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Online gambling, also known as Internet gambling and iGambling, is a general term for gambling using the Internet.


In 1994 the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda passed the Free Trade & Processing act, allowing licences to be granted to organisations applying to open online casinos.[1][2]Before online casinos, the first fully functional gambling software was developed by Microgaming, an Isle of Man based software company. This was secured with software developed by CryptoLogic, an online security software company. Safe transactions became viable and led to the first online casinos in 1994.[1][2]

The first online casino has been debated, though many claim InterCasino was the first in 1995. Research carried out by suggests the first online casino was in fact Microgaming's Gaming Club, opened in October 1994. 1996 saw the establishment of the Kahnawake Gaming Commission, which regulated online gaming activity from the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake and issues gaming licences to many of the world's online casinos and poker rooms. This is an attempt to keep the operations of licensed online gambling organisations fair and transparent.[2]

Forms of online gambling[edit]

The Internet has made way for new types of gambling to become formed online. The recent improvements in technology have once again changed betting habits just as Video Lottery Terminal, keno and Scratchcards changed the gambling industry in the early 20th century.

Internet gambling has become one of the most popular and lucrative business present on the Internet. In 2007 the gambling commission stated that the gambling industry achieved a turnover of over £84 billion according to Gambling comission. This is partly due to the wide range of gambling options that are available to facilitate many different types of people. [3][2]


Online poker tables commonly offer Texas hold 'em, Omaha, Seven-card stud, razz, HORSE and other game types in both tournament and ring game structures. Players play against each other rather than the "house", with the card room making its money through "rake" and through tournament fees. Online poker has been partly responsible for a dramatic increase in the number of poker player worldwide. One key difference from conventional poker is that a player cannot see anothers reactions and body language.


There are a large number of online casinos in which people can play casino games such as roulette, blackjack, pachinko, baccarat and many others. These games are played against the "house" which makes money due to the fact that the odds are in its favor. The online casinos feature impressive graphics to give the user a interesting casino experience. Customers are also able to play some casino games such as roulette and blackjack live via video stream. They place bets via the websites interface and actually view the outcome of each bet live.

Sports betting[edit]

Bookmakers, spread betting firms and betting exchanges offer a variety of ways to wager over the Internet on the results of sporting events, the most popular being fixed-odds gambling. Sports betting can now also be placed “in play”, where odds will fluctuate depending on the amount of time left and the current score. Many betting websites now feature live games from all around, with bet365 boasting they offer over 20k live broadcasts a year throughout a range of sports.


There are a number of online bingo rooms offering games on the Internet. Online bingo uses a random number generator as opposed to the standard balls used in bingo halls. Various features have been added to the online bingo halls to help enhance the experience and encourage the traditional sense of community and interaction between players. One of theses features is the chat functionality.


Most lotteries are run by governments and are heavily protected from competition due to their ability to generate large taxable cash flows. The first online lotteries were run by private individuals or companies and licensed to operate by small countries. Most private online lotteries have stopped trading as governments have passed new laws giving themselves and their own lotteries greater protection. Government controlled lotteries now offer their games online.

The lottery is the UKs most popular type of gambling according to a survey by the UK gambling commission 2011[3][2]. It is a operated by the Camelot group who have held the license since 1994. Unlike other methods of gambling part of the money 28% of the prize money goes towards ‘good causes’ which are set out by parliament. The UK national lottery offer all of their lottery games online. They include Lotto Lotto Hotpicks Lotto Plus 5 Euromillions (available throughout Europe) Scratchcard and instant wins

Horse racing betting[edit]

Horse racing betting comprises a significant percentage of online gambling wagers and all major Internet bookmakers, betting exchanges, and sports books offer a wide variety of horse racing betting markets. There are a wide variety of bets and combinations you can place on every race including the tote. In addition to betting on physical races some betting websites also feature virtual racing with a computer-generated race determining the outcome.

Mobile gambling[edit]

Developments in the use of wireless, mobile devices to gamble follow in the wake of mainstream online gambling. wake of mainstream online gambling. Many betting companies have no launched their own mobile applications, which allows customers to access and place bets easily and quickly on their mobile devices. They are launched on Android, iphone and blackberry platforms. Bets can be placed on almost all sporting events with the In-play betting also available.

