One of the biggest questions I am asked about my profession (gambling) is this: “Is internet gambling legal?”
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The answer is a bit unclear, to be perfectly honest. The US has passed a law awhile back that many CLAIM makes internet gambling illegal. This is untrue. What the law actually does is place a number of restrictions on internet gambling sites and even on the financial institutions which supposedly handle the transfer of money between player and site.
One of the main problems with this law is that there is no teeth to it. Since almost all of these gambling sites are located outside of the USA, they have no reason to comply with any of this. However, in an effort to avoid bullying and other tactics, many sites have decided to simply not accept any more players from the United States.
So, basically, all this Internet Gambling Prohibition Act has done is to ensure that the books and casinos will be located offshore. The language of the bill has made it clear that no US-based internet casino can accept money from a bank or financial institution. Big deal, considering there were no US-based online casinos to begin with!
Incidentally, this Act does not place any restrictions at all on online poker playing. So, if you are a poker player (and if you are reading this you SHOULD be!), keep on keeping on!
Even if the law did have some teeth, the online gambling industry is so large and lucrative that a way around the laws will be found. The government has rightly understood that it would simply be impossible to go after the millions of citizens who enjoy playing online poker or placing a bet with an off-shore sportsbook.
Therefore, they had decided years ago to start attacking the sources of financing. The hope was that this would shut down the casinos themselves. Then we would have no place to play
Credit card companies and online payment services were the first target. Sites such as PayPal were threatened with Patriot Act charges if they continued to accept this “dirty” gambling money. The result of this was the emrgence of other third-party vendors which had no problems doing business with gaming sites. Most of these have now restricted access to US players. Currently, the best way to fund and withdraw money from an online gambling account is through wire services such as Western Union and MoneyGram.
I also want to point out that even the Federal Government has formed the opinion that NONE of the laws on the books (including the infamous 1961 Wire Act) make it illegal for an individual to gamble online. All of the laws are aimed at the gambling business (the sites, the financing companies and third party vendors).
Therefore, if you HAD been worried about the current state of affairs, don’t be. There are plenty of companies out there that will gladly accept your money to use their online casino or sports book. Just stick with an off-shore book or casino and you will be on solid legal ground.
Maybe someday we will get all the laws to be much less restrictive. Maybe the US government will wake up and realize what a tremendous source of revenue they could tap into by fully legalizing this $12 Billion a year industry?