Legalize Online Gambling in the US Slot Madness

"Poker Chips" by Ab5602"- Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Growing Online Gambling Market Builds Pressure for National Legalization

Online gambling has been growing as an industry since 1995, but United States legislation has been slow to keep up. The 2002 Wire Act and the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act establish a general notion that the U.S. government wants to protect its citizens from malicious gambling sites, but has never precisely defined what it considers to be "unlawful internet gambling". Over the years since the UIGEA's passage, a handful of lesser bills and proposals have come and gone to try to create firmer definitions and even form structures for legal, regulated gambling, but to date only three states in the US have truly achieved this simple goal.

U. S. v. Scheinberg et al. (10 Cr. 336)

Up until six years after the UIGEA was passed, three of the largest online poker sites in the world were still allowing U.S. citizens to play for real money. To a casual observer, the delayed but strong government reaction to the continued activity of these sites might be expected, but both the parent companies and their players were shocked to discover their games were considered "unlawful". The only thing clearly established by any of the United State's regulations is that American companies can't create online betting sites. It isn't illegal to play, so American poker players simply signed up with European sites that had passed the European Union's regulations and standards. People trusted these sites, and many even made a living gambling on them, which calls the unlawfulness of the sites into question.

Consequences of Current Regulation

The ultimate issue is that the UIGEA was a last minute addition to a port security bill. It lacks the specificity to function without every execution of its provisions appearing arbitrary and unsound. The three poker companies charged in U. S. v. Scheinberg et al. were not believed by many to have violated any American laws, but they were forced from the market nonetheless. In the near decade the UIGEA has existed, this is the only time it has been enforced, leaving little in the way of precedent. As a result, many online betting sites, even poker sites, continue to operate and create revenue in the United States.

The Future of Online Gambling in the United States

Much like the repeal of Prohibition in the past, or the gradual shift of Marijuana legalization today, many expect the UIGEA to lose its authority in coming years. By pushing online gambling underground, players now place bets using foreign bank accounts through unregulated organizations that are free to behave as legitimately as they choose. Gamblers and gambling sites alike continue to lobby for a new policy of legality and regulation, in which the safety of players is guaranteed and the state governments receive millions in taxes. With the amount of money circulating through the online gambling community, it's only a matter of time before this vision becomes a reality, state by state.