WASHINGTON -- Many gambling Web sites lack adequate safeguards and warnings to prevent children and teenagers from placing illegal bets, federal regulators said Wednesday.
In a survey of 100 popular Internet gambling sites, the Federal Trade Commission found that one in five had no warnings for minors and most had disclaimers that were hard to find. The sites also lacked screening mechanisms to keep children out or had blocks that kids could easily get around.
"There is a growing problem with kids engaged in online gambling," FTC Chairman Timothy J. Muris said at a news conference. He said minors gambling online may use their parents' credit cards, costing them money and damaging their credit ratings.
In a warning to parents, the FTC said that online gambling can be addictive because "gambling in social isolation and using credit to gamble may be risk factors for developing gambling problems."
Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) asked the agency to investigate. He says the Bush administration is not doing enough to protect children from online gambling.
"Kids are becoming addicted," Wolf said. "This Internet stuff comes right into the family room."
Muris said the FTC is continuing its research and plans to work with the online gambling industry to develop voluntary steps to protect children.
Gambling is illegal for minors in every state, but the majority of the gambling Web sites surveyed were based outside the United States, the FTC said. The agency did not identify the sites.
Wolf said the number of Internet gambling sites is growing and the industry likely will take in $3 billion this year.