The Federal Government’s Role in Regulating Online Gambling


Gambling is a type of game in which you place a bet for something of value on a random event, such as a sports game or a lottery. Generally, there are three basic elements to gambling: a prize, a risk, and a person or entity conducting the business.

States have wide latitude in regulating gambling. Some states provide exemptions for limited forms of betting, such as online poker. Others permit casinos or sportsbooks only in a small area surrounding a physical sportsbook.

The United States Supreme Court struck down the federal prohibition on sports betting in 2018. However, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) still applies to states. PASPA had prohibited all but Nevada from allowing traditional sports wagering. Since then, several states have legalized sports betting. New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia have recently enacted laws allowing the sale of sports bets. Several states have also legalized the use of online sportsbooks.

State gambling laws are usually more detailed than federal laws. They can cover everything from sports wagering to virtual poker. Each state law is designed to fill in the gaps left by federal legislation.

Federal statutes have been challenged on a number of constitutional grounds. For example, the Commerce Clause and the First Amendment guarantee of free speech have been raised as concerns. However, attacks based on these provisions have failed to gain much traction.

Nonetheless, there are several federal criminal statutes that are implicated by illegal gambling on the internet. These include the Wire Act, the Illegal Gambling Business Act, and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) provisions.