Online gambling has become increasingly popular in the last several years. It includes sports betting, casinos, online poker, and virtual poker. However, it is illegal to gamble without a license.
Many states have a variety of laws on the books to govern Internet gambling. Some of these include the Wire Act, the Gambling Act, and the Travel Act. There are also laws that address the advertising of gambling. The United States Department of Justice has recently announced that it will apply the Wire Act to all forms of Internet gambling. These laws could block online gambling companies from doing business in the U.S. and may also prevent websites from advertising online gambling.
While federal law is unlikely to preempt state action in the online gambling arena, it has been challenged on constitutional grounds. The First Amendment guarantees free speech and due process, but due process arguments can become limited when financial transactions are involved.
Congress has been examining the regulations governing online gambling, and several bills have been introduced to soften the federal law. Some of these laws, such as HR 2046 (the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act), have passed the House and been sent to the Senate. They would regulate the conduct of internet gambling businesses and tax them.
In April 2007, Representative Barney Frank introduced HR 2046. This bill would modify the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and require licensing of internet gambling facilities by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Other similar bills have been introduced in the House since 2007.
A proposed law in France, the Gambling Regulation Act, would create a new legal framework to regulate the internet gambling industry. It is feared that the internet could become a pathway for illegal gambling, which could bring it directly into the homes and businesses of American consumers. Various forms of online gambling are legal in many nations, such as France.
Another proposed law, the Skill Game Protection Act, would clarify the Wire Act to exempt certain games from its scope. However, it remains to be seen how this legislation will be enacted.
As the online gambling industry continues to grow, it is important to make sure that it is regulated by licensed and reputable casinos. For example, the United Kingdom Gambling Commission has an authority to regulate and license internet gambling sites. Meanwhile, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission issues licenses to a variety of online gambling sites in the Mohawk Territory.
In addition to the above, it is important to remember that the Internet is a global communication medium, so even if the United States prohibits online gambling, other countries and regions may still allow it. For instance, Costa Rica has an internet casino operation called Tropical Paradise.
In the end, the debate over online gambling will depend on the courts. One potential issue is whether the Commerce Clause trumps the First Amendment. State laws that prevent people under the age of 18 from engaging in gambling have been declared unconstitutional.