The United States has a plethora of laws pertaining to gambling. However, a legal question has arisen about how best to prosecute illegal online gambling. Several state officials have expressed their concerns about the use of the internet to facilitate illegal gambling in their jurisdictions.
This is a particularly difficult question to answer, since federal law prohibits gambling on a number of levels. For example, the Wire Act is a federal statute that prohibits gambling on sporting events and contests. In addition, the Travel Act is a federal statute that prevents illegal gambling on interstate commerce. Additionally, states can either regulate or ban gambling altogether.
It is not a stretch to suggest that there may be several reasons why gambling online is so popular, and that many individuals may be gambling without even knowing it. There are a multitude of sites and apps that make it easy to wager, bet, and gamble from your smartphone or tablet.
Various laws have been proposed and implemented in recent years in an attempt to address the issue of illegal Internet gambling. Most of these measures have fallen short, however. Nevertheless, the most important is the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act), which is one of the most comprehensive gambling laws in the world. The UIGEA enacts a series of measures to protect consumers from shady operators, and provides a list of factors to weed out the less than savory gambling cases.
On the positive side, the UIGEA provides a mechanism to enforce existing state and federal gambling laws. Specifically, the UIGEA imposes fines on those who operate illegal Internet gambling venues. Furthermore, it is also illegal for an individual or organization to provide financial instruments to such a gambling enterprise. As of July 2010, the federal government has seized more than $3.2 million in a case against Discovery Communications.
Another federal statute that has been considered is the Illegal Gambling Business Act, which aims to protect the United States from the illicit use of the Internet for the exchange of gambling related information. While not as comprehensive as the UIGEA, the Illegal Gambling Business Act does provide a means for the federal government to penalize those who facilitate illegal Internet gambling.
The CRS Report RS21984 is another good place to start when researching the various gambling laws and regulations. The report contains citations to state and local gambling laws as well as textual descriptions of cited statutes.
The First Amendment has been the governing document in gambling law, and many of the laws and regulations are the product of constitutional debates. One of the most important legal issues is whether gambling is a constitutionally protected right or a privilege. Other debates have centered on the equivalency of state and federal laws. Some have argued that the Constitution’s protection of free speech is a constitutional bar to the regulation of gambling. Others have argued that the federal government does not have the power to regulate gambling.