Online gambling, also known as internet gambling, is an increasingly popular form of gambling. It involves playing games of chance on the internet, such as blackjack, roulette, poker, or sports betting. The types of games offered vary greatly, but the majority of games feature skill or chance in combination with the elements of luck.
A variety of federal and state laws are involved in the regulation of gambling. There are statutes governing the extent of gambling on Indian reservations, for example, and a host of criminal and regulatory statutes that prohibit illegal activity on and around Native American land. For instance, the Federal Communications Commission has the jurisdiction to prohibit certain acts on its network, including those that involve gambling. However, it has not been particularly active in enforcing its Internet gambling laws.
The Wire Act, which is a federal law, is a major player in the Internet gambling space. The Act focuses on illegal gambling on sporting events, but it also applies to wagering businesses and contests. Operators of such businesses may be fined and imprisoned. However, there are exceptions. If the act is legal in both its source and its destination, it may pass the Wire Act test.
Other federal laws relevant to online gambling are the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). Both of these acts regulate gambling activities on federal and Indian reservations. Some states have also enacted laws regarding Internet gambling. In Ohio, for instance, the state legislature passed a law allowing for the placement of slot machine-like video lottery terminals at seven racetracks. Several online sportsbooks announced partnerships with retailers and the Ohio Gaming Commission, which encourages businesses to apply for operator licenses.
Although federal legislation has not completely prevented state action in the Internet gambling arena, the question remains: when and if it will ever happen. The Commerce Clause doctrine, which theorizes that the federal government has authority to regulate interstate commerce, has raised questions. Whether the federal government can legislate online gambling without imposing unconstitutional constraints.
Other important federal laws include the Travel Act, which limits the transportation of lottery tickets between states. It is unclear whether this act would be applied to Internet casinos or sports betting sites. Similarly, the Federal Communications Commission has the authority to regulate and/or discontinue the leasing of facilities. These laws have been used to restrict the operation of Internet gambling sites in the past.
In the ’90s, the use of the Internet for gambling was on the rise. It seemed like the end-run around government control. In fact, there were several Internet-based gaming sites in existence, but they lacked any regulatory framework. One of the most popular was the Liechtenstein International Lottery. The company was the first online gambling site to offer a general public service.
While there are many types of gambling available online, virtual poker and sports betting are the most common. Many state governments have imposed minimum ages for different types of gambling. Others have required all forms of gambling to be legal.