There are a large number of online casinos, in which people can play casino games such as Roulette, Blackjack, Craps, and many others. These games are played against the “house”, which makes money due to the fact that the odds are slightly in its favour. Some unscrupulous sites have been proven to offer rigged games, which are less mathematically fair than they appear.
There are a large number of online poker rooms which offer various games of Poker, most commonly Texas hold ’em, but also Omaha, Seven-card stud, and other game types. Players play against each other, with the “house” making its money through the “rake”.
Several major bookmakers offer fixed-odds gambling over the internet, with gamblers typically betting on the results of sporting events.
A relatively new internet innovation is the bet exchange, which allows individuals to place bets with each other (with the “house” taking a small commission).
Typically, gamblers upload funds to the online gambling company, make bets or play the games that it offers, and then cash out any winnings. European gamblers can often fund gambling accounts by credit card or debit card, and cash out winnings directly back to the card.
Because of the questionable legality of online gambling in the United States, however, U.S. credit cards frequently fail to be accepted. However, a number of intermediary companies – such as Firepay, Neteller, and Moneybookers – offer accounts with which (among other things) online gambling can be funded. Casino operators and online poker rooms often offer incentives for using these ‘alternative payment methods’.
Payment by cheque and wire transfer is also common.
Online gambling is legal and regulated in many countries including the United Kingdom and several nations in and around the Caribbean Sea.
The United States Federal Appeals Courts has ruled that the Federal Wire Act prohibits electronic transmission of information for sports betting across state lines. There is no law prohibiting gambling of any other kind.
Some states have specific laws against online gambling of any kind. Also, owning an online gaming operation without proper licensing would be illegal, and no states are currently granting online gaming licenses.
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 has partially reversed that favorable ruling in April, 2005. The appeals decision effectively allowed state laws prohibiting gambling in Louisiana, Massachusetts, South Dakota and Utah. However, the appeals panel also ruled that the United States may be violating global trade rules because its laws regulating horse-racing bets were not applied equitably to foreign and domestic online betting companies. The panel also held that certain online gambling restrictions imposed under US federal laws were inconsistent with the trade body’s GATS services agreement.
In March 2003, Deputy Assistant Attorney General John G. Malcolm testified before the Senate Banking Committee regarding the special problems presented by online gambling. A major concern of the United States Department of Justice is online money laundering. The anonymous nature of the Internet and the use of encryption make it especially difficult to trace online money laundering transactions.
In April 2004 Google and Yahoo!, the internet’s two largest 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. As of April 2005, Yahoo! has provided advertising for “play money” online gaming.
In February 2005 the North Dakota House of Representatives passed a bill to legalize and regulate online poker and online poker cardroom operators in the State. Testifying before the State Senate, the CEO of one online cardroom, Paradise Poker, pledged to relocate to the state if the bill became law. However, the measure was defeated by the State Senate in March 2005. Jim Kasper, the Representative who sponsored the bill, plans a 2006 ballot initiative on the topic.
Because the internet brings gambling right into a player’s home, there is concern that online gambling increases the level of problem gambling. In the United States, the link between availability and problem gambling was investigated in 1999 by the National Gambling Impact Study, which found that “the presence of a gambling facility within 50 miles roughly doubles the prevalence of problem and pathological gamblers”. If this finding is correct, it is reasonable to expect that easy access to gambling online would also increase problem gambling.
That same report noted the possibility that “the high-speed instant gratification of Internet games and the high level of privacy they offer may exacerbate problem and pathological gambling”. Bernie Horn, of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, testified before Congress that the availability of online gambling “magnifies the potential destructiveness of the addiction”.