Online gambling is a form of gambling, which involves playing games of chance for money. It includes betting on sports events, casinos, and virtual poker. However, it is considered illegal under the Wire Act and the Illegal Gambling Business Act. It is also a crime to bet on contests or events that are not sanctioned by the law.
Several federal criminal statutes are implicated by illegal Internet gambling, including the Wire Act, the Interstate Commerce Clause, and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) provisions. While there are some issues regarding the authority of Congress to enforce these statutes, the Commerce Clause seems to provide the strongest defense.
Some argue that the First Amendment protects against laws that prevent people from free speech. This is true, but it is not an absolute. There is a limited amount of protection for crimes that facilitate speech, which encumbers free speech objections. In addition, there are state laws that ban specific forms of sexual activity in the home.
Aside from these laws, there are other issues with online gambling. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has jurisdiction over common carriers and may shut down a facility if it is not providing services to users. The FCC also has authority over the leasing of such facilities. In a case against the Costa Rican casino operation Tropical Paradise, the United States marshals seized $3.2 million from the business, which was operating under an advertisement.
Another challenge to federal enforcement policies involving online gambling is that it can bring illegal gambling into states. Many state officials have expressed concerns over the threat of online gambling. Some have even warned PayPal that it could face prosecution.
A recent article by Niraj Chokshi outlined the issue of regulation. In the article, he describes how the commercial nature of the gambling business helps to mitigate the Commerce Clause question. He also describes the various options available to the government. One option is to prohibit financial instruments from being accepted for Internet bets. This approach seems to satisfy the Commerce Clause, although it would also impede due process arguments.
The issue of illegal Internet gambling is further complicated by the existence of seven federal criminal statutes. These include the Wire Act, the Illegal Gambling Business Act, and the Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organizations Act. These statutes all contain language that explicitly prohibits illegal Internet gambling. Some have challenged the legality of these statutes on constitutional grounds, but these efforts have not yet proven effective.
For now, the best advice is to stay on the safe side. If you want to play at an online casino, choose one that uses industry-standard 128-bit encryption and has independent auditors who test their software. These regulated sites abide by the strictest security standards and have been tested before they hit the market.
If you are interested in learning more about the regulations and risks involved in online gambling, visit the website of Myleene Klass, an online safety advocate. She also offers a webinar on the subject.