Funds transfers[edit]

Normally, gamblers upload funds to the online gambling company, make bets or play the games that it offers, and then cash out any winnings. Gamblers can often fund gambling accounts by credit card or debit card, and cash out winnings directly back to the card; most U.S. banks, however, prohibit the use of their cards for the purpose of Internet gambling, and attempts by Americans to use credit cards at Internet gambling sites are usually rejected.[4] A number of electronic money services offer accounts with which online gambling can be funded; however, many top fund-transfer sites such as FirePay, Neteller & Moneybookers have discontinued service for U.S. residents.

Payment by check and wire transfer is also common.


Antigua and Barbuda[edit]

The government of the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda, which licenses Internet gambling entities, made a complaint to the World Trade Organization about the U.S. government's actions to impede online gaming. The Caribbean country won the preliminary ruling but WTO's appeals body somewhat narrowed that favorable ruling in April 2005. The appeals decision held that various state laws argued by Antigua and Barbuda to be contrary to the WTO agreements were not sufficiently discussed during the course of the proceedings to be properly assessed by the panel. However, the appeals panel also ruled that the Wire Act and two other federal statutes prohibiting the provision of gambling services from Antigua to the United States violated the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services, or "GATS". Although the United States convinced the appeals panel that these laws were "necessary" to protect public health and morals, the asserted United States defense on these grounds was ultimately rejected because its laws relating to remote gambling on horse-racing were not applied equally to foreign and domestic online betting companies, and thus the United States could not establish that its laws were non-discriminatory.[5]

On March 30, 2007, the WTO confirmed the U.S. "had done nothing to abide by an earlier verdict that labeled some U.S. Internet gambling restrictions as illegal."[6]

On June 19, 2007, Antigua and Barbuda filed a claim with the WTO for USD $3.4 billion in trade sanctions against the United States, along with a request for authorization to ignore U.S. patent and copyright laws. This followed by a day similar demands for compensation made by the European Union.[7]

Many of the companies operating out of Antigua are publicly traded on various stock exchanges, specifically the London Stock Exchange. Antigua has met British regulatory standards and has been added to the UK's “white list”, which allows licensed Antiguan companies to advertise in the UK.[8]


On 28 June 2001 the Australian Government passed the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 (IGA). The government said that the IGA was important to protect Australians from the harmful effects of gambling.

The IGA targets the providers of interactive gambling services. The IGA makes it an offence to provide an interactive gambling service to a customer physically present in Australia, but it is not an offence for Australian residents to play poker or casino games online. In stark contrast to the USA, sports betting online is also completely legal in Australia, with many state government licensed sportsbooks in operation, such as Centrebet, Sportingbet & Betfair.

The offense applies to all interactive gambling service providers, whether based in Australia or offshore, whether Australian or foreign owned.


On March 5, 2009, France proposed new laws to regulate and tax Internet gambling. Budget minister Eric Woerth stated the French gambling market would expand to adapt to "Internet reality." He further stated "Rather than banning 25,000 websites, we'd rather give licenses to those who will respect public and social order."[9] Betting exchanges, however, will remain illegal under the new plans.


The German Interstate Treaty on gaming which came into force on January 1, 2008, banned all forms of online gaming and betting in the country, with the exception of wagers on horse racing. The European Gaming & Betting Association turned to the European Commission with the request to take action against the German legislation, because such stringent legislation violated EU rules.[10] In 2010, the European Court of Justice ruled that the monopolised gambling industry in Germany has to be liberalised. Schleswig-Holstein is the only German state that has already come up with their own gambling bill allowing gambling online. From 2012, casino operators can apply for an online gambling license in this state.[11]


Online gambling is a banned offense in the state of Maharashtra under the "Bombay Wager Act". Other acts/legislations are silent with respect to online gambling/online gaming in India.


