The best way to think of online gambling is like playing a game of poker online, only with virtual chips instead of actual ones. There are different types of online gambling, including casinos, sports betting and virtual poker. Some sites specialize in one type, while others offer a wide variety.
In the United States, it’s not uncommon to hear state officials expressing concerns that illegal Internet gambling could make its way into their jurisdictions. As such, federal law reinforces state laws in cases where there is interstate commerce. This has led to some debate over whether or not the federal government can enforce gambling laws despite First Amendment objections.
Several of the federal criminal statutes that are most often invoked in cases involving illegal Internet gambling have been criticized on constitutional grounds. One of the most contentious is Section 1956 of the federal Criminal Code. Unlike the other federal criminal statutes, this section combines several distinct crimes into a single crime. Specifically, this section creates a “laundering” category for international and federal purposes.
Another statute to consider is the Travel Act. This section applies to players who use interstate facilities for unlawful activities, which includes Internet gambling. However, this act has been under attack on First Amendment grounds, as well as on other legal grounds. While the act of transacting money on the internet is not specifically mentioned in the Travel Act, it is an important consideration.
Other federal statutes to consider are the Wire Act and the Illegal Gambling Business Act. These statutes are designed to prevent gambling on contests and sporting events, respectively. They also prohibit the acceptance of financial instruments from illegal Internet bets. For the most part, this has been an effective measure to deter illegal Internet gambling. But, it may be coming to an end.
Other statutes include the Money Laundering Control Act (MLCA) and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) provisions. Both of these statutes are designed to prohibit illegal gambling business activities, largely because the act of facilitating speech or gambling encroaches on the First Amendment.
A broader look at gambling on the Internet is presented by CRS Report RS22749. Although it doesn’t cover all of the legal options for Internet gambling, the report focuses on the UIGEA. Its main goal is to weed out low-level gambling cases, but it is also an excellent resource for information about the legal and regulatory issues surrounding online gambling.
Online gaming isn’t a new concept. In fact, the first Internet casino to offer gambling to the general public was the Liechtenstein International Lottery. Today, the Internet offers a wider range of gaming choices than it did even a few years ago. Most of these sites operate on Windows computers, but they’re also compatible with smartphones and tablets. Many also feature a variety of games to choose from, such as roulette and slots.
Overall, the UIGEA seems to be a win-win for the government. By regulating the commercial aspects of the gambling industry while allowing legitimate businesses to flourish, the legislation seems to satisfy the Commerce Clause.