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United States state already cracking down on online casinos

Todd Boutte, An American who lives in Washington, supports his family running an online web site that links its visitors to online casinos. Starting June 7, he'll be risking prosecution as a felon.

June 7 is the effective date for new provisions in state gambling law that forbid using the Internet to transmit "gambling information." The new provisions, overwhelmingly approved by the Legislature, updated an older state gambling statute that already prohibited transmission of gambling information by telephone, telegraph, radio and semaphore. They also boosted the penalty, making Internet gambling a felony with a potential maximum penalty of five years in prison. The law is aimed directly at online casinos.

There are thousands of online casinos on the internet today, but the major problem facing online casinos remains regulation and laws like this one in Washington. In the past, the United States has seen online casinos be debated by politicians and lobbying groups, but not much has come to fruition. In Italy, for example, some online casinos are blocked by internet service providers. The United Kingdom, for example, is more lax against online casinos.

The online casinos industry is booming and the debate continues with many unanswered questions. Are online casinos moral? Are online casinos legal? If so, how legal are online casinos? And where? Should online casinos be restricted or regulated better or even taxed? Are offshore online casinos hurting local domestic businesses?

The debate rages on, but the state of Washington has decided to make some moves against online casinos.

Boutte hopes the state law won't apply to him. His theory is that he doesn't take any bets himself and doesn't market the site to gamblers in Washington state. He gets his money from the casinos and other advertisers that are featured on his site, called "Integrity Casino Guide."

Boutte plans to try to avoid problems with state or federal prosecutors by getting the gambling sites to send him letters saying they are not paying him with the proceeds of bets illegally placed in this state or nation. Only about 40 percent of online gambling revenue comes from the U.S., Boutte said, so he questions state and U.S. jurisdiction over him if he gets paid out of the other 60 percent.

"You've got a casino in Antigua but managed out of South Africa that pays me from a bank in Canada," he said.

Boutte has three kids and one on the way, and has been building the business for five years. "I'm not trying to do anything illegal," Boutte said. "I'm really trying to be on the up and up."

Neverthless, Rick Day, director of the Washington State Gambling Commission, didn't see it that way.

"Any party involved ... could be guilty of a violation of state law," Day said. "If the site also has a link to a gambling site, then to us that's no different," he said. The state of Washington looks to be serious.




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