Illegal internet gambling is defined as using a computer, Internet connection, or any other form of telecommunications service to place bets, receive bets, or transmit bets. These bets may be placed on sporting events, casinos, lotteries, bingo, online poker, and virtual poker. The United States Department of Justice maintains that all forms of online gambling in the United States are illegal. However, it has not been particularly active in enforcing these laws. There are seven federal criminal statutes implicated by illegal Internet gambling.
A few of these statutes include the Wire Act of 1961, the Travel Act of 1961, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Additionally, the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, and the Anti-Money Laundering and Counterfeiting Act of 1988 all provide protections against illegal internet gambling. Despite these statutes, there have been questions about whether the federal government can preempt state action in the internet gambling arena.
The first state to regulate internet gambling was New Jersey. The Garden State permits both land-based and online casino operations, as well as Internet sports betting, horse racing, and fantasy sports. Its age limit for casinos and gambling is 21, which likely stems from the sale of alcohol. In addition to online casinos and sports wagering, the Garden State has also allowed virtual poker, a growing market. Online poker is very popular in Pennsylvania thanks to the presence of PokerStars.
Internet gambling also falls under the purview of the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission, which was established in 2010. After the Isle of Man amended the Online Gambling Regulation Act of 2001, the commission issued further regulations in 2011.
As of April 2018, twenty states permit residents to participate in online or mobile sports betting. These include Nevada, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Other states, such as Wisconsin and Idaho, prohibit the practice. Several other states, including Michigan and Ohio, have allowed the use of internet draws and poker. This has caused some concern that the Internet will allow for gambling to enter into homes, businesses, and other institutions.
In November 2011, the Department of Justice issued a statement allowing states to regulate Internet gambling. Since that time, legislators in a number of states have introduced bills to soften the federal internet gambling law. Some of the legislation passed by these legislatures would provide for taxation, licensing, and other statutory measures. Others would clarify the definition of the Wire Act and exempt certain games from the prohibitions.
While the United States Supreme Court has overturned the federal ban on sports betting, it has yet to rule on other forms of Internet gambling. Some lawmakers have expressed their concerns that the Internet will be used for illegal gambling in the state. They have also raised the possibility that the Commerce Clause will preempt state law.
One of the key issues that Congress has been considering is how to protect consumers from illegal online gambling. This issue is especially relevant as the industry grows and more and more people use the Internet to access casinos and other gambling services.