Online gambling, also known as Internet gambling and occasionally 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. 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.
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.
In the late 1990s, online gambling gained popularity. Internet gambling websites had increased from just 15 websites in 1996, to 200 websites in 1997. A report published by Frost & Sullivan revealed that online gambling revenues had exceeded $830 million in 1998 alone. In the same year the first online poker rooms were introduced. Soon after in 1999, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act was introduced, meaning a company could not offer any online gambling product to any U.S citizen. This did not pass. Multiplayer online gambling was also introduced in 1999. This was the first time people could gamble, chat and interact with each other in an interactive online environment.
In 2000, the first Australian Federal Government passed the Interactive Gambling Moratorium Act, making it illegal for any online casino not licensed and operating before May 2000 to operate. The new legislation meant Lasseter's Online became the only online casino able to legally operate in Australia; however, they cannot take bets from Australian citizens.
By 2001, the estimated number of people who had participated in online gambling rose to 8 million and growth would continue, despite the legislation and the lawsuit challenges which would continue to be received by online gambling.
In 2008, H2 Gambling Capital estimates worldwide online gambling revenue at $21 billion.
The Internet has made way for new types of gambling to form online. Improvements in technology have changed betting habits just as video lottery terminals, keno and scratchcards changed the gambling industry in the early 20th century.
Gambling has become one of the most popular and lucrative business present on the Internet. In 2007 the UK gambling commission stated that the gambling industry achieved a turnover of over £84 billion according to the UK Gambling Commission. This is partly due to the wide range of gambling options that are available to facilitate many different types of people.
Read main article: Online poker
Online poker tables commonly offer Texas hold 'em, Omaha, Seven-card stud, razz, HORSE and other game types in both tournament and Cash game structures. Players play against each other rather than the "house", with the card room making its money through "rake" and through tournament fees.
Read main article: Online casino
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 because the odds are in its favor.
Sports betting is the activity of predicting sports results and placing a wager on the outcome. Usually the wager is in the form of money.
Online bingo is the game of bingo (US|non-US) played on the Internet.
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 UK National Lottery started in 1994 and is operated by the Camelot Group. Around 70% of UK adults play the National Lottery regularly, making the average annual sales over £5 billion apart from the year 2000-01 where sales dropped just below that. In its first seventeen years it has created over 2,800 millionaires.
In 2002 Camelot decided to rebrand the National Lottery main draw after falling ticket sales. The name National Lottery was kept as the general name for the organisation and the main draw was renamed Lotto. The advertising campaign for the new Lotto cost £72 million which included ten television advertisements featuring Scottish comedian Billy Connolly and one of the largest ever poster campaigns. The new brand and name had the slogan:
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.
Horse wagering using online methods across state lines is legal in several states in the United States. In 2006, the NTRA and various religious organizations lobbied in support of an act in Congress meant to limit online gambling. Critics of the bill argued that the exemption of horse racing wagering was an unfair loophole. In response, the NTRA responded that the exemption was "a recognition of existing federal law", not a new development. Interstate wagering on horse racing was first made legal under the Interstate Horseracing Act written in the 1970s. The bill was rewritten in the early 2000s to include the Internet in closed-circuit websites such as Betfair, as compared to simply phones or other forms of communication.
Mobile gambling refers to playing games of chance or skill for money by using a remote device such as a tablet computer, smartphone or a mobile phone with a wireless Internet connection.
In-play gambling is a feature on many online sports betting websites that allows the user to bet while the event is in progress. A benefit of live in-play gambling is that there are much more markets. For example, in Association football a user could bet on which player will receive the next Yellow card, or which team will be awarded the next corner kick.
Advance-deposit wagering (ADW) is a form of gambling on the outcome of horse races in which the bettor must fund his or her account before being allowed to place bets. ADW is often conducted online or by phone. In contrast to ADW, credit shops allow wagers without advance funding; accounts are settled at month-end. Racetrack owners, horse trainers and state governments sometimes receive a share of ADW revenues.
The money for online gambling can come from credit card, electronic check, certified check, money order, wire transfer, or Bitcoin. 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. 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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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 offense applies to all interactive gambling service providers, whether based in Australia or offshore, whether Australian or foreign owned. 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.
While the criminal code of Canada does not prohibit online gambling, it does prohibit any type of gambling at an establishment not owned or licensed by a provincial government. Not withstanding this fact, there are an estimated 1,200 to 1,400 offshore websites that make casino type games and other gambling activities available to Canadians. For online gambling operations within Canada’s borders, the Canadian authorities are willing to prosecute, but as of this date, have only done so once, when British Columbia prosecuted Starnet Communications International (“SCI”), a Delaware corporation, run by residents of Vancouver, where one of the company’s servers was located. The court found that SCI had sufficient contact with Canada to be prosecuted under its criminal code. SCI was fined $100,000 and forfeited nearly $4 million in profits. It has since moved its operations overseas. In 2004, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation launched Canada’s first legal online casino, PlayNow.com, which makes legal online gambling available to residents of British Columbia and Manitoba. A survey conducted in 2007 showed that only about 2.3% of Canadians reported participating in online gambling. However, in 2012, Manitoba Lotteries Minister Steve Ashton estimated that gamblers in Manitoba alone were spending $37 million a year at illegal online casinos.
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." 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. 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.
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 most recent law to address gambling online was the Federal Information Technology Rules where such illegal activities may be blocked by Internet providers within India. Another act is the Public Gaming Act of 1867. States tend to operate on their own authority.
