Using the internet to participate in gambling activities is illegal under seven federal criminal statutes. These include the Wire Act, the Illegal Gambling Business Act, and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). The federal laws in this area are intended to stop activities in the gambling industry. They also have been used to prosecute Internet poker operators.
The Wire Act prohibits illegal gambling on sporting events. This includes betting on baseball, basketball, and other professional sports. It also prohibits unlawful betting on contests and lotteries. The federal law also prohibits the use of financial instruments by individuals involved in unlawful Internet gambling. This includes PayPal.
The Illegal Gambling Business Act makes it illegal for individuals in the US to operate gambling websites. The federal law also reinforces state laws in cases where a US resident has a financial interest in an illegal gambling activity. In a recent case, federal marshals seized $3.2 million from Discovery Communications, which had accepted advertising from Tropical Paradise. The Federal Communications Commission has jurisdiction over common carriers. It also has the power to revoke the leases of facilities that provide gambling services.
Some argue that because gambling involves a commercial activity, the Commerce Clause is not violated. But there are other challenges to this theory. Specifically, the First Amendment has been raised in the case of players who use interstate facilities for unlawful activities. This is an interesting argument, as the Constitution guarantees free speech, but the limited amount of protection for a crime that facilitates speech does not seem to be very demanding.
Section 1956, which creates laundering for international purposes, has also been used to argue against prosecution of Internet gambling. This section creates several separate crimes, including laundering to conceal and disguise the source of funds, laundering to evade taxes, and laundering to promote illicit activities. In addition, it is also used to prosecute individuals who engage in money laundering to conceal criminal activity.
In United States v. Heacock, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals held that online gambling was legal. However, this was a case involving five people who placed bets on sports on a daily basis. The court found that it was not clear whether a person could receive information through the Internet and then place bets on sporting events. However, the court did decide that it was legal to participate in online fantasy sports betting.
Another case involved bartenders and managers of establishments with video poker machines. This case was decided on the grounds that it was legal for someone to use a website to play a game of video poker. It was also found that a player who placed bets on sporting events while in-state was not a criminal. This case was also decided on the grounds that it was legal for a casino to receive money from an individual who participated in sports betting.
Other attacks on the Commerce Clause have failed to find much success. However, the Due Process Clause has also been challenged. While there have been some successful attacks based on this clause, they have also had trouble with the fact that financial transactions take place in the United States.