Online casinos experienced a significant boom during the early 2000s. As the poker boom reach its height with Chris Moneymaker’s win in the World Series of Poker, more people got online in hopes of making it big. Casinos popped up all over the place. Some were standalone operations, giving people the ability to play basic table games like blackjack, roulette, craps, and the like. Others were attached to poker and sports betting sites. Over time, things became more difficult for these sites. The UEIGA, a law passed by President George W. Bush, made it more difficult for people to move money in and out of sites. Today the legality of online gambling is in question, and while people can still do it, it has become more difficult.
Legal issues with the movement of money
The most significant legal challenges for online casinos and their customers come in the form of barriers to the movement of money. While the legality of online casinos is a murky legal area, the federal government has the ability to regulate banks. It has used that ability to tell banks what they can and cannot do in regard to online casino sites. According to the law, banks are barred from making transactions to facilitate gambling. This has stopped much of the credit and debit card activity on these sites, leaving players to use riskier and more complicated options. For poker sites and casinos alike, the legal barrier to deposits has been the biggest hurdle to this point.
The legality of online gambling
Whether it is legal for a player to go online and play in an online casino is an open question in America. Practically speaking, US law enforcement agencies do not prosecute individuals for this kind of activity. Because most sites operate offshore, a person going onto the Internet to play on that site may technically be playing offshore. The Internet changes things, making it more difficult to draw distinct lines in the law. However, federal law does ban sites from offering their games to American players. This puts the legal barrier on the sites rather than the players themselves.
There are complex issues of state law in play, too. For instance, states like Nevada and Louisiana, where gambling is legal, regulate sites in the same way they regulate brick and mortar casinos. In those states, an operator wanting to offer games online must receive a license, pay the requisite taxes, and subject themselves to significant regulation by the state-level entity.
Issues of jurisdiction
Perhaps nothing is more important in the conversation on online casinos than issues of jurisdiction. While the US can technically arrest an overseas site operator for providing games to American citizens, the US has very little power to go overseas and make that arrest. This is why most operators are safe from arrest unless they come to the United States. In many of the high profile cases where a casino operator has been nabbed, it happened when he stepped off of an airplane on US soil.