The Federal Government’s Role in Online Gambling Enforcement
Online gambling, also referred to as e-gambling, includes sports betting, casinos, and other forms of gaming. Online gaming sites offer games that range from blackjack and poker to slots and bingo. The games have been adapted for use on the internet, making them easier for users to access. Some online gambling sites also feature live dealers, giving players the option of playing with a real person. Choosing a reputable site is important.
Online gambling is governed primarily by state laws. However, the federal government has the power to regulate and enforce the laws. Federal law often reinforces state law in case of disputes. It can impose penalties on individuals involved in illegal Internet gambling.
Currently, the definition of unlawful Internet gambling is outlined in 31 U.S.C. 5362 (10): “The unlawful conduct of gambling in any form over the internet, including but not limited to casinos, sports betting, and lottery operations.” In addition to this, it also defines “unlawful Internet gambling” as transmitting bets on the internet. Additionally, it prohibits financial transaction providers from accepting financial instruments from illegal Internet bets. This includes PayPal.
Another issue with enforcing gambling laws involves due process. Since these activities are conducted overseas and some are conducted by individuals outside the United States, questions have been raised about whether the Commerce Clause and Due Process Clause would be satisfied. Attempts to attack these issues based on the First Amendment guarantee of free speech have largely failed.
On the other hand, the commercial nature of the gambling business seems to satisfy these constitutional doubts. A number of state officials have expressed concern that online gambling could bring illegal gambling into their jurisdictions. Despite the uncertainty, there are a few cases in which federal enforcement policies have been challenged on constitutional grounds.
One of these cases is United States v. K23 Group Financial Services. The lawsuit alleges that the Internet poker operators violated 18 U.S.C. by promoting a gambling enterprise and money laundering. Sporting News also agreed to pay a fine of $3 million and launch a public-service campaign.
Another case that has received significant attention is Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Ass’n v. Attorney General. In this case, the attorneys general alleged that PayPal accepted financial instruments from illegal Internet bets. They warned PayPal that they would likely face prosecution. Although the matter was ultimately resolved in the government’s favor, the case raises constitutional objections to the enforcement of the federal gambling laws.
Other federal statutes implicated by the illegal Internet gambling industry are the Gambling Devices Transportation Act, known as the Johnson Act, and the Travel Act. These acts, however, apply only to persons using interstate facilities for unlawful activities. Moreover, there are Congressional findings that the Acts will affect interstate commerce.
Finally, Section 1956 of the Communications Decency Act creates several crimes, including laundering with intent to promote illicit activity, and laundering for a law enforcement sting. These crimes are generally intended to evade taxes and conceal an illicit activity.