Whether you prefer to gamble at a land-based casino, online, or in your own home, the Internet provides a new way for you to enjoy your favorite casino games. However, while you may have heard about this new technology, you probably don’t know much about it. Hopefully, this article will help you to get up to speed on online gambling in the United States.
There are several federal statutes that prohibit illegal Internet gambling. The Wire Act, the Gambling Devices Transportation Act, and the Illegal Gambling Business Act all address the topic in one way or another. The statutes are often tangled up in one another, but in the end, they are designed to prevent illegal Internet gambling from being conducted in the first place.
The Liechtenstein International Lottery was the first to offer an online service to the general public. The CRS Report RS21984 lists many of the laws it cites, along with their text. It also provides a abridged version of the report.
Other notable statutes involve the UIGEA, which is the United States’ version of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. This law, among other things, prohibits the acceptance of financial instruments used for illegal Internet bets. The UIGEA also requires that financial transaction providers, such as PayPal, warn customers that they will be held liable for any charges. This law has had its fair share of controversy, but in the end, it seems to satisfy the requirements of the Commerce Clause.
The Federal Communications Commission has jurisdiction over common carriers, and the Lopez Amendment, which went into effect in early 2014, is a Congressional measure that regulates commercial activity. It includes elements that will weed out low-level gambling cases, and Congressional findings about the impact on interstate commerce. The Federal Communications Commission also may discontinue providing facilities or furnishing them, depending on its decision.
There are a number of other state and federal legal statutes that are relevant to this discussion. These include the Travel Act, the Gambling Devices Transportation Act, the Johnson Act, and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) provisions. While the first three statutes seem to be more focused on protecting consumers, the RICO provisions are more about preventing businesses from taking part in the illegal gambling industry.
The CRS report RS21984 lists several of the statutes it cites in its abridged version. It is the most comprehensive compilation of laws pertaining to online gambling, and it is not to be confused with the CRS Report RS22749, which is a Congressional report on the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. In addition, the abridged version of the CRS Report RS21984 includes a few citations to a handful of the state gambling laws mentioned in the report.
In the meantime, as more and more states begin to legalize Internet gambling, questions about the federal government’s ability to enforce these laws remain. In the past, these questions have been raised on constitutional grounds, but in most cases, the answers have been simple: “Yes,” “No,” and “I’m not sure.” In this context, the most interesting case is the K23 Group Financial Services case, in which an Internet poker operator was charged with 18 U.S.C. 1955 violations.