Using the internet for gambling is illegal. This includes casinos, sports betting, lotteries, and bookmaking. There are seven federal criminal statutes that are implicated by illegal Internet gambling. These include the Wire Act, the Illegal Gambling Business Act, the Gambling Devices Transportation Act, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, the Federal Communications Act, and the Travel Act. Depending on the jurisdiction, some of these statutes also prohibit gambling that is conducted through the Internet. The law on this subject is fairly complex, so the following is a general overview of the issue:
The Wire Act is a federal criminal law that prohibits illegal gambling on contests. In addition to this law, the Travel Act also bans gambling on interstate commerce. The law on gambling has also been challenged on constitutional grounds. However, attacks on the First and Due Process Clauses have failed to produce much success.
The Commerce Clause, a part of the First Amendment, provides limited protection against crime facilitating speech. This limited protection has led to questions as to the constitutional power of the Commerce Clause. In the case of Internet gambling, the commercial nature of the business seems to satisfy these doubts. However, other elements may frustrate state enforcement policies.
Section 1956 of the Federal Criminal Code creates several new crimes. These crimes include laundering for international purposes, laundering for law enforcement stings, and laundering with the intent to promote illicit activity. It also creates laundering to conceal and evade taxes. This creates a number of distinct crimes, which is one of the constitutional objections to prosecuting Internet gambling. The Lopez Amendment also provides elements to weed out low-level gambling cases. It also has Congressional findings on the impact of interstate commerce on gambling.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has jurisdiction over common carriers. It can discontinue leasing or providing facilities, or stop furnishing them. The FCC can also suspend a facility if the company that operates it has been involved in illegal gambling. The FCC can also levy fines on companies that violate the Wire Act and the Illegal Gambling Business Act. In addition, the FCC may require the company to remove advertisements that target vulnerable individuals.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) prohibits companies from accepting financial instruments from Internet bettors who are in violation of federal criminal statutes. The FCC can also require companies to adopt appropriate data security standards and age verification systems. It also can require them to disclose information about their operations. In addition to this act, the UIGEA prohibits companies from receiving and accepting bets from users of Internet gambling sites.
While the federal laws on this topic are still unclear, there are a number of legal and regulatory supports available to help regulate and address out-of-control gambling. Most online gaming sites have policies and tools to help responsible players. For example, players can register for self-exclusion programs and set limits on gambling. The sites also provide tools for responsible players to manage their accounts. The thrill of gambling can lead players away from setting limits and maintaining a level of responsibility.