The Israel gambling law (Israeli Penal Law 5737 - 1977) does not refer specifically to online gambling (land based gambling and playing games of chances is prohibited except in the cases of the Israel Lottery and the Israeli Commission for Sports Gambling). In December 2005, the Attorney General ordered all online gambling operations, online backgammon included, to close their businesses and at the same time commanded credit card companies to cease cooperating with online gambling websites.[12] In May 2007, the Attorney General had excluded the online backgammon website Play65 of the ruling, due to "the unique circumstances of the site activity", allowing to return to full activity in Israel.[13]


Russian legislation, enacted in December 2006, prohibits online gambling altogether (as well as any gambling relying on telecommunications technology).[14]

United States[edit]

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled[15] in November 2002 that the Federal Wire Act prohibits electronic transmission of information for sports betting across telecommunications lines but affirmed a lower court ruling[16] that the Wire Act "'in plain language' does not prohibit Internet gambling on a game of chance." But the federal Department of Justice continues, publicly, to take the position that the Wire Act covers all forms of gambling.[17]

Online gambling, which was once illegal in all but two states, is now accepted by most states, though some states have specific laws against online gambling of any kind. In addition, owning an online gaming operation without proper licensing is illegal, and no states currently grant online gaming licenses. Despite this, online gambling now generates more than $60 billion in revenue for the United States.[18]

In March 2003, Deputy Assistant Attorney General John G. Malcolm testified before the Senate Banking Committee regarding the special problems presented by online gambling.[19] A major concern of the United States Department of Justice is online money laundering. The anonymous nature of the Internet and the use of encryption make it especially difficult to trace online money laundering transactions.

In April 2004 Google and Yahoo!, the two largest Internet search engines, announced that they were removing online gambling advertising from their sites. The move followed a United States Department of Justice announcement that, in what some say is a contradiction of the Appeals Court ruling, the Wire Act relating to telephone betting applies to all forms of Internet gambling, and that any advertising of such gambling "may" be deemed as aiding and abetting. Critics of the Justice Department's move say that it has no legal basis for pressuring companies to remove advertisements and that the advertisements are protected by the First Amendment.[20] In April 2005, Yahoo! has instigated a restrictive policy about gambling ads.[21]

In August 2004, Casino City, an online portal for Internet gambling sites, sued the U.S. Department of Justice. The complaint alleged, inter alia, that the website's business—promoting Internet gambling—was legal, and requested a declaration from the court that its business was protected by the First Amendment. The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana dismissed the case in February 2005.

In its opinion, the District Court wrote,

It is well-established that the First Amendment does not protect the right to advertise illegal activity... The government's interest is specifically directed towards the advertising of illegal activity, namely Internet gambling... Furthermore, the speech in which the plaintiff wishes to engage is misleading because it falsely portrays the image that Internet gambling is legal... Because plaintiff's speech concerns misleading information and illegal activities, it does not fall within the speech that is protected by the First Amendment.[22]

The U.S. Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit, dismissed Casino City's appeal in January, 2006.[23]

In February 2005 the North Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill to legalize and regulate online poker and online poker cardroom operators in the state. Testifying before the State Senate, Nigel Payne, CEO of Paradise Poker, pledged to relocate to the state if the bill became law. However, the measure was defeated by the State Senate in March 2005. Rep. Jim Kasper, who sponsored the 2005 legislation, planned to introduce similar bills in the 2007 North Dakota legislative session.

In July 2006, David Carruthers, the CEO of BetonSports, a company publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange, was detained in Texas while changing planes on his way from London to Costa Rica.[24] He and ten other individuals had been previously charged in a sealed indictment with violations of US federal laws relating to illegal gambling. While as noted above, a United States Appeals court has stated that the Wire Act does not apply to non-sports betting, the Supreme Court of the United States previously refused to hear an appeal of the conviction of Jay Cohen, where lower courts held that the Wire Act does make it illegal to own a sports betting operation that offers such betting to United States citizens.[25]

The BetOnSports indictment alleged violations of at least nine different federal statutes, including 18 USC Sec. 1953 (Operation of an Illegal Gambling Business).[citation needed] Carruthers is currently under house arrest on a one million dollar bail bond.[26]

