Justice Department opinion could clear states to authorize online gambling

full-tilt-poker-ponzi-scheme-shutterstock

In an opinion dated in September but published just before the Christmas holiday (PDF), the U.S. Justice Department appears to be reversing almost half a century of policy on online and “wire” gambling, offering a new interpretation of law that may make it legal for states to authorize online gambling—and, if they do, the federal government would have to go along with it.

The opinion, which ostensibly only applies to proposals from New York and Illinois to use out-of-state transaction processors to sell in-state lottery tickets, finds that interstate wire communications that do not relate to a “sporting event or contest” fall outside the reach of 1961’s Wire Act, which barred wagers placed across state lines using telecommunications. Although initially written to target wire communications used in sports gambling—like off-track betting on horse races—the Wire Act has been the basis for the illegalization of online gambling in the United States, with the subsequent Unlawful Internet Gambling Act of 2006 used to pursue and prosecute operators of online poker sites. The upshot of the new opinion is that if individual states legalized intra-state games like poker—which Nevada and the District of Columbia have already done—the Wire Act could not be applied against the games’ operators.

“The ordinary meaning of the phrase ‘sporting event or contest’ does not encompass lotteries,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Virginia Seitz, in the opinion. “A statute enacted the same day as the Wire Act expressly distinguished sports betting from other forms of gambling, including lotteries.”

The apparent move towards a policy change may be about revenue: many states already operate lotteries as a way to finance education and other state programs. If Illinois’ and New York’s proposal to use of of state processors goes through, more states will likely consider offering online versions of their lotteries—and, if that flies, states may be tempted to give their coffers to boost by authorizing online gambling within their boundaries, even if the game operator is not located in the same state. Of course, states would be free to tax legal online gambling operations in any way they see fit.

Critics of online gaming have consistently cited the dangers of online gambling, including gambling addiction and exploitation by online casino operators. Just as with gambling in the real world, individuals with gambling problems often resort to theft, fraud, and even violence to feed their addiction. Studies have also linked online gambling to increased risks of emotional and health problems, including substance abuse, depression, risky sexual behavior, and circulatory diseases. Some studies have found online gamblers may be more prone to developing serious gambling problems than others.

The Isle of Man-based Global Betting and Gaming Consultancy estimated the online gaming business has grown to about $30 billion in 2011, an increase of nearly 12 percent from 2010.

[Image via whitewizzard/Shutterstock]

Gaming

Take a trip to a new virtual world with one of these awesome HTC Vive games

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.
Web

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.
Gaming

Immerse yourself in a new universe with these incredible PSVR games

The PSVR has surpassed expectations and along with it comes an incredible catalog of games. There's plenty of amazing experiences to be had so we've put together a list of the best PSVR games available today.
Virtual Reality

Think virtual reality is just for games? These awesome apps will change your mind

Virtual reality isn't all about gaming. Swim with turtles, paint in 3D, and immerse yourself in some unique experiences the platform has to offer with our curated list of the best VR apps.
Gaming

Console wars are so last-gen. Check out all the games that support crossplay

Crossplay is still in its infancy, but a growing number of games support online multiplayer between competing platforms. Here's a list of all games that support console crossplay.
Gaming

Want to trick out your PlayStation 4? These themes will get you started

Personalize your gaming experience with some of our favorite themes for the PlayStation 4, including free, paid, static, and dynamic options.
Gaming

‘Mortal Kombat 11’ is even gorier and crazier than we expected

NetherRealm Studios unveiled Mortal Kombat 11 on January 17 and the game looks to be just as gory and over the top as fans have come to expect. Former MMA fighter Ronda Rousey will appear as Sonya Blade.
Gaming

Play your games whenever you want with a MicroSD card for your Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch uses cartridge-based games, but its internal storage may fill up quicker than you would think. Here's what you should consider when picking out a MicroSD card to expand your Switch's storage capacity.
Gaming

Get your pilot skills up to snuff for this week's 'Fortnite' challenge guide

The Fortnite season 7, week 7 challenges are now available. The major challenge this week requires you to visit all the Fortnite expedition outposts in the game and we walk you through how to get to each.
Gaming

Get extra life with our tips and tricks for 'New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe'

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe is a much more difficult game than you'd believe based on its adorable art style and 2D perspective. Here's how you can master the game's toughest challenges.
Gaming

Find all of the secret exits and world skips in 'New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe'

New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe has two distinct Mario experiences in one package. In this guide, we'll show you how to find all of the secret exits in New Super Mario Bros. U, that lead to hidden levels and let you skip worlds.
Gaming

Find all of the secret exits and world skips in 'New Super Luigi U Deluxe'

Just like all other 2D Mario games, New Super Mario Bros. Deluxe includes secret exits and world skips. In this guide, we'll show you how to get to all 12 secret exits in New Super Luigi U.
Gaming

For Netflix, ‘Fortnite’ on YouTube is a bigger threat than HBO

In a letter to shareholders, Netflix explained that it views the video game Fortnite as bigger competition than HBO, with YouTube videos of the game drawing viewers away from the streaming platform.
Gaming

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in 'Destiny 2: Forsaken'

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.