The Federal Government’s Role in Online Gambling
Taking bets, betting on sports, gambling on games of chance, and gambling on the Internet are all considered to be illegal. While states can regulate gambling, they also have the power to ban it. The laws governing gambling in the United States vary greatly from state to state, and the federal government has limited its ability to enforce the laws.
The federal government’s enforcement of the federal gambling laws has prompted many challenges, both on constitutional and practical grounds. A few of the more notable cases include United States v. K23 Group Financial Services and United States v. O’Brien.
The most significant federal law on the books, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, makes it illegal for online operators to accept financial instruments in connection with transactions related to the illegal gambling of any sort. In addition, the Wire Act and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) provisions prohibit the engaging in such activity.
There are a number of other statutory provisions limiting the activities of gambling operators. Most notably, the Travel Act prohibits the conduct of gambling within or across state lines, or the facilitation of such gambling. This act applies to any Internet casino, as well as to players engaged in unlawful activity using an interstate facility.
One of the most exciting new forms of gambling is mobile gambling. With the increasing availability of smartphones, gambling enthusiasts can bet on the go. Many online casinos offer both desktop and mobile versions of their sites. These apps enhance a player’s gambling experience. Some of the most popular mobile options are blackjack, roulette, and slots.
Other notable federal statutes are the Wire Act, the Illegal Gambling Business Act, and the Racketeer Influenced and corrupt Organizations (RICO) provisions. Despite the legality of gambling, some state officials have expressed concern that the internet can be used to facilitate illegal gambling in their jurisdictions.
Online gambling is more complex than its land-based counterpart. Unlike the land-based versions, which typically require players to download software or play through an app, online casinos allow users to access their games through a web browser. The site may have instructions on how to play the game, but users are generally required to log in, deposit money, and place bets. To access the game, users may have to download software or download the games onto their desktops.
Nevertheless, the legality of such activities has been a subject of debate among scholars. For example, the “official” Federal Communications Commission has said it can take action against the operators of websites that engage in such activities. However, other elements in the mix, such as the interstate and foreign nature of these activities, can cause the policies of individual states to be challenged.
The best way to find out which of these laws is applicable to your jurisdiction is to check your state’s specific laws. It’s also worthwhile to learn about some of the federal statutes that are commonly associated with illegal Internet gambling.