While the legality of online gambling has been debated for years, the United States has yet to pass a law banning it completely. There are a few different legal standards, however, and the status quo varies state by state. For example, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 limits banks from transacting with Internet-based gambling sites that violate state laws, but it does not define what is legal or illegal. For a long time, people assumed that the federal Wire Act prohibited all forms of online gambling. However, the Wire Act is not applicable to online casinos, poker sites, or lottery sites.
Section 1956 creates three separate crimes: money laundering with the intent to promote illicit activity, money laundering for evading taxes, and concealment or disguise. This law has been the subject of a number of legal challenges, including those based on the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. However, these attacks have been largely unsuccessful. In many cases, the commercial nature of the gambling industry answers Commerce Clause doubts about its legality, while the limitations on the First Amendment’s protection for crime-facilitating speech defeat free speech arguments. Further, the Due Process Clause is not a viable argument when financial transactions are involved.
The criminal code of Canada prohibits participation in games of chance and lottery schemes that are not regulated by the provinces. However, some Canadian provinces have legalized online gambling. In 2010, the British Columbia Lottery Corporation launched Canada’s first legal online casino, PlayNow, which is open to residents of British Columbia. Similarly, Quebec operates its own online casino through Loto-Quebec.