Online gambling is a term used to describe a variety of betting activities involving games of chance. These activities include sports betting, casinos, and virtual poker. Some of these activities can be considered legal while others are illegal. A person engaged in one of these activities could face prosecution for a number of federal crimes.
While no single statute provides a comprehensive definition of what constitutes an illegal Internet gambling operation, several statutes do exist that are applicable. These include the Wire Act, the Gambling Devices Transportation Act, the Online Gambling Regulation Act, and the Illegal Gambling Business Act. These laws all aim to stop the flow of illegal gambling in the United States. In fact, some state officials have expressed concern that the internet can be used to bring these types of activities into their jurisdictions.
The Online Gambling Regulation Act defines unlawful Internet gambling as receiving bets, placing bets, and transmitting bets in a computer system. The Act also specifies that an operator of an Internet gambling site must maintain appropriate data security standards and must verify the identity of its players. Additionally, operators are prohibited from accepting financial instruments from individuals participating in an illegal Internet bet. These provisions have been successfully challenged, mainly on constitutional grounds.
Although the law may be difficult to enforce, it does provide some protection against illegal activity. In particular, Section 1956 of the Criminal Code makes it a crime to launder for the purpose of concealing or evading taxes, a task that is largely suited to the commercial nature of the gambling industry. Other statutes associated with this process include the Due Process Clause, the aforementioned UIGEA, and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) provisions. These laws have been successfully challenged, but have not yet yielded much in the way of success.
In addition to these statutes, some of the more technical elements of Internet gambling are also regulated by the Department of Justice. The Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Ass’n v. Attorney General is the most notable case. In this lawsuit, the government alleged that certain Internet gambling sites violated the UIGEA by accepting financial instruments from individuals who participated in illegal Internet bets. The company was able to avoid a criminal prosecution by convincing the court that it is a legitimate part of the financial transaction industry and that it is not a money transmitter.
The CRS Report RS21984 is another great resource on the Internet, and includes a detailed description of the online gambling industry. The report also discusses various state laws. While not directly related to online gambling, it does discuss how the Travel Act, the Loyola of Los Angeles Entertainment Law Journal, and the aforementioned UIGEA all relate to this type of activity.
The most important element of any online gambling site is its security. The most secure sites have independent auditors to test software and ensure that the casino pays out its users on time. Other features of a quality site include quick deposits and withdrawals, top graphics, and smooth software. There are even some banking options that are free to use.