Online gambling legal issues in India are complicated in nature as Gambling in India is regulated by different states laws and online gambling is a central subject. To ascertain the position of Indian government, the Supreme Court of India sought the opinion of central government in this regard but the same was declined by the central government. This has made playing of online cards games like rummy, poker, etc. legally risky.
On 3rd September 2015, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) issued a Circular titled “Clarification on Tax Compliance for Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets” under the black money act which directs the online poker players in the country to declare their money transactions on foreign poker sites through the e-wallets and virtual cards.
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. 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.
In 2012, the Tel Aviv Police Commander ordered local ISPs to block access to several online gambling sites. The District Court invalidated this order. The Supreme Court dismissed an appeal in 2013, finding that the police does not have legal authority to issue such orders. The government responded by proposing a bill that will authorize such orders, referring to child pornography, drug trafficking and online gambling websites.
Russian legislation, enacted in December 2006, prohibits online gambling altogether (as well as any gambling relying on telecommunications technology).
In 2014, the Singapore parliament tabled the Remote Gambling Bill as a counter-measure against online gambling locally, while parliamentary member Denise Phua spoke against legalised gambling in Singapore.
In 2003 Tessa Jowell, then Culture Secretary suggested a change in the British Gambling laws to keep up with advances in technology.
The Bill identified updates to the laws already in place in the UK, and also created the UK Gambling Commission to take over from the Gambling Board. The Commission will have the power to prosecute any parties in breach of the guidelines set out by the bill and will be tasked with regulating any codes of practice they set forward. The Bill set out its licensing objectives, which are as follows:
The Bill also set out guidelines stating that gambling will be unlawful in the UK unless granted a licence, permit or registration. It outlined the penalty for being in breach of these guidelines, that being a maximum of six months in prison, a fine, or both for each offence. Any person under 18 will not be allowed to gamble and it is an offence to invite or permit anyone under the age of 18 years to gamble.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled 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 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.
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. In April 2005, Yahoo! has instigated a restrictive policy about gambling ads.
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. 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.
The BetOnSports indictment alleged violations of at least nine different federal statutes, including 18 USC Sec. 1953 (Operation of an Illegal Gambling Business). Carruthers is currently under house arrest on a one million dollar bail bond.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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. The regulation does not define "unlawful Internet gambling."
In April 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. Several similar bills have been introduced since then in the House and Senate.
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."
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.
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. However, a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll in April 2009 showed only 26% of New Jersey voters approved of online sports-betting. 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. In May 2012, FDU's PublicMind conducted a follow up study which asked voters if they favored or opposed online gaming/gambling and "allowing New Jersey casinos to run betting games online, over the Internet." The results showed that (31%) of voters favored while a sizable majority (58%) opposed the idea. Peter Woolley, Director of the PublicMind commented on the results: "Online gambling may be a good bet for new state revenue, but lots of voters don't think it's a good bet for New Jersey households."
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, that is, Internet gambling that involves a "bet or wager" that is illegal under the laws of the state where the bet is made. 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. 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. On July 31, 2012, it was announced that two of the three companies indicted for money laundering and forfeiture settled with the Manhattan U.S. Attorney for $731 million without legally admitting guilt. The government also asked the judge to approve a settlement with the third defendant, Absolute Poker.
The Bill defined remote gambling as,
This would be using the internet, the telephone, radio, television of any other device used for communication. Any operator must have a separate licence for remote gambling and non remote gambling. The licence must state what form the remote gambling would come in and any conditions appropriate to each operator. Offences for breaching remote gambling guidelines are the same as breaching non-remote gambling guidelines.
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.
In the UK, between 2009-2010, 4% of adults had bet online. Between April 2010 and March 2011, online gambling which is regulated by the UK Gambling Commission yielded £660.74 million, a 5% increase on the previous year. The British regulated online gambling sector was worth a 12% market share of the British regulated gambling industry within the same time period. Most British consumer online gambling activity is on overseas regulated websites, and estimates place the UK consumer market for online gambling at £1.9 billion for 2010. (Approximately three times the size of the British regulated market). In the year to March 2011, 5000 adults were surveyed and reported that 11.2% of them had participated in at least one form of remote gambling in the previous four weeks. Approximately half of the respondents had only participated in National Lottery products. Another group of interviews conducted by the Gambling Commission
In March 2011, the UK online gambling industry employed 6,077 full-time employees. A number that has declined since 2008 where 8,918 full-time employees were in employment within the industry. Also, there were 291 remote gambling activity licences held by 225 operators at this date. Three of the sectors within online gambling are betting, bingo and casino which between them turned over £13,456.07 million between April 2010 and March 2011. During this time period, betting turned over a substantial proportion of this amount, turning over £13,081.44 million, with bingo and casino turning over £26.75 million and £347.87 million respectively.
Read main article: Problem gambling
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 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.
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 prevalence 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 prevalence among women for 2010 was 71%, which was higher than 68% in 1999 and 65% in 2007.
In August 2014 the National Council of Problem Gambling (NCPG) partnered with the Gambling Interity Services (GIS). The GIS will evaluate these recently regulated internet gambling operators in order to ensure they comply with NCPG's internet Responsible Gambling Standards.
A study released by the University of Buffalo in November 2014 states that the explosion of online gambling in the United States in the past decade has not given rise to more people with gambling problems.
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. 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."
In 2011, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York filed United States v. Scheinberg, a federal criminal case against the founders of the three largest online poker companies, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Cereus Poker Network (Absolute Poker/Ultimatebet), and a handful of their associates, which alleges that the defendants violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and engaged in bank fraud and money laundering in order to process transfers to and from their customers.