The Internet provides a venue for gambling enthusiasts, as well as lawbreakers, to place their wagers without ever leaving their home. However, the legality of such activities is unclear. Some states have outlawed sports betting, while others are less than willing to allow their citizens to partake in this activity. In addition, the federal government has also taken steps to restrict the amount of gambling that occurs on Native American land.
Currently, only six states allow residents to bet on sporting events via the Internet. This includes New Jersey, which allows residents to bet on sports online, and Pennsylvania, which permits its residents to bet on horse racing and poker online. Other states, including Hawaii and Illinois, have enacted legislation that restricts or bans gambling on these types of activities. Online gambling is legal in most states, but it remains to be seen whether a state or federal law will impede a player’s ability to conduct these activities.
Although states have not been as aggressive in enforcing the laws on the books, the presence of an interstate element in the equation has been a challenge to the enforcement policies of various states. For example, the Federal Communications Commission has jurisdiction over telecommunications services, but the Federal Trade Commission has no such monopoly. Additionally, a number of federal statutes implicate illegal gambling on the Internet. A good example is the Travel Act, which is applicable to players who utilize facilities outside of their home state for unlawful activities.
Another notable example is the UIGEA. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act prohibits financial institutions from accepting financial instruments from internet bettors who use an unapproved method to do so. Its purported purpose is to prevent money laundering. Though the act was enacted primarily as a means of preventing fraud, it has also been used to prosecute illegal gamblers.
Despite these legal prohibitions, many Americans continue to engage in online gambling. These activities include virtual poker, casino games, and even sports betting. Each state has its own unique rules, based on the type of gambling that is offered within its borders. Some states have a minimum age requirement to bet on various activities. Others require all gambling activities to be age-approved, while others have no minimum age limit. Several states allow residents to bet on lottery tickets.
As a result, there is an abundance of debate over the legality of gambling. States are attempting to legislate and regulate gambling, while the federal government continues to enact legislation that limits the amount of money that can be wagered on the Web. State officials have expressed concerns that the Internet will be used to smuggle illegal gambling into their jurisdictions. While some states have passed legislation allowing gambling, most have been unwilling to step up to the plate.
As the Internet grows, it is likely that more laws will be written and enacted to govern the industry. For example, Congress has proposed a bill that would license internet gambling operations, which may be a good first step. Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has introduced several bills to soften the law.