling and to the alternatives as a pastime, such as sports, hobbies, etc.
This is what you`ve noted: “One of the goals was to make it simple to install/uninstall, and that its basic version should be freely available." Once a parent installs the program on a shared family computer, who can remove it? Or if the program is installed on the child`s computer, what`s to stop them from removing it?
The goal of our project is not just to block gambling software, but it is to create an educational resource for parents. Any program on the market can be cracked in a short time, if the kid possesses “administrative privileges” on the computer. To avoid removal of any parental control software, parents need to educate themselves on basic computer literacy, because as a parent you can reduce your child's gambling activities to NULL. How? There is a basic concept of privileges on the computer. According to it, every computer (whether it is a laptop or a PC), has an "Administrator," one or more "Power Users," and one or more "Users."
Administrators - can do anything on a computer. To draw a parallel between the computer world and the real world, Administrators are like parents. Note: A common mistake is that because of lack of knowledge in computers, often times, parents let their children be these administrators. To be an administrator, one needs to have good judgment as to what is good and not so good for the system, which pathological gamblers might not have.
Power Users - these exist only on Windows XP Professional version of operating system. These users have the right to perform tasks such as install new software (instant messaging programs or gambling applications). However, these users lack the full system control.
Users - are also known as Limited Users, are regular users without any rights to install new programs, including gambling applications. These users cannot harm the operating system, and cannot really get viruses and worms on the computer, because of a very simple reason: they have no rights to install them.
So the goal of this rule is for parents to make their child a simple user - in Windows world - “User”!
You've been asked to lecture to a room of 30 teenagers. You need to explain to them why they can`t make a living playing poker. You must take into consideration the psychology of the game, the mathematics behind it, the House`s advantage (the rake), and other factors involved in the game.
Poker gambling is one of the most popular games among gambler population. There is a myth that there is a mathematical basis and psychological effect in a game. Unfortunately it is a big misconception, because it is all “luck”. In programming there is a function called rand(), it generates random numbers, and based on it cards are dealt to the players. If you have a “strong” hand, then you win. Weak - lose. If you will argue that you can count cards, read faces, then, you already lost. Why? For a simple reason, you are overconfident.
There is only one category of people to whom I can suggest gambling as a way to make a living. To those who are lucky, I mean always lucky! Now, what is the probability that one of 30 people sitting in this room is always lucky?
It is hard to watch prime time television without seeing ads for poker websites. Some of these ads contain young, beautiful women or well-known actors and actresses. Do you think that there is a deliberate effort on the part of the gambling industry to turn young people into gamblers?
I would say that gaming industry is interested in potential gamblers, but they obey society rules. They do make some effort to reduce young people’s gambling, but on the other hand they develop child addiction to online gambling. There are two important terms in online gambling - “simulated” and “real money” gambling. During “simulated” gambling (money-less) online gaming companies develop child’s skills. Since it is a money -less game, youth are unaware of the dangers of the “real money” game, and a concept of poker doesn’t threaten them. The child involved in online simulated gambling can have 1 million “dummy” dollars on his/her account. It creates a misleading feeling of self confidence, and thoughts that he/she can make “real” money playing, since he/she already has a “proven record” in simulated gambling. Little do they know - simulated and real gambling are two different games. They don’t stand a chance.
At the age of 21, young children become young adults. From this point on for the gaming industry “sharks” young adults is a potential customer.
A quick examination of the “simulated gambling” industry exposes it as it really is: a dangerous and destructive method of separating young adults from their money, while making poker games look thrilling and exciting.
How do “free” poker sites make money? They're spending millions of dollars advertising their free service.
“Simulated” gambling is free, but a question arises as to how many of “simulated” gamblers will become “real-money” gamblers? Research indicates that 90 percent of addicts have gambled since their mid-teens. Problem gambling habits are often rooted from a young age. After people become confident in “free” poker games, they switch to the “real money” game and then online gambling industry starts charging commissions for every game the player plays. The more this person plays, the bigger the commissions, and the bigger the players’ losses.
