what are the current laws regarding internet gambling? are they determined by the department of justice, the FCC or both?
It’s still an open question. The DoJ hangs its hat on the Wire Act which makes it illegal to use a “wire communication facility” to place bets or assist in placing bets on “any sporting event or contest.” The DoJ insists that this makes all internet gambline in the United States illegal. The highest federal court to rule on the matter, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, has ruled that the Act applies only to sports betting.
In the dead of night last September, Congress passed the SAFE Port Act, which includes as one of its provisions a ban on any US financial institution transmitting funds to any online gambling site, with the exception of sites offering online lotteries, horse or harness racing and “fantasy” sports leagues. While this does not make online gambling illegal, it makes it difficult for US gamblers to get money in or out of online accounts. In response, a number of the largest online poker sites pulled out of the US market and some of the off-shore companies that previously served as conduits for funds from US players cut off service to Americans. Some sites, notably bodog and Full Tilt (and I think Ultimate Bet) are still accepting US cash players.
Over the last several years and most recently in January, the World Trade Organization has ruled against US online gambling ban attempts, stating that online gambling is trade and that the US is obligated to allow access. Unfortunately, the treaty partner who’s made the complaint is Antigua, the smallest economy in the WTO, and its remedies are limited to imposing trade sanctions on the US, which would devastate Antigua and not affect the US. Some other nations, noatably in the EU, have signed on as “interested parties” to the Antigua complaint and the hope among orphaned American online players is that some other countries with more bite will get involved and make the US back off.
**Otto ** and I seem to always meet up in these threads.
His overview is an excellent one, and I just wanted to add that the FCC has no jurisdiction over the internet.
The issue is needlessly complex. The Bush administration would like stop online gambling and believes that current laws give the Justice Department the power to do that. The old laws didn’t anticipate the internet and don’t apply well to the current realities. The new laws are poorly written, unenforcable, and untested in courts.
As Otto suggests, the US is subject to pressure from the EU to open up our markets to their gaming companies, and it seems inevitable that we will.
I think Otto will agree that right now, internet gambling is not illegal and the Feds have made no effort to prosecute individual players. They have, however, agressively pursued gaming companies and put up barriers that make it difficult for American players to deposit money into accounts at those sites.