Despite the fact that the Internet has become increasingly popular, gambling remains an issue of state law. The Wire Act and the Travel Act prohibit illegal gambling on sporting events, while Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) provisions punish unlawful gambling business activities. However, because of the Internet’s ability to facilitate financial transactions overseas, there has been some debate about the constitutionality of these statutes.
It’s also important to note that the Illegal Gambling Business Act imposes criminal penalties on individuals who are suspected of conducting an illegal gambling business. The statute defines “illegal gambling” as using a computer for unlawful gambling purposes. Moreover, the statute prohibits using the Internet to accept bets or to transmit such bets. This includes receiving or making bets, conducting lotteries, and selling chances.
The federal government has charged a number of people with illegal online gambling. These individuals include poker operators, Internet bingo sites, and online casinos. Those involved have been accused of money laundering and UIGEA violations. A couple of the cases have been brought before the 4th, 10th, and 5th Circuits.
The cases are governed by the Commerce Clause, but the First Amendment has been a point of contention. Some of these attacks focus on the guarantee of free speech, while others emphasize the protection of the due process clause. Unfortunately, attacks based on the Commerce Clause have failed to gain much traction.
On the other hand, the First Amendment has been used to challenge the regulation of activities conducted overseas. As the United States’ regulatory authorities have begun to apply the Law Enforcement Administration Act (LEA) to the Internet, concerns have been raised about the effect of the Act on the free speech rights of Americans.
In addition to the above, a number of states have voiced concern about the potential for the internet to provide illegal gambling facilities. For instance, the California State Senate recently approved a bill that would prohibit Internet casinos from locating and allowing gambling games on their sites. Similarly, the Federal Communications Commission has the authority to impose restrictions on its facilities. Nevertheless, the commercial nature of the gambling industry may satisfy these doubts.
Because the gambling business is regulated, however, it is difficult to determine the extent of its impact on the Commerce Clause. In fact, some of the federal court decisions have been based on Congressional findings of an impact on interstate commerce.
Consequently, the ambiguity of the Commerce Clause has led to debate over the legality of gambling on the Internet. Various constitutional arguments have been made, but most of them have been unsuccessful. One argument is that because the gambling business has no impact on the economic or social welfare of the United States, the government cannot enforce the statute. Another is that because the government may not regulate activities in part overseas, it may be impossible to enforce the law.
Another constitutional objection to federal prosecution of internet gambling is that it violates the Due Process Clause. While the Constitution does provide a limited protection for speech facilitated by crime, the fact that some crimes promote speech, such as laundering, may infringe on the First Amendment.