Various state and federal agencies have been apprehensive about the potential influx of illegal gambling into their jurisdictions. While there has been no major breakthrough in the fight, there have been some notable successes. One of the more notable examples is the federal government’s efforts to prevent the unauthorized acceptance of financial instruments from Internet gamblers. This is not an easy task, but federal prosecutors have stepped up their game. The Attorney General’s Office has warned PayPal that it may soon be in hot water.
Aside from the requisite state level enforcement policies, there are various federal statutes that have been implicated by the proliferation of illegal Internet gambling. This includes the Travel Act, the Wire Act, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) provisions. Of course, these statutes are not unified in their enforcement. As a result, there are various sub-sets that must be addressed in order to nab the culprits. The most important is the UIGEA, which prohibits the acceptance of financial instruments from illegal Internet bets.
Other federal statutes to look for include the Wire Act, the Unlawful Gambling Business Act, and the Racketeer Motivated and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. All of these laws are aimed at preventing the proliferation of illegal Internet gambling and have been on the books since the early nineties. However, these statutes do not go after the big players in the game.
The biggest obstacle to successful federal enforcement of Internet gambling laws is the complexities wrought by the fact that most illegal Internet gambling is conducted offshore. The federal government has long been concerned that this will cause the proliferation of illegal Internet gambling into the United States. Luckily, the United States is not alone in this regard. In fact, the state of California and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico have both expressed concern about the influx of illegal Internet gambling into their jurisdictions. This has fueled some debate over the constitutional advisability of prohibiting such activities.
In addition to state laws, the Federal Communications Commission has jurisdiction over common carriers, and can take steps to prevent the proliferation of illegal Internet gambling. It has also been said that the FCC can discontinue the leasing or furnishing of facilities. The FCC is tasked with identifying illegal Internet gambling, levying fines and penalties, and providing for the safety and security of its customers and operators. In the short term, the FCC has taken some decisive steps to curb the growth of illegal Internet gambling by requiring operators of Internet gambling sites to submit to an annual security review. Despite this, illegal Internet gambling still exists. In order to weed out the bad apples, some states have taken the bold move of outright banning gambling sites.
In the end, the best way to combat illegal Internet gambling is to implement a uniform set of laws that apply to all states. The federal government should do a better job of defining what constitutes a legal Internet gambling site and then implementing appropriate regulatory requirements.