Online gambling refers to betting on sports games, casinos and other forms of gambling through the Internet. It began in the Caribbean nation of Antigua, but has since spread to other countries. Some state governments have also adopted gambling laws. The United States Government has a strong interest in online gambling. However, many state officials are concerned that the Internet could provide an avenue for illegal gambling to enter their jurisdictions.
Several federal criminal statutes have been implicated in the illegal activities of Internet gamblers. These include the Wire Act, the Illegal Gambling Business Act, and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) provisions. In addition, the Travel Act prohibits illegal gambling on interstate commerce. Moreover, the Lopez Amendment is a law that regulates commercial activities. This amendment enacts elements to prevent low-level gambling cases from recurring, and it comes with Congressional findings regarding the impact of interstate commerce.
While the UIGEA is the primary federal statute implicated in the illegal online gambling phenomenon, there are several others. For example, the Public Gambling Act, 1867, is not directly implicated. Additionally, there are a number of other statutes that have been used to prosecute illegal gambling operations.
Although some of these statutes have been interpreted to apply to Internet gambling, the general definition of unlawful Internet gambling is limited to those that take place in one state. Those who operate an Internet casino are required to comply with the Travel Act, which forbids illegal gambling on interstate commerce.
There are also other federal laws that are implicated in illegal internet gambling, including the Wire Act, the Wire Act on Contests, the Illegal Gambling Business Act, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), the Illegal Gambling Enforcement Act (ICEA), the National Lottery, and the National Lottery Regulation and Taxation Act of 2006. Other statutes that can be considered are those that address gambling as a form of commercial activity, which seem to satisfy the Commerce Clause doubts.
Another area of concern is the First Amendment. Although free speech objections have been raised in relation to the regulation of activities occurring in part overseas, these have proved to be somewhat futile.
As a result, the Free Trade and Processing Act grants licensing to companies that engage in gambling online. This act, in turn, has been the subject of several attacks. But the Constitution seems to be a weak point in any such attack, as it primarily focuses on the government’s ability to enforce laws on gambling.
In addition to these issues, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has held that the Travel Act does not apply to Internet casinos. Nevertheless, the Federal Communications Commission has the authority to discontinue the lease or furnishing of facilities and equipment to casinos and other gambling facilities.
Finally, the Commerce Clause has been challenged in recent years, as it relates to the power of the United States Legislature to regulate interstate and foreign gambling activities. However, the due process arguments have been difficult to prove, especially when financial transactions in the United States are involved.