The government of the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, which licenses Internet gambling entities, made a complaint to the World Trade Organization about the U.S. government's actions to impede online gaming. The Caribbean country won the preliminary ruling but WTO's appeals body somewhat narrowed that favorable ruling in April 2005. The appeals decision held that various state laws argued by Antigua and Barbuda to be contrary to the WTO agreements were not sufficiently discussed during the course of the proceedings to be properly assessed by the panel. However, the appeals panel also ruled that the Wire Act and two other federal statutes prohibiting the provision of gambling services from Antigua to the United States violated the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services, or "GATS". Although the United States convinced the appeals panel that these laws were "necessary" to protect public health and morals, the asserted United States defense on these grounds was ultimately rejected because its laws relating to remote gambling on horse-racing were not applied equally to foreign and domestic online betting companies, and thus the United States could not establish that its laws were non-discriminatory.
On March 30, 2007, the WTO confirmed the U.S. "had done nothing to abide by an earlier verdict that labeled some U.S. Internet gambling restrictions as illegal."
On June 19, 2007, Antigua and Barbuda filed a claim with the WTO for USD $3.4 billion in trade sanctions against the United States, along with a request for authorization to ignore U.S. patent and copyright laws. This followed by a day similar demands for compensation made by the European Union.
Many of the companies operating out of Antigua are publicly traded on various stock exchanges, specifically the London Stock Exchange. Antigua has met British regulatory standards and has been added to the UK's “white list”, which allows licensed Antiguan companies to advertise in the UK. Australia
On 28 June 2001 the Australian Government passed the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA). The government said that the IGA was important to protect Australians from the harmful effects of gambling.
The IGA targets the providers of interactive gambling services. The IGA makes it an offence to provide an interactive gambling service to a customer physically present in Australia, but it is not an offence for Australian residents to play poker or casino games online. In stark contrast to the USA, sports betting online is also completely legal in Australia, with many state government licensed sportsbooks in operation, such as Centrebet, Sportingbet & Betfair.
The offense applies to all interactive gambling service providers, whether based in Australia or offshore, whether Australian or foreign owned. France
On March 5, 2009, France proposed new laws to regulate and tax Internet gambling. Budget minister Eric Woerth stated the French gambling market would expand to adapt to "Internet reality." He further stated "Rather than banning 25,000 websites, we'd rather give licenses to those who will respect public and social order." The new regulations are expected to take effect in June 2010. Betting exchanges, however, will remain illegal under the new plans. India
Online gambling is a banned offense in the state of Maharashtra under the "Bombay Wager Act". Other acts/legislations are silent with respect to online gambling/online gaming in India. Israel
The Israel gambling law (Israeli Penal Law 5737 - 1977) does not refer specifically to online gambling (land based gambling and playing games of chances is prohibited except in the cases of the Israel Lottery and the Israeli Commission for Sports Gambling). In December 2005, the Attorney General ordered all online gambling operations, online backgammon included, to close their businesses and at the same time commanded credit card companies to cease cooperating with online gambling websites. In May 2007, the Attorney General had excluded the online backgammon website Play65 of the ruling, due to "the unique circumstances of the site activity", allowing to return to full activity in Israel. Russia
Russian legislation, enacted in December 2006, prohibits online gambling altogether (as well as any gambling relying on telecommunications technology). United States
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in November 2002 that the Federal Wire Act prohibits electronic transmission of information for sports betting across telecommunications lines but affirmed a lower court ruling that the Wire Act "'in plain language' does not prohibit Internet gambling on a game of chance." But the federal Department of Justice continues, publicly, to take the position that the Wire Act covers all forms of gambling.
Online gambling, which was once illegal in all but two states, is now accepted by most states, though some states have specific laws against online gambling of any kind. In addition, owning an online gaming operation without proper licensing is illegal, and no states currently grant online gaming licenses. Despite this, online gambling now generates more than $60 billion in revenue for the United States.
In March 2003, Deputy Assistant Attorney General John G. Malcolm testified before the Senate Banking Committee regarding the special problems presented by online gambling. A major concern of the United States Department of Justice is online money laundering. The anonymous nature of the Internet and the use of encryption make it especially difficult to trace online money laundering transactions.
In April 2004 Google and Yahoo!, the two largest Internet search engines, announced that they were removing online gambling advertising from their sites. The move followed a United States Department of Justice announcement that, in what some say is a contradiction of the Appeals Court ruling, the Wire Act relating to telephone betting applies to all forms of Internet gambling, and that any advertising of such gambling "may" be deemed as aiding and abetting. Critics of the Justice Department's move say that it has no legal basis for pressuring companies to remove advertisements and that the advertisements are protected by the First Amendment. In April 2005, Yahoo! has instigated a restrictive policy about gambling ads.
