There are a number of different types of online gambling activities. Some of them include casinos, sports betting, virtual poker, and bingo. Other types of gambling include lotteries and pool-selling.
In the United States, the illegal internet gambling industry has been a subject of several criminal cases. These include United States v. K23 Group Financial Services, United States v. Nicolaou, United States v. Zizzo, United States v. Wall, United States v. Boyd, and United States v. Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Ass’n.
The federal government has a number of different laws that they use to enforce gambling on the Internet. In addition to the UIGEA, these laws include the Wire Act, the Illegal Gambling Business Act, the Travel Act, and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) provisions.
One of the main concerns of state officials is that the Internet can be used to bring illegal gambling into their jurisdiction. Whether or not that is a legitimate concern, there is no question that the Internet has increased in popularity in the past five years. This growth has led to more challenges to the federal government’s enforcement of the law.
These challenges have raised constitutional questions about the authority of the federal government to regulate activities that occur in part on foreign soil. Specifically, the Commerce Clause has been challenged as an obstacle to regulating gambling. Also, due process objections have been raised, especially in regards to the ability of the government to enforce the law in cases involving financial transactions that take place in the U.S. However, these arguments have not been successful.
Those that are interested in learning more about the legal issues surrounding Internet gambling can find a brief overview in CRS Report RS21984: Internet Gambling: Overview of Issues published by the General Accounting Office in December 2002. Another article addressing the issues involved in the remote gaming industry was published by the Marquette Sports Law Journal in 1997. Lastly, the Government Accountability Office recently released a brief on the legal issues surrounding online gambling.
Defining and enforcing the law on online gambling has been a hotly debated issue. The law is currently in flux as the Supreme Court continues to deliberate on the question. Currently, the law states that “unlawful Internet gambling” means “the unlawful transmission of wagers, bets, or other similar transactions over a computer network, including any software, hardware, or other device, or the receipt of such wagers, bets, or other similarly transactions, over a computer network, irrespective of whether such transmissions are initiated or completed over a computer network.”
According to the CRS Report, the Lopez Amendment, which was introduced by the Senate in the early 1990s, focuses on commercial activity. Its purpose is to identify and weed out low-level gambling cases. At the same time, it has been accompanied by Congressional findings on how the law impacts interstate commerce.
Despite the numerous federal criminal statutes that are implicated in online gambling, there are no clear-cut solutions to the issue. While the issue is far from settled, the debate has been largely overblown.