Online gambling is a broad term that includes casino games, sports betting, lottery, and virtual poker. In many countries, some forms of online gambling are legal, but some restrictions are in place.
Internet gambling became popular in the late 1990s. Initially, there were only fifteen gambling websites, but by 1997, the number had increased to 200. The first multi-player online gambling platform was introduced in 1999. Some states, including New Jersey, have permitted their residents to gamble online. Other states have prohibited it.
Several bills have been introduced in Congress over the last decade, seeking to rescind or modify the federal laws against online gambling. These measures include the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), the Internet Gambling Regulation and Tax Enforcement Act, and a bill from Rep. Barney Frank, which would require licensing of internet gambling facilities by the director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
Despite its growing popularity, online gambling has been viewed as an end-run around government control. There have been several attempts to regulate it, and many of them have been blocked. One of the most serious attacks on the UIGEA is based on a theory of legislative power under the Commerce Clause. However, this approach has met with little success.
Another attack has been made on the First Amendment, which guarantees free speech. It has been argued that the commercial nature of the online gambling business, coupled with the interstate element, frustrates state enforcement policies.