In August 2004, Casino City, an online portal for Internet gambling sites, sued the U.S. Department of Justice. The complaint alleged, inter alia, that the website's business—promoting Internet gambling—was legal, and requested a declaration from the court that its business was protected by the First Amendment. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana dismissed the case in February 2005.
In its opinion, the District Court wrote,
It is well-established that the First Amendment does not protect the right to advertise illegal activity... The government's interest is specifically directed towards the advertising of illegal activity, namely Internet gambling... Furthermore, the speech in which the plaintiff wishes to engage is misleading because it falsely portrays the image that Internet gambling is legal... Because plaintiff's speech concerns misleading information and illegal activities, it does not fall within the speech that is protected by the First Amendment.
The U.S. Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, dismissed Casino City's appeal in January, 2006.
In February 2005 the North Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill to legalize and regulate online poker and online poker cardroom operators in the state. Testifying before the State Senate, Nigel Payne, CEO of Paradise Poker, pledged to relocate to the state if the bill became law. However, the measure was defeated by the State Senate in March 2005. Rep. Jim Kasper, who sponsored the 2005 legislation, planned to introduce similar bills in the 2007 North Dakota legislative session.
In July 2006, David Carruthers, the CEO of BetonSports, a company publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange, was detained in Texas while changing planes on his way from London to Costa Rica. He and ten other individuals had been previously charged in a sealed indictment with violations of US federal laws relating to illegal gambling. While as noted above, a United States Appeals court has stated that the Wire Act does not apply to non-sports betting, the Supreme Court of the United States previously refused to hear an appeal of the conviction of Jay Cohen, where lower courts held that the Wire Act does make it illegal to own a sports betting operation that offers such betting to United States citizens.
The BetOnSports indictment alleged violations of at least nine different federal statutes, including 18 USC Sec. 1953 (Operation of an Illegal Gambling Business). Carruthers is currently under house arrest on a one million dollar bail bond.
In September 2006, Sportingbet reported that its chairman, Peter Dicks, was detained in New York City on a Louisiana warrant while traveling in the United States on business unrelated to online gaming. Louisiana is one of the few states that has a specific law prohibiting gambling online. At the end of the month, New York dismissed the Louisiana warrant.
Also in September 2006, just before adjourning for the midterm elections, both the House of Representatives and Senate passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (as a section of the unrelated SAFE Port Act) to make transactions from banks or similar institutions to online gambling sites illegal. This differed from a previous bill passed only by the House that expanded the scope of the Wire Act. The passed bill only addressed banking issues. The Act was signed into law on October 13, 2006, by President George W. Bush. At the UIGEA bill-signing ceremony, Bush did not mention the Internet gambling measure, which was supported by the National Football League but opposed by banking groups.
In response to Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, a number of online gambling operators including PartyGaming, Bwin, Cassava Enterprises, and Sportingbet announced that real-money gambling operations would be suspended for U.S. customers. PartyGaming's stock dropped by 60% following its announcement. Other operators such as PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Bodog, and World Sports Exchange announced their intention to continue serving customers in the U.S.
The regulation called for in the UIGEA were issued in November 2008. The regulation does not define "unlawful Internet gambling."
On April 26, 2007, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced HR 2046, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act, which would modify UIGEA by providing a provision for licensing of Internet gambling facilities by the Director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
On June 7, 2007, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) introduced HR 2610, the Skill Game Protection Act, which would legalize Internet poker, bridge, chess, and other games of skill. Also on June 7, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) introduced H.R. 2607, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Tax Enforcement Act. IGRTEA would legislate Internet gambling tax collection requirements.
On June 8, 2007, the House Financial Services Committee, chaired by Barney Frank, held a hearing entitled, "Can Internet Gambling Be Effectively Regulated to Protect Consumers and the Payments System?". Expert witnesses at the hearing testified that Internet gambling can be effectively regulated for age verification, money laundering issues, facilitation of state and federal tax collection, and for issues relating to compulsive gambling.
On September 26, 2008, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced S.3616, the Internet Skill Game Licensing and Control Act. This bill would amend title 31, United States Code, to provide for the licensing of Internet skill game facilities, and for other purposes. This is the first bill related to online skill games that has been introduced in the Senate.
On May 6, 2009, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), re-introduced the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act (H.R. 2267). The legislation would establish a framework to permit licensed gambling operators to accept wagers from individuals in the U.S. and mandates a number of significant consumer protections, including safeguards against compulsive and underage gambling, money laundering, fraud and identify theft. Additional provisions in the legislation reinforce the rights of each state to determine whether to allow Internet gambling activity for people accessing the Internet within the state and to apply other restrictions on the activity as determined necessary. The legislation also would allow states and Native American tribes with experience in regulating gambling to play a role in the regulatory process.
