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Online Gambling Legislation/History

Until recently, gambling legislation in the United States had not changed much since Congress passed the Wire Act in 1961. This, however, only covered sports betting and not casinos. There was also no World Wide Web or Internet Casinos during those days.

Legalized Internet Gambling began in 1994 when the twin-islands Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean passed the Free Trade & Processing Act, allowing licenses to be given to companies for opening online casinos. Legal casino betting continued to evolve through 1996, when the Kahnawake Gaming Commission was formed. As a regulatory branch of the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake in Quebec, Canada, they began policing and issuing licenses to worldwide legal online casinos and poker rooms. This marked the first attempt to regulate legal U.S. online betting by providing fair and transparent operations.

In 1997 online gambling had exploded in popularity, with about 225 websites offering online casinos, up significantly from just over a dozen such websites in earlier years. The Frost and Sullivan market research report showed that way back in 1998, legal online betting revenues had reached over $800 million globally. Legal poker betting also began to appear on the Internet in 1998. Interactive multiplayer world wide web gambling began a year later, allowing a community type of experience, with the ability to chat with other players. Measures to control land-based casinos in the past have worked as the casino had a physical location. However, today casinos have moved online with no real physical location. The question arises how legal are these online casinos?
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In 1998 both MasterCard and Visa sued Cynthia Haines for money she lost while gambling on an online casino. She had lost more than US$70,000 to an online casino and could not settle her account with the plaintiffs. She filed a counterclaim well within the state laws of California, which prohibited credit card loans for gambling whether it is online casinos or bricks and mortar casinos. That case was settled out of court. Many states have now enacted their own legislation, however, casinos continue to move their gambling operations off shore to online casino friendly countries. Gambling has increased drastically with the advent of the Internet and online casinos. With huge profits and vested interest in casinos there are also very strong lobbyists in government to keep gambling unimpeded. The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, which was defeated in 2000, shows how much vested interest there is in the casino and gaming industry. Cyberspace is the last frontier when it comes to laws governing casinos. With billions of dollars changing hands around the world on online gambling today, sooner or later legislation will be needed in order to exercise some form of control in this ongoing Internet casino industry.  Only time will tell how long it will take for US legislation to catch-up with online casinos and all forms of Internet gambling.

So, is Online Gambling Legal in the United States?
This is the one question that you will surely see answered in at least a half dozen different ways while searching the Internet.

What you should know at this time is that most types of online gambling are not illegal in any way for the player as all the liability falls with the gambling operators. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) that passed in 2006 simply made it illegal for gambling sites to accept money from U.S. residents for the purpose of wagering. But since the U.S. has no jurisdiction over offshore gambling enterprises, they simply ask that banks deny any potential transactions with those operators. In doing so, U.S. residents do have a bit harder time finding a viable deposit method such as credit cards like MasterCard, Visa, Discover, etc. Since then, Online Casinos have made it very easy for a player to deposit money. They generally offer several different deposit options.

There are currently many changes going on with online gambling laws in the U.S., and if you are truly worried about the legalities you need to be sure to check the exact laws in your state before you gamble. Some states including Delaware, New Jersey & Las Vegas, NV have actually legalized online gambling. Residents from those states & possibly others in the near future will want to make sure to use those gambling sites that are regulated by the state in which they live.

The best news we can tell all American players to make them feel somewhat better about gambling online is the fact that no U.S. residents has ever gone to jail or has even been fined for participating in this activity. What are they going to do? Arrest millions of people who gamble online every year in America?

Fact is, if it were truly an unlawful act, don't you think they would actually physically stop residents from visiting these sites? You can click any banner on this site and there will be nothing stopping you from going to these sites or signing up for an account unless the website itself forbids it.

For the foreseeable future it seems as though Internet gambling in the US will continue to proliferate on a state-by-state basis, before a federal law is finally passed. Be assured, a number of politicians, lawyers and professional lobbyists are continuing the fight for virtual gaming to be made legal across the United States of America.

Evan Freda




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