Anyone who uses email knows that online gambling is one of the big growth industries on the internet. Whether it be poker, blackjack, or some exotic casino game with an almost unpronounceable name, it is just one click away if you are interested.

The biggest problem facing anyone who wants to get involved with internet gambling is deciding which site to choose. Dozens of such sites exist and there are hundreds of so-called “online casinos.” In addition to that, there are numerous news and online gaming industry sites for those wanting to start their own site.

Most of these sites focus on cards games such as poker and blackjack and on traditional casino games such as roulette and slot machines, but the roots of internet gambling center on sports betting and horse racing.

Beyond the Office Basketball Pool

This makes sense considering almost everyone is familiar with office pools for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament or picking the score of the Super Bowl, while fewer could tell the difference between “snakes eyes” and “box cars” (terms from a dice game called Craps).

In fact, industry sources quoted in Sports Illustrated estimated that internet sports betting is almost 10 times higher than those placed with traditional Nevada sports books. The magazine estimated that in 2003 internet sports betting totaled $1 billion as opposed to only $110 million for the sports books.

Betting the Ponies

Betting on horse racing also has a long tradition in the United States. The three races of the Triple Crown (the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes) all are broadcast on network television, and cable sports networks periodically show horse racing highlight shows, but getting to the track can be difficult if you do not live in a state where the tracks are located.

Also, the federal Wire Act of 1961 makes it illegal to use a telephone to place bets. Therefore, outside of states with legalized race track betting (which would also include dog races), prospective gamblers were out of luck – that is until the internet came along.

Poker Popularity

The recent rise in the popularity of poker also has been a boon for internet gambling. With the success of the Travel Channel’s World Poker Tour program and ESPN’s World Series of Poker, several other networks have aired or are planning to air their own poker programs.

With poker as their one of their main draws, online gambling sites are advertising games such as blackjack and slots, which are easily the two most popular games played in real casinos. Golden Palace.com, one virtual casino that sends out bulk email advertisements (better known as “spam” to most), offers 58 casino games. It also offers player chat rooms, premiums for opening new accounts, and bonuses for frequent visitors.

Industry Groups

Betting online is not the only way to spend money. There also are industry sites such as the River City Group, based in Missouri, publishers of the Interactive Gaming News, to which you can subscribe – starting at $245.

For those not ready to pull out a credit card or open an account, there also is free software to be downloaded to play poker or other games. Some online casinos also offer “practice areas” where players can learn the games and play for free, but be careful, success in these free areas is sure to lead to an invitation to the real gaming areas where success might not be so easy.