Also on May 6, 2009, as a companion to Rep. Frank’s Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act of 2009 Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) re-introduced the Internet Gambling Regulation and Tax Enforcement Act (H.R. 2268) which would ensure that individual and corporate taxes owed on regulated Internet gambling activities are collected.
The Poker Players Alliance has raised $3million to help get the law repealed.
In June 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice seized over $34 million belonging to over 27,000 accounts in the Southern District of New York Action Against Online Poker Players. This is the first time money was seized from individual players as compared to the gaming company. Jeff Ifrah, the lawyer for one of the account management companies affected, said that the government “has never seized an account that belongs to players who are engaged in what [Ifrah] would contend is a lawful act of playing peer-to-peer poker online."
On October 29, 2009, a Joint Committee on Taxation analysis found that regulating Internet gambling, as proposed in pending legislation introduced by Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and McDermott, would generate nearly $42 billion over 10 years. The analysis is based on the provision of a federal license for operators that would allow them to offer online gambling throughout the United States, while maintaining existing federal prohibitions on any form of sports betting.
On November 27, 2009, Department of the Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke announced a six month delay, until June 1, 2010, required compliance with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA). The move blocks regulations to implement the legislation which requires the financial services sector to comply with rules that attempt to prevent unlawful Internet gambling transactions.
On December 3, 2009, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on UIGEA and Rep. Frank’s Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act of 2009 (H.R. 2267) where experts in the fields of online security and consumer safety testified that a regulatory framework for Internet gambling would protect consumers and ensure the integrity of Internet gambling financial transactions. On July 28, 2010, the committee passed H.R. 2267 by a vote of 41-22-1. The bill would legalize and regulate online poker and some other forms of online gambling.
On November 22, 2010, the New Jersey state Senate became the first such US body to pass a bill (S490) expressly legalizing certain forms of online gambling. The bill was passed with a 29-5 majority, despite a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll in April 2009 that showed only 26% of New Jersey voters approved of online sports-betting. The bill allows bets to be taken by in-State companies on poker games, casino games and slots but excludes sports betting, although it allows for the latter to be proposed, voted on and potentially regulated separately in due course. On a national level, two-thirds (67%) of voters polled by PublicMind in March 2010 opposed changing the law to allow online betting. Men were more likely than women (29%-14%) and liberals more likely than conservatives (27%-18%) to approve of changing the law to allow online betting.
On April 15, 2011, in U. S. v. Scheinberg et al. (10 Cr. 336), three online poker companies were indicted for violating U.S. laws that prohibit the acceptance of any financial instrument in connection with unlawful Internet gambling, that is, Internet gambling that involves a "bet or wager" that is illegal under the laws of the state where the bet is made. The indictment alleges that the companies used fraudulent methods to evade this law, for example, by disguising online gambling payments as purchases of merchandise, and by investing money in a local bank in return for the bank's willingness to process online poker transactions. The companies argue that poker is a game of skill rather than a game of chance, and therefore, online poker is not unlawful Internet gambling. There are other legal problems with the government's case; and, interestingly, the indictments did not mention the Wire Act.
Caesars Entertainment, owner of several casinos, recently began increasing its lobbying to legalize U.S. online gambling companies, notably after many non-U.S. companies have been prosecuted or have shut down operations in the U.S. Other countries
Various forms of online gambling are legal and regulated in many countries, including some provinces in Canada, most members of the European Union and several nations in and around the Caribbean Sea. Problem gambling Main article: Problem gambling
In the United States in 1999 the National Gambling Impact Study stated "the high-speed instant gratification of Internet games and the high level of privacy they offer may exacerbate problem and pathological gambling". A UK government-funded review of previous research noted a small scale patient survey leading to press reports claiming that 75% of people who gamble online are "problem" or "pathological" gamblers, compared to just 20% of people who visit legitimate land-based casinos.
A study by the UK Gambling Commission, the "British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007", found that approximately 0.6% of the adult population had problem gambling issues, the same percentage as in 1999. The highest prevalence of problem gambling was found among those who participated in spread betting (14.7%), fixed odds betting terminals (11.2%) and betting exchanges (9.8%). Additionally the report noted a 4% drop in overall gambling in the prior year, from a rate of 62% in 1999 to 58% in 2007. Significantly the 2007 prevalence survey combined with the 1999 prevalence survey suggest that despite the rapid growth of Internet gambling there has been no associated increase in the number of problem gamblers.