One question that arises quite often among novice and seasoned gamblers alike deals with the legality of online casinoes. While millions of gamers and billions of dollars are being transmitted across internet connections and phone lines, few people pause to consider whether their actions are illicit. And why should they? So long as the feds aren't banging down the doors of private residences and hauling people off, does gambling online really affect John and Jane Q. Public?
As you might guess, this topic is open to heated debate. This is largely because the provision that governs online gambling, the 1961 Wireline Act, was never intended to apply to new technologies. Specifically, that act (18 U.S.C. section 1084) forbid the transmission of bets over phone lines. But not all internet connections are made through phone lines per se. Satellites and cable connections are just as popular for transmitting data. So what does the law say about them?
Online Casinoes Go to War
Several years back, when the Internet was just taking shape in the form we now know it, a dozen or so internet gambling entrepreneurs were sued by the Department of Justice. More than a few pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to transmit wagers, which was a major blow to the viability of online casinoes. Since then, a federally endorsed Impact Commission made its recommendation to congress that internet gambling be outlawed altogether.
Obviously, this recommendation hasn't hampered the industry one iota. Today, the laws remain ambiguous given the ever-changing state of internet technology. Nevertheless, in parts of the world where gambling is illegal, those accessing online gaming houses, even from the privacy of their own homes, are subject to prosecution, so it's important to find out the specific laws in your particular area.