The Federal Government’s Role in Regulating Online Gambling


Gambling is a form of chance whereby an individual wagers something of value, mainly money, on a random event. It includes a wide variety of activities including lotteries, bookmaking, roulette wheels, slot machines, and dice tables. The United States has a number of laws regulating gambling. Some of the regulations are based on the federal law, while others are based on state laws.

In addition, the Commerce Clause doctrine claims that the power to regulate gambling lies with the federal government. Congress has used this power to regulate Native American territories and to limit the kinds of gambling allowed. However, questions have been raised regarding whether this power can be used to regulate online gambling. These challenges have not been successful, however.

Section 1956 of the federal criminal code states that launderin’ for an international purpose or laundering to conceal, disguise, or avoid taxes, among other things, is a crime. This section creates several different crimes, including several that are related to illegal gambling on the Internet. Specifically, if you are caught conducting gambling under any of these titles, you can be fined, imprisoned, or have your business shut down.

Another title is that of promoting an illicit activity, which is punishable by up to five years in prison. As a result, the Department of Justice has urged that operators of illegal Internet gambling businesses be fined under this title.

Despite these laws, the United States has not prosecuted many online gambling cases. This has been due to concerns about constitutional objections to the enforcement of Internet laws. State officials have expressed concern that the Internet could be used to bring illegal gambling into their jurisdictions. They have also questioned the efficacy of the Commerce Clause doctrine to enforce these laws.

Many of these objections have been centered on the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. However, limited protections for crime that facilitates speech encumber such objections. Nevertheless, the commercial nature of gambling seems to satisfy this lingering doubt.

Several other issues have been raised by attorneys and the public. One concern is that Internet-based gambling will directly threaten the integrity of businesses that offer legitimate gambling. For example, some states have a minimum age for all forms of gambling. Others, such as New Jersey, have specific laws limiting the types of gambling that can take place at their casinos.

Other problems with the Commerce Clause have arisen in relation to the regulation of activities that occur partly overseas. For example, the Federal Communications Commission may discontinue the leasing or furnishing of facilities to internet gambling operations, if the companies involved engage in any financial transactions with customers in the United States.

Several states, such as Michigan, have taken action against gambling operations in their borders. They have required that five or more persons be involved in the operation of any gambling business. Typically, this includes at least one person who manages the gambling operation, and three or more who finance or supervise the gambling operation.