In September 2006, Sportingbet reported that its chairman, Peter Dicks, was detained in New York City on a Louisiana warrant while traveling in the United States on business unrelated to online gaming.[citation needed] Louisiana is one of the few states that has a specific law prohibiting gambling online. At the end of the month, New York dismissed the Louisiana warrant.[27]

Also in September 2006, just before adjourning for the midterm elections, both the House of Representatives and Senate passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (as a section of the unrelated SAFE Port Act) to make transactions from banks or similar institutions to online gambling sites illegal. This differed from a previous bill passed only by the House that expanded the scope of the Wire Act. The passed bill only addressed banking issues.[28] The Act was signed into law on October 13, 2006, by President George W. Bush. At the UIGEA bill-signing ceremony, Bush did not mention the Internet gambling measure, which was supported by the National Football League but opposed by banking groups.[29]

In response to Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, a number of online gambling operators including PartyGaming, Bwin, Cassava Enterprises, and Sportingbet announced that real-money gambling operations would be suspended for U.S. customers. PartyGaming's stock dropped by 60% following its announcement. Other operators such as PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Bodog, and World Sports Exchange announced their intention to continue serving customers in the U.S.

The regulation called for in the UIGEA were issued in November 2008.[30][31] The regulation does not define "unlawful Internet gambling."[32]

On April 26, 2007, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced HR 2046, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act, which would modify UIGEA by providing a provision for licensing of Internet gambling facilities by the Director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

On June 7, 2007, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) introduced HR 2610, the Skill Game Protection Act, which would legalize Internet poker, bridge, chess, and other games of skill. Also on June 7, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) introduced H.R. 2607, the Internet Gambling Regulation and Tax Enforcement Act. IGRTEA would legislate Internet gambling tax collection requirements.

On June 8, 2007, the House Financial Services Committee, chaired by Barney Frank, held a hearing entitled, "Can Internet Gambling Be Effectively Regulated to Protect Consumers and the Payments System?".[33] Expert witnesses at the hearing testified that Internet gambling can be effectively regulated for age verification, money laundering issues, facilitation of state and federal tax collection, and for issues relating to compulsive gambling.

On September 26, 2008, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced S.3616, the Internet Skill Game Licensing and Control Act. This bill would amend title 31, United States Code, to provide for the licensing of Internet skill game facilities, and for other purposes. This is the first bill related to online skill games that has been introduced in the Senate.[34]

On May 6, 2009, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), re-introduced the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act (H.R. 2267). The legislation would establish a framework to permit licensed gambling operators to accept wagers from individuals in the U.S. and mandates a number of significant consumer protections, including safeguards against compulsive and underage gambling, money laundering, fraud and identify theft. Additional provisions in the legislation reinforce the rights of each state to determine whether to allow Internet gambling activity for people accessing the Internet within the state and to apply other restrictions on the activity as determined necessary. The legislation also would allow states and Native American tribes with experience in regulating gambling to play a role in the regulatory process.

Also on May 6, 2009, as a companion to Rep. Frank’s Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act of 2009 Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) re-introduced the Internet Gambling Regulation and Tax Enforcement Act (H.R. 2268) which would ensure that individual and corporate taxes owed on regulated Internet gambling activities are collected.

The Poker Players Alliance has raised $3million to help get the law repealed.[35]

In June 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice seized over $34 million belonging to over 27,000 accounts in the Southern District of New York Action Against Online Poker Players. This is the first time money was seized from individual players as compared to the gaming company. Jeff Ifrah, the lawyer for one of the account management companies affected, said that the government “has never seized an account that belongs to players who are engaged in what [Ifrah] would contend is a lawful act of playing peer-to-peer poker online."[36]

On October 29, 2009, a Joint Committee on Taxation analysis found that regulating Internet gambling, as proposed in pending legislation introduced by Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA) and McDermott, would generate nearly $42 billion over 10 years.[37] The analysis is based on the provision of a federal license for operators that would allow them to offer online gambling throughout the United States, while maintaining existing federal prohibitions on any form of sports betting.

