Online gambling is a fast growing industry. With technological advancements, the world of gambling has become more sophisticated. The industry has diversified to include casinos, sports betting, and even virtual poker. However, these games carry risks. They are addictive and can be dangerous for young and vulnerable people. There are also a number of legal and regulatory considerations that should be taken into account. In fact, the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) makes it illegal to accept or process financial instruments from players engaging in unlawful Internet bets.
The UIGEA is a sweeping statute that includes seven federal criminal statutes. It covers the legalities of telecommunications services, the transmission of bets, money laundering, and gambling. Among other things, this law creates the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) scheme, which is used to prosecute individuals who engage in fraudulent activities in the gambling business.
A number of state officials have expressed concern that illegal gambling on the Internet could enter their jurisdictions. Some have expressed doubts about the ability of federal laws to enforce them. Others have pointed to constitutional objections. For example, the Commerce Clause has been questioned, and the First Amendment is not without its flaws. These objections, however, have been met with little success.
This article will discuss the UIGEA, the Travel Act, and the CRS Report RS21984 (Associate General Accounting Office / Government Accountability Office). The aforementioned documents cover the legal aspects of gambling on the Internet.
The CRS Report RS21984 contains citations to the many state gambling laws, the most important being the state gambling statutes which are the first two. While the aforementioned document is a great reference for those who are curious about the statewide laws that regulate gambling, it does not delve into the most controversial topic, that of online gambling.
In addition, the CRS Report RS21984 does not touch upon the most important issue in gambling, that of the enacted UIGEA. For example, while it does mention that it prohibits the acceptance of financial instruments from those who engage in illegal Internet bets, it does not provide any detailed analysis of the implications for the U.S. consumer.
The aforementioned CRS Report RS21984 does offer the aforementioned best case scenario and worst case scenario. Among other things, it mentions that the Travel Act may apply to Internet casinos. Additionally, it suggests that the Federal Communications Commission may discontinue the leasing and furnishing of facilities. And while the aforementioned CRS report does not specifically mention the UIGEA, it does make the point that federal enforcement of these laws will be difficult.
Although the CRS Report RS21984 has provided some clarity regarding online gambling, the federal government’s response to these matters will continue to be a mystery. One can only hope that the federal government takes steps to resolve the issues and ensure that the Internet remains a safe and enjoyable place for all users.
As with all matters of public policy, the answer to the question, “what are the rules of the game?” will vary from one state to another. It will be important for the state and the individual to keep in mind the aforementioned legal responsibilities.