Online gambling is the act of placing bets or playing games of chance for money online. These can be casino games, such as poker, or sports betting. Mobile gaming is the same thing, but it involves using a mobile device. In the United States, the majority of online gambling takes place through virtual poker or casinos. Some countries restrict online gambling, but it is legal in Canada, the European Union, and the Caribbean.
The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act was introduced in the US Senate in 1999. This bill would have prohibited the use of the Internet to conduct gambling activities for Americans, including the facilitation of wagering on the outcome of a sporting event. However, the bill never reached the floor. Instead, Senators Jon Kyl and Bob Goodlatte proposed separate bills that would have restricted online gambling activity to only state lotteries.
In the late 1990s, a number of sites for gambling were launched. One of them was the Liechtenstein International Lottery, which began allowing the general public to place bets on the outcome of the game. But the site was soon shut down because of a lawsuit by the United States government. Another site, Seals with Clubs, was one of the first sites in the US to offer illegal gambling. A court found the owner of the site guilty of operating an illegal internet poker site. He was fined $25,000 and was given two years probation.
Other states have imposed their own laws that prohibit gambling by people under 18 or the illegal possession of gambling devices. Many states have also expressed concerns about the possibility that the Internet could facilitate the transfer of gambling illegally into their jurisdictions. It is estimated that at least ten percent of adults in the United States bet on casino games at least once a week.
The United States Department of Justice recently announced that the Wire Act, which has been used to prosecute gambling crimes, will apply to all forms of Internet gambling. Although this move has been criticized, it does appear to have a legal basis.
There are a number of questions concerning the constitutionality of the Commerce Clause, which gives the federal government authority to regulate interstate commerce. Some have pointed to the First Amendment, which guarantees free speech, but there have been few successes so far. Also, the fact that financial transactions in the United States are involved may make the argument for due process more difficult.
Since 2007, several similar bills have been introduced in the House. HR 2046, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act, would establish a new licensing process for Internet gambling facilities, and require the director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to approve the licenses. While the bill has not yet been acted upon, it is expected that the UIGEA will be modified in the near future.
In addition to federal law, some states have begun to legalize or regulate online gambling. For instance, the State of California recently passed a law that permits licensed poker players to bet in Nevada.