The Chronicle Herald newspaper in the Nova Scotia province of Canada reports that new software effective in blocking underage gambling has been developed by an American company commissioned by the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation.
Marie Mullally, the president and CEO of the NSGC, says that parents can obtain the software for free and install it on home computers, and that it is effective in blocking access to gambling websites. The software is said to be the first of its kind in the world.
Mullally told the newspaper that a study commissioned by the corporation in 2006 found the underaged were gambling online three times as often as adults. Sixty percent of the youthful gamblers were boys. In the gaming corporation’s three-year-old study, 15 percent of 18-year-olds and 19 percent of youths aged 15 to 17 admitted to online gambling.
After the study, the corporation hired an American company to develop software that would block underage access to gambling websites.
"There was nothing out there, so we invented this," she said.
The product, branded BetStopper, will be launched this weekend and handed out at the We Love Our Children Expo at Exhibition Park in Halifax. The software has already been thoroughly test driven by 250 Nova Scotia families, who have praised its effectiveness.
Mullally says the program looks for gaming URLs and gaming language within websites.
"It has a heightened or enhanced level of intelligence that allows it to have a 98 percent rate of blocking sites," she said.
BetStopper is password-protected and parents will receive an email notification immediately if the program is turned off.
While adults could also use the software to prevent other adults from accessing gaming sites, Mullally said it’s principally intended for parental use.
She said that her company's research suggests that underage punters are involved in all kinds of gambling online, including playing poker and betting on sports.
"Sports betting is absolutely huge, particularly around 14 to 17-year-old males," she said.
Ken Hanna, founder of Safe Bet Society, which promotes responsible gambling, said anything parents can do to discourage the underaged from wagering online is a welcome tool.
"It’s a step in the right direction," said Hanna. "I think it’s excellent."
Nova Scotia Gaming plans to distribute BetStopper at various public events around the province throughout the summer. Parents can also get a copy by contacting the gaming corporation at www.nsgc.ca.