Using the Internet to conduct illegal gambling is a crime under the Wire Act and the Illegal Gambling Business Act. Other federal statutes can also be invoked in the escapade. Despite the fact that the United States has a long history of regulating gambling, state officials have expressed concern that the Internet may be used to bring illegal gambling operations into their jurisdiction. The federal government has reinforced state law in some cases and has warned companies that it may prosecute them for doing business with companies that are suspected of engaging in illegal gambling.
There is a lot of debate about whether the United States has the right to regulate gambling on a federal level. In some cases, it has been suggested that the federal government could prohibit gambling operators from accepting financial instruments in exchange for bets. However, this is unlikely to happen. The federal government has a long history of enforcing state laws and has had to resort to enforcement actions outside of its jurisdiction. This is particularly true of cases involving interstate or foreign elements, which may frustrate state enforcement policies.
For instance, the ubiquitious but little known Gambling Devices Transportation Act (also known as the Johnson Act) is a federal law that prohibits the transportation of gambling devices within the United States. On the other hand, the Federal Communications Commission has the power to revoke or discontinue the leasing or furnishing of facilities that are used to facilitate gambling. These laws are only partially enforced, and it remains to be seen if the government will actually put them to the test. However, federal prosecutors have warned companies like PayPal that they could be prosecuted for accepting financial instruments in exchange for bets.
One of the more notable pieces of federal legislation pertaining to online gambling is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which was passed in 2006. Its purpose is to curb Internet poker and casino games by making it illegal to operate them. It is also intended to prevent the flow of money from offshore gambling operations into the United States. The statute has been cited as the inspiration for the recent federal indictments against several internet gambling companies. A number of states have also enacted similar laws to address the growing problem. In fact, the states that have passed laws regulating gambling on the Internet have seen a drop in revenues from online gambling operations, and many state officials are expressing their concern that Internet gambling could be used to bring illegal operations into their jurisdictions.
Other notable statutes that are used in the prosecution of online gambling are the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Remote Gaming Act (RMA), the Wire Act, and the Consumer Protection Act. All of these statutes have their place in the history of gambling in the United States. Some of these laws are particularly laudable, and others are less so. The best way to combat illegal Internet gambling is to educate the public about the laws that are in place and make it clear that they cannot be used for the purpose of facilitating illegal gambling operations.