There are several issues surrounding online gamling, including its legality and problem gambling. This article discusses some of these issues and explores some constitutional objections to prosecuting illegal online gambling. It concludes with a discussion of problem gambling in the United States. In addition, it examines the legality of online gamling in the United States.
Problem gambling in the United States
There has been a significant increase in gambling opportunities and expenditures in the United States over the last decade. A number of states have legalized state lotteries or expanded them, introduced gambling machines, and opened new casinos. As a result, some researchers argue that the prevalence of problem gambling is on the rise.
Problem gambling rates were lower for lower-income individuals in 1975, and higher for higher-income individuals. At the time, researchers speculated that this disparity was related to a lack of funds. However, within a quarter century, the prevalence of problem gambling was no longer linked to financial resources. Researchers from the National Council on Problem Gambling estimated that problem gambling costs the U.S. economy over $7 billion annually. The costs of problem gambling are enormous: not only does it cause millions of dollars in lost wages, but it can also lead to depression, anxiety, and other maladies.
Despite this, the industry continues to grow rapidly. Researchers estimate that the gambling industry in the United States will generate $44 billion in revenue by 2021. It is also becoming more accessible, resulting in increased public concern over problem gambling. This growing concern led to the creation of Problem Gambling Awareness Month.
Legality of online gamling in the United States
There have been several attempts in the past to pass legislation regulating online gambling in the United States. In the late 90s, Senators Bob Goodlatte and Jon Kyl introduced bills in the Senate that would have restricted online gambling activities to those associated with horse racing and state lotteries. The Supreme Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional and said that the states could change their gambling laws if they so desired. Since the Supreme Court’s ruling, 19 states and the District of Columbia have legalized sports betting. Others are still considering their laws.
However, federal prosecution is not limited to operators. Media outlets that accept advertising from illegal operators may face a legal penalty. In 2009, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft each paid the government $31.5 million to settle with the Department of Justice for accepting advertisements from offshore gambling outlets. In the same year, the Sporting News settled with the federal government for $7 million and is now operating as a legal online gambling website. These fines may affect the media’s financial condition, and they may also be the target of subpoenas or seized funds.
Constitutional objections to prosecuting illegal online gambling
The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act is an attempt to criminalize illegal online gambling, but its current language makes its enforcement unlikely. Although the Act provides penalties for the operators of gambling sites, it has little chance of being enforced in practice because most sites are located outside the U.S., where the concept of extraterritorial jurisdiction is problematic.
One problem is that many Internet browsers are not configured to filter out gambling sites with government labels. This is a serious problem, because websites can change their URLs and design their pages to avoid keyword searches. This would lead to a “cat-and-mouse” problem, and ISPs would face liability issues.
Another problem is the inconsistent enforcement of federal gambling laws. States should decide whether they want to allow gambling and craft regulations that meet state policy. In addition, the federal government should give its law enforcement agencies a clear mandate and prosecute people who break the law.