On November 27, 2009, Department of the Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke announced a six month delay, until June 1, 2010, required compliance with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA).[38] The move blocks regulations to implement the legislation which requires the financial services sector to comply with rules that attempt to prevent unlawful Internet gambling transactions.

On December 3, 2009, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on UIGEA and Rep. Frank’s Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act of 2009 (H.R. 2267) where experts in the fields of online security and consumer safety testified that a regulatory framework for Internet gambling would protect consumers and ensure the integrity of Internet gambling financial transactions. On July 28, 2010, the committee passed H.R. 2267 by a vote of 41-22-1. The bill would legalize and regulate online poker and some other forms of online gambling.[39][40]

On November 22, 2010, the New Jersey state Senate became the first such US body to pass a bill (S490) expressly legalizing certain forms of online gambling. The bill was passed with a 29-5 majority. The bill allows bets to be taken by in-State companies on poker games, casino games and slots but excludes sports betting, although it allows for the latter to be proposed, voted on and potentially regulated separately in due course.[41] However, a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll in April 2009 showed only 26% of New Jersey voters approved of online sports-betting.[42] On a national level, two-thirds (67%) of voters polled by PublicMind in March 2010 opposed changing the law to allow online betting. Men were more likely than women (29%-14%) and liberals more likely than conservatives (27%-18%) to approve of changing the law to allow online betting.[43]

On April 15, 2011, in U. S. v. Scheinberg et al. (10 Cr. 336), three online poker companies were indicted for violating U.S. laws that prohibit the acceptance of any financial instrument in connection with unlawful Internet gambling,[44][45] that is, Internet gambling that involves a "bet or wager" that is illegal under the laws of the state where the bet is made.[46] The indictment alleges that the companies used fraudulent methods to evade this law, for example, by disguising online gambling payments as purchases of merchandise, and by investing money in a local bank in return for the bank's willingness to process online poker transactions.[44] The companies argue that poker is a game of skill rather than a game of chance, and therefore, online poker is not unlawful Internet gambling. There are other legal problems with the government's case; and, interestingly, the indictments did not mention the Wire Act.[47]

Caesars Entertainment, owner of several casinos, recently began increasing its lobbying to legalize U.S. online gambling companies, notably after many non-U.S. companies have been prosecuted or have shut down operations in the U.S. [48]

Other countries[edit]

Various forms of online gambling are legal and regulated in many countries, including some provinces in Canada, most members of the European Union and several nations in and around the Caribbean Sea.

Problem gambling[edit]

In the United States in 1999 the National Gambling Impact Study stated "the high-speed instant gratification of Internet games and the high level of privacy they offer may exacerbate problem and pathological gambling". A UK government-funded review of previous research [49] noted a small scale patient survey leading to press reports claiming that 75% of people who gamble online are "problem" or "pathological" gamblers, compared to just 20% of people who visit legitimate land-based casinos.[50]

A study by the UK Gambling Commission, the "British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2010", found that approximately 0.9% of the adult population had problem gambling issues, more than shown in a previous study in 2007. The highest prevalence of problem gambling was found among those who participated in playing Poker at a pub or club (20.3%), Dog races (19.2%) and online slot machine style or instant win games (17%). Additionally the report noted a 15% increase in overall gambling since 2007, from a rate of 58% in 2007 to 73% in 2010. Significantly, the 2010 prevalence survey notes that whilst the overall gambling figure had increased, the prevelance among men at 75% was not dissimilar to the amounts in two previous surveys in 1999 and 2007 which were 76% and 71% respectively. However, the prevelance among women for 2010 was 71%, which was higher than 68% in 1999 and 65% in 2007.[51]

Money laundering[edit]

It has also been alleged that the largely unsupervised electronic funds transfers inherent in online gambling are being exploited by criminal interests to launder large amounts of money.[50]

However, according to a US GAO study, "Banking and gaming regulatory officials did not view Internet gambling as being particularly susceptible to money laundering, especially when credit cards, which create a transaction record and are subject to relatively low transaction limits, were used for payment. Likewise, credit card and gaming industry officials did not believe Internet gambling posed any particular risks in terms of money laundering."[52]


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