Online gambling, particularly that which involves casino games such as poker and blackjack, is extremely popular in most countries throughout the world. Unfortunately, not all countries legally support online gambling – a point that often escapes the attention of players. Provided below is a guide to some of the most common issues pertaining to online casinos and the law.
In early 2011, the FBI issued an arrest warrant to seize the .com domain owned by PokerStars. After seizing the domain, the FBI announced that it was investigating accusations of money laundering and bank fraud. Several other top online casinos were also targeted by US authorities.
The action was taken following the decision by several leading online gaming sites to allow US citizens to place real-money bets after the Security and Accountability for Every Port Act of 2006 (usually referred to as the `SAFE Port Act`) came into effect.
Known as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, title VIII of the Act prohibits any company from “knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the internet”. In other words, US players were not permitted to place real-money bets online, so any firm allowing them to do so acted in breach of the law. After the FBI took action in 2011, US players left the internet`s most popular online (offshore) casinos in droves.
Similar laws affect players in other countries. Under the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, for example, it is an offence for any firm, regardless of where it happens to be based, to supply an interactive gambling service to people physically located in Australia (not just Australian nationals). Russia and Israel, meanwhile, have moved to outlaw online gambling altogether, while France has opted to legislate the activity.
In Britain, the Gambling Act 2005 defines remote gambling as any form of gambling that involves the use of remote communication, such as the internet or telephone. The Gambling Act 2005 does not prohibit such gambling, however, as it has instead moved to regulate casinos operating in Britain.
Under the Act, all remote or online casinos must conform to the Gambling Commission`s remote and gambling software technical standards to ensure that players are afforded fair gameplay at all times. The standards also regulate collusion, cheating, financial limits, responsible product design and various security considerations. Rather than outlaw online gambling, the UK Government has chosen to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that players are treated fairly and responsibly by casino administrators.
Notwithstanding the many rules imposed on remote casinos, many of which are based overseas, players must accept terms and conditions that usually require them to acknowledge or declare their own eligibility to play online in a legal context. In other words, players must inform online casinos that they are legally entitled to play – even when in fact this may not be the case – during the sign-up process.