a challenge for the USA
Are online casinos
legal in the United States? Are online casinos legal all over
the world? These questions have become pertinent because of the
growing popularity of online casinos taking over the internet.
Electronic commerce and online casinos have flourished. We are
all aware of the tremendous benefits of conducting business via
Unfortunately, we are now also increasingly confronted with the
downside of online casinos. Abuses and invasions of privacy are
frequently exposed at online casinos. Not nearly as
well-publicized are the addiction levels at online casinos.
Online casinos include sports betting, horse racing, poker
online casinos and online lotteries. The U.S. market for these
activities is estimated to run into billions of dollars per year
and is growing rapidly. Significant numbers of bettors now
gamble at online casinos.
Policymakers are growing increasingly concerned. Addiction is a
serious problem in gambling at online casinos. People who do
this at home alone on their PCs are possibly even more likely to
get hooked and heavily into debt. Underage gambling is also a
concern at online casinos.
Is such gambling legal in the U.S.? Surprisingly, this is not so
clear, especially at the interstate level. The problem is that
currently no federal law specifically deals with online
gambling. The most applicable law is more than 40 years old and
obviously does not refer to online casinos.
A few states have legislation that specifically bans online
gambling, yet the Justice Department contends that all such
gambling is illegal. This is disingenuous since horse-race
betting via the Internet is allowed, and each state has the
constitutional right to decide on gambling within its own
Those lower courts that have heard related cases are divided.
Small wonder, since existing laws are so murky. Because of these
problems, law enforcement has been limited.
Congress has tried to pass laws to deal with this phenomenon,
but so far it has not been successful. Currently, legislation to
prohibit online gambling is again being considered by Congress.
One such bill has been introduced by Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte,
Legislators can either opt to prohibit such gambling or to
legalize it and have it properly regulated, as in the case of
If prohibition is chosen, the challenge becomes enforcement.
Sites in other countries are outside the jurisdiction of U.S.
law. Most of the countries involved are not keen to cooperate
because that would jeopardize their share of a very lucrative
Another problem is that an activity such as Internet betting on
horse racing is already allowed. A blanket ban would halt this
and make vested interest groups and bettors very unhappy.
If online gambling is legalized and regulated, enforcement
becomes easier. Also, local casinos and other operators will be
able to compete with offshore entities for a share of this
Of course, this could encourage more problem gamblers. If
properly regulated, however, the industry may be able to
identify those people, who can get help.