There are two categories of online gambling. The first is poker and second one includes all other types of Internet gambling (roulette, blackjack, slot machines, etc). The second type is different. In case of gambling against the casino (roulette, blackjack, slot machines, etc), child player doesn't have a chance to win. With time, the player loses concentration and statistically speaking, the more he plays, the higher the chances that he loses.
There are many legal issues associated with Internet gambling because it`s an international business that crosses many borders (geographic location of servers, place of incorporation, where players are located, etc.). What are some legal issues that concern you or you'd like to see changed?
I believe that Internet gambling should be legal, but we need controls and safety measures. Gambling operations must declare themselves on the Internet. By word “declare” I mean that they need to provide to the public their internet identities. The database of their identities should be public and accessible by the Internet community.
They also need to label their website content with labels identifying that this is a gambling website. ICRA is an organization that provides the labeling. It is free and available for any website that wants to declare the contents of its pages. The Premium version of our software includes scanning for ICRA labels in order to identify gambling websites.
In poker, how much is luck and how much is skill involved? For over 95% of the players, is luck or skill the determining factor in how well they'll do?
Luck is the determining factor for 100% of the players. With bad hands, mathematics will not help. Although I do not believe in poker mathematics, it is rather intuition.
Stephen Katz, the author of Gambling Facts and Fictions: The Anti-Gambling Handbook to get yourself to stop gambling, quit gambling or never start gambling wrote, “How do you know the other online poker players are real? You could be the only real player at the website table with the rest being software program players which would be programmed so that you could not possibly win even in the short-run.” Do you think these things do happen?
In regards to cheating customers, I do not think that it is true. From my perspective there are two types of internet gambling sites. One is legal, popular, and the other ones are ones that people created for a single purpose – fraud people. These sites are “dummy” and usually people can cancel credit card payments to these sites. Unfortunately you cannot cancel the legal online casino payments.
Internet poker gambling doesn’t benefit from your particular “win” or “loss”. They charge commission per card game or each card deal, which means that always benefit from poker playing.
This site used to be GamblingHelper.com. I used to read horrible stories of helping losing everything (houses, marriages, sanity) because of gambling. You can still read some of these stories in the Gambling Addiction forum (temporarily disabled). In your opinion:
A. How does the addiction develop?
Personally I think that children are looking for a fast way to get good money or on the other hand it might be peer pressure that forces them to start playing “social” poker. Many parents like to think that money at a young age spoils children. But the lack of money forces children to find bad ways to get it. Parents should always keep balance. After a couple of successful wins a person gains misleading self confidence, and at some point starts to lose money.
B. Why do people continue to gamble despite losing everything?
Gamblers usually continue gambling because they are trying to gain money back. But since they are already under pressure, and all they think is about debts, they don't stand a chance.
C. What are the causes of gambling addiction?
There are many causes of gambling addiction, it starts as a past-time and if a person keeps winning, develops into a habit and then develops into an addiction. I am not a psychologist, but there are many professionals out there who have researched behavioral reasons for this addiction. They report that the reason that youth keep coming back for more is because they find it exciting, they have fun and they make money.
What preventive measures can parents take to ensure their children won't develop a poker problem?
Talk, talk and talk. Establish a communication with the child, and try to bring to child’s attention real life values. At a young age, youth should learn about our world and people, educate themselves, be involved in sports and community. Installing a software program is just one step in a long process; children need more attention and education from their parents.
Do you think that there is such a thing as a "recreational" or "social" poker player?
I think that these terms may apply to adults only. Young people should spend their time doing other recreational activities, such as sports, focusing on hobbies, dance, music, etc. Recreational or social poker playing doesn't apply to people who suffer from a lack of “cash”, because then recreational playing begins to be gambling.
Once again I want to emphasize that recreational or social poker playing is not the same thing as “simulated” gambling. In simulated gambling you play for money, but you are not charged for your losses.
Any parting words for our readers?
Our project provides an excellent educational resource for parents, where they can ask questions on our forum, and find solutions and approaches to curtail and end a gambling addiction of their children. We also provide a tool to block online poker gambling, whether it is a “simulated” or “real-money” gambling. We believe that underage internet poker gambling is increasingly becoming a serious problem for our society, whose impact we will see 3-5 years from now.