Increasingly, people are using the Internet to gamble. This activity is facilitated by technological advances. High speed Internet connections make it easy to place bets and receive feedback quickly. In addition, a number of jurisdictions have legalized and regulated Internet gambling, enhancing consumer protection and taxation revenue.
Various federal criminal statutes are implicated in illegal Internet gambling. However, these statutes have been challenged on constitutional grounds. The question is whether the Commerce Clause can be used to enforce the laws, or whether the First Amendment should be relied upon to shield the conduct.
The definition of unlawful Internet gambling is found in 31 U.S.C. 5362(10). The statute defines unlawful Internet gambling as receiving bets online, placing bets online, and using a computer to place a bet. The statute also includes certain factors to verify a person’s age and location. It also includes the appropriate data security standards.
Section 1956 of the federal Criminal Code creates several new crimes, including laundering. Laundering is defined as evading taxes, concealing, and promoting illicit activity. It can also be used to disguise a person’s identity.
In other cases, the federal government has also enforced laws against illegal gambling. For example, in November 2003, the United States marshals seized $3.2 million from Discovery Communications, a broadcaster that accepted ads from Tropical Paradise, an online casino operation in Costa Rica.
As Internet gambling becomes more popular, questions about the law have been raised regarding the First Amendment. Some state officials have expressed concern that the Internet may be used to bring illegal gambling into their jurisdictions.