Until recently, there were few legal options for Americans to gamble on the Internet. As state officials expressed concerns about the use of the Internet to promote and facilitate illegal gambling, the federal government reinforced state law with new federal criminal statutes.
One such statute is the Travel Act, which prohibits illegal gambling on interstate commerce. The act also prohibits facilitating such activities, as well as promoting them. In addition, the Act contains provisions against money laundering and promotion of unlawful gambling.
The other federal criminal statutes implicated by illegal gambling on the Internet are the Wire Act, the Illegal Gambling Business Act (IGBA), and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) provisions. These statutes limit the amount of money that a gambling operation can spend on a single day, prohibit the use of financial instruments in connection with such bets, and prevent the spending of more than $10,000 of illegal gambling proceeds at one time.
The first online gambling venue available to the general public was the Liechtenstein International Lottery. The establishment of such businesses took months to plan and implement, but more than half of the United States will be able to place bets on sports in the near future.
The Federal Communications Commission has jurisdiction over common carriers, including Internet service providers, and has the ability to impose fines and discontinue the furnishing and/or maintenance of facilities. However, the question of legislative power under the Commerce Clause has been raised. As with other attacks based on the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, these arguments have met little success.