Several different federal laws can be used to prosecute online gambling. Some of these laws include the Wire Act, which is designed to prevent illegal gambling on sports events or contests, and the Illegal Gambling Business Act, which prohibits businesses from accepting financial instruments from illegal Internet bettors. In addition, there are also a number of state statutes that can be used to prosecute gambling activities.
The most obvious federal statute implicated in illegal Internet gambling is the Wire Act, which prohibits betting on sporting events or contests. Other statutes that are relevant to gambling include the Travel Act, which prohibits illegal gambling activities in interstate commerce, and the Illegal Gambling Business Act, among others. These laws have been used to prosecute online gamblers, although some state officials have expressed concerns that Internet activity can be used to transport illegal gambling into their jurisdictions.
The Illegal Gambling Business Act has also been used to prosecute gambling operators, although it has been criticized for being overly broad. The statute defines unlawful Internet gambling as “the transmitting of bets, or any other information or material, by electronic means over any network, telecommunications facility, or other computer system” and prohibits using any part of the Internet to carry out this activity. The statute also includes appropriate data security standards.
While the most important statute cited by attorneys defending online gambling operators is the aforementioned UIGEA, there are also a number of other federal statutes that are relevant to the operation of an illegal gambling business. Some of these laws include the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) provisions, which prohibit such businesses from engaging in any illegal activity, including gambling. These statutes also include the Racketeer Obligation Tax Act, which imposes taxes on such businesses. In addition, state officials have raised questions about the constitutionality of enforcing federal gambling laws in their jurisdictions.
Other statutes are not as well known, but are nevertheless important to online gamblers. For example, the Liechtenstein International Lottery was the first online gambling venue for the general public. A similar lottery is held in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and some online gambling sites are based in Costa Rica. Other laws include the Gambling Devices Transportation Act, or Johnson Act, which regulates the transportation of gaming devices. In addition, the Federal Communications Commission has jurisdiction over common carriers, including the Internet. The agency has authority to suspend the operation of facilities or discontinue the leasing of such facilities.
Other statutes that are relevant to online gambling are the Travel Act, the Illegal Gambling Business Act, and the RICO provisions. The best way to find out more about these laws is to consult the Federal Communications Commission website. The agency also provides an overview of the relevant laws in an abridged version. Lastly, the aforementioned CRS Report RS21984 lists several statutes that are relevant to online gambling. This report is a great resource for attorneys interested in defending or prosecuting Internet gamblers.