There are many different forms of online gambling. From sports betting to virtual poker, the world of gambling offers a wealth of options. But how exactly does a gambler play the game and what are the legal ramifications of such activity?
The gambling industry is a global business with an estimated value of $400 billion in 2015, up from $830 million in 1998. This is due in large part to the Internet, which allows gamblers to access and interact with each other. However, this has also led to some questions about the constitutional impact of such activities. Specifically, the Commerce Clause has come under scrutiny, and the First Amendment has been invoked in the context of the law.
For example, the Travel Act, a federal statute governing interstate commerce, applies to Internet casinos. In addition, there are several federal criminal statutes aimed at illegal Internet gambling. These include the Illegal Gambling Business Act, the Wire Act, and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) provisions. Aside from these laws, the UIGEA, or Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, regulates commercial activity.
While the first Internet casinos arose in the early 1990s, the advent of multi-player online gambling wasn’t until 1999. One of the earliest venues for this kind of gambling was the Liechtenstein International Lottery, which was able to offer the opportunity to place and receive bets by way of the internet. At that time, a player had two main options: play on a web browser or download software.
Other than the travel act, which prohibits gambling on interstate commerce, there are a handful of other federal laws that are applicable to the business. In fact, the most sweeping federal law is the Gambling Devices Transportation Act, or the Johnson Act.
Other statutes are the CRS Report RS21984 and the aforementioned CRS Report RS22749, both of which are available in abridged form. Both of these reports include a great deal of information about the gambling industry, including statistics about how the business works, as well as a few notable cases and trends.
Although the most common method of depositing money into a gambling account is by credit card, there are several other methods. Some casinos only offer one option, but others offer a wide range of depositing methods. Regardless of the choice, the process is similar: login, click on a link, and then choose from a variety of games.
Finally, a more technical question is whether the United States is on the right track when it comes to regulating and enforcing the laws affecting the online gambling industry. Although there are federal laws to prevent the establishment of new gambling sites, it’s unclear if the Federal Communications Commission has any real interest in keeping existing facilities operational. It’s also possible that the FCC may choose to discontinue providing facilities altogether.
Ultimately, the law is a blur, and it remains to be seen how the industry will evolve in the future. Until then, though, it’s not impossible to imagine a situation in which the United States finds itself embroiled in a legal battle over illegal Internet gambling.