Even if you are intimately familiar with gambling, it may still be difficult to understand why poker in particular found itself to be on the wrong side of the law, while online casinos thrive. Professor I. Nelson Rose, gambling law expert and leading industry consultant, says that this is because online casinos are more difficult to prosecute. He explains:
Sports betting clearly falls under the main federal anti-gambling law, the Wire Act, while some courts have ruled that online casinos do not violate that statute, making them more difficult to prosecute.
Plus, American law does not allow trials in absentia, meaning the defendant must be brought physically into the courtroom, a difficult feat to accomplish under present extradition treaties.
This becomes even more difficult when the vast majority of online casinos offering services to US players are based in jurisdictions far away from the states. Gibraltar, for example, is one of the most popular locations for online casinos and is the small matter of 3,224 miles away from the most easterly point of the US. However, this doesn’t mean that US online casinos can breathe easy as there’s still considerable danger for them. Rose explains that the US Attorneys in New York, who indicted the poker operators, have a habit of using plea bargains to make their next indictments. “So, if any of the payment processors who were working for poker sites were also arranging payments for online casinos, we can expect the principals of those casinos to be charged with crimes,” he adds.
So far none have, but this isn’t to say that it won’t happen. Rose confirms that in many circles, casino games are regarded as a much more dangerous form of gambling than poker. He says that online casinos, especially slots, are viewed as being particularly exploitative. As a result of this, US online casino players can expect a long wait until they are able to legally gamble.
In addition to being seen as a more dangerous form of gambling, online casinos also have the added disadvantage of being opposed by land based casino companies. The American Gaming Association (AGA), who represent a number of top casino operators including Bally's, Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts, added their support to the regulation of online poker. While this is good news for poker players, don’t expect the same to happen for online casinos as, unlike online poker, some operators believe that they will challenge, rather than compliment, existing land based casinos.
With the exception of Washington D.C and a few other select states, online poker will be the first and, in many cases, only issue on the online gambling agenda. Washington D.C will look to regulate online blackjack through a state-run gaming site while California may get some form of casino games legislation together. New Jersey currently licenses online casinos and poker rooms to operate within its borders, but there are endless restrictions for both players and the casinos themselves.
Having worked with D.C on their project, Rose is confident that the regulation of blackjack will be a significant success. Even more so than poker, as liquidity is an issue with so many visitors and workers entering and leaving the District on a daily basis. Despite this, poker remains the hot topic for US legislators’, while online casino games continue to lurk in the shadows. So, aside from casinos in New Jersey and the proposed gambling website for residents in D.C, will other gamblers in the US be able to log on and legally play at a casino any time soon?
Yes, appears to be the answer coming from Professor Rose although, it may turn out to be a slow process.
First, a few states will legalise, say, Nevada, Delaware, and California. They will then get the UIGEA changed to allow them to accept players from each other.
Upon the suggestion of online gambling legislation following the pattern of state lotteries Rose says: “I think that is exactly what is going to happen, only faster, even including multi-state games.” While ‘faster’ may sound promising, it’s worth bearing in mind that government run lotteries started to appear in the 1960s and are still not offered in all US states. Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, and Utah still offer no form of lottery to their residents despite other states generating millions in revenue. Of course, Nevada offers just about every other form of gambling. Rose explains:
First, a few states will legalise, say, Nevada, Delaware, and California. They will then get the UIGEA changed to allow them to accept players It took 40 years for lotteries to spread to almost every state after being rediscovered by New Hampshire in 1963.
I don’t think the pace will be as slow. But it will still be many years before other forms of gambling will be authorised by state legislatures.from each other.
If this statement sounds a little pessimistic, it’s because there’s good reason for it to be so. It’s obvious that it’s only a matter of time until most forms of online gambling are legalised in the US, but it’s the length of time that’s the issue. While poker players may be buying in within the next year or so, casino game fans will be waiting considerably longer to start making some legal deposits. All we can do is hope that the wait won’t be as long as it was for lottery players.
CasinoOnline.co.uk would like to thank I. Nelson Rose for contributing to our interview. You can learn about his various publications, keep track of his upcoming appearances, or read his blog by visiting GamblingandtheLaw.com