The advent of the internet has made it easier than ever for people to gamble online. It has also led to concerns about how the law is applied to this activity. Since 1996, the number of gambling websites has skyrocketed from 15 to more than 200. However, some state officials have expressed concern that the Internet could be used to smuggle illegal gambling into their jurisdictions.
The federal government has taken action to combat online gambling. There are seven federal criminal statutes that are specifically targeted at the practice. These statutes include the Wire Act, the Gambling Devices Transportation Act (the Johnson Act), the Illegal Gambling Business Act, and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) provisions. Moreover, the Attorney General has prohibited the acceptance of financial instruments from illegal Internet bets.
In particular, the Federal Communications Commission has jurisdiction over common carriers, and the agency may eventually decide to pull the plug on facilities that offer Internet gambling. For example, a recent lawsuit involving a Costa Rican casino operation and the U.S. marshals resulted in the seizure of a few million dollars in cash.
Online gambling is facilitated by gaming sites that feature software designed to allow users to bet in real time. These websites can be accessed on almost any computer or laptop. They typically require a deposit in the form of a credit card, but a number of other payment methods are available. To access the site, players can type in an address or click on a link. Once they have logged in, players can start playing for real money.
While there is a lot to learn about internet gambling, it is safe to say that the most comprehensive explanation is found in the CRS Report RS21984: The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. This report is an exhaustive listing of relevant federal statutes and regulations, as well as a collection of related literature. A summary of the relevant findings is available on the GAO website.
Another interesting piece of legislation is the Liechtenstein International Lottery, which was the first legal gambling venue for the general public. Some states have passed similar laws, and in some cases, Internet casinos are even allowed. Although the Liechtenstein International Lottery may be the only option for many Americans, the advent of online poker rooms, sports betting, and casinos has expanded the market.
Overall, the most significant problem is how to best enforce federal law. While state law may provide the lion’s share of protection, federal law is the king of the hill. As a result, the enforcement of these overlapping laws has been challenged on constitutional grounds. Specifically, some have argued that the First Amendment protects free speech only to the extent it entails a direct or indirect interest of a similarly magnitude. Alternatively, they argue that the Commerce Clause can’t really be used to regulate commercial activities.
The most important piece of legislation is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). This legislation has been the subject of several court cases, including one in the Fifth Circuit that is the subject of a recently released documentary. Additionally, the UIGEA provides a host of measures to detect low-level gambling cases, and Congress has also produced a report on the impact of the law on interstate commerce.