Federal Law and Online Gambling Enforcement

online gambling

Enforcement of federal laws prohibiting Internet gambling is fraught with legal issues. The Commerce Clause, the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, and due process protections have all been challenged in court. The Commerce Clause argument has had limited success, largely because of the commercial nature of the gambling business. The First Amendment’s limited protection for crimes that facilitate speech also encumbers the free speech objections. Due process arguments also suffer because the crimes involve financial transactions within the United States.

While gambling is largely a matter of state law, federal law may provide support for state-level enforcement efforts. For instance, state officials have expressed concerns that the internet could bring illegal gambling into their jurisdictions. This concern is addressed in two recent reports by the American Gaming Association (AGA) and CRS. These reports contain an extensive list of state gambling laws and cite relevant statutes.

There are also federal criminal laws that prohibit the operation of online gambling sites. The Illegal Gambling Business Act (IGBA) makes it a federal crime to conduct internet gambling. Other federal laws prohibit wagering on contests or sporting events. In addition, the Travel Act prohibits wagering on interstate commerce. Finally, RICO provisions prohibit the operation of illegal gambling businesses.