The First Amendment and Online Gambling


Online Gambling

Online gambling includes sports betting, casinos, lotteries and virtual poker. It can be fun to play, but it’s also risky. Gamblers can become addicted and lose large sums of money.

Gambling on the Internet is illegal. The first online gambling venue for the general public was the Liechtenstein International Lottery.

Federal criminal statutes that are implicated by the practice include the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), the Interstate Commerce Clause, and the Commerce Clause. These statutes are enforced by federal prosecutors. In addition to these federal laws, state laws are the primary governing factors for the activity.

State laws on gambling include maintaining dice tables, conducting lotteries and pool-selling, and operating casinos. Some states have laws that ban certain forms of sexual conduct in the home.

The federal law reinforces these state laws, but it has raised First Amendment concerns. Some attacks on free speech have been successful. However, attacks based on the Commerce Clause have failed.

As a result, the government’s ability to prosecute the activities of Internet casinos may be hampered. A number of banks, for example, have reported that they would refuse to process transactions for online gamblers in certain countries.

On the other hand, the Commercial Activity Clause provides a way to regulate the activities of commercial organizations. The Congressional findings in the Lopez Amendment, for example, provide a mechanism to weed out low-level gambling cases.

Finally, the Constitution’s Due Process Clause has been an area of concern for some. For example, in United States v. K23 Group Financial Services, the government charged an Internet poker operator with a money-laundering offense.