The Federal Government’s Role in Online Gambling


Gambling is the activity of placing bets on something of value with the expectation of winning. It includes gambling on lotteries, pools, bookmaking, and maintaining dice tables. Some forms of gambling are legal and others are banned in the US.

Several cases have been decided on constitutional grounds regarding the federal government’s ability to enforce its gambling laws. These include United States v. Grey, United States v. O’Brien, United States v. Nicolaou, and United States v. Boyd.

The Fifth and Sixth Circuits upheld the government’s power to prohibit gambling in the home. However, the First Amendment is limited in this case to prevent the government from interfering with a free speech objection.

The United States has an intricate history with gambling. Historically, states have had the power to regulate gambling within their jurisdictions. Currently, the federal government leaves the issue up to individual states.

The Federal Wire Act of 1961, however, prohibits gambling across state lines. A number of state legislatures have also passed laws to restrict gambling. Only Utah, however, bans gambling entirely.

Several federal criminal statutes have been implicated in the illegal Internet gambling situation. This includes the Wire Act, the Illegal Gambling Business Act, and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) provisions.

For example, the Wire Act prohibits illegal gambling on contests and sporting events. Additionally, the Travel Act prohibits illegal gambling on interstate commerce. In addition, the Federal Communications Commission has the power to dismantle or discontinue furnishing of facilities.

Posted in: Gambling