US Gambling in the Midst of UIGEA

Online gambling in United States is endangered with the passing of the UIGEA or Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. It was enforced in 2007 and since then it has dramatically curtailed the online gambler population. Many gambling websites have already stopped operating and many online gamblers have controlled their urge to gamble for the fear of being caught.

Such scare continued to linger despite the efforts to assure people. A few online gambling sites offer gambling system in roulette in which the prizes double with succeeding loss. This martingale system aims to attract more players. Many people aren’t aware of this prohibition and so aren’t familiar with its specifics. This led to false notions, and because of that, information campaign regarding UIGEA has become necessary.

Gambling Sanction

The major implication of UIGEA is to prevent operation of online gambling sites, thereby, preventing players to gamble. This is a US law and is being enacted in two ways. First, it compels legal operations of gambling sites through qualification assessment and issuance of gambling license as administered by Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which will oversee the legalities of operations. Second, other games shall be reclassified and redefined for delineation; hence, games like chess, roulette, and poker shall be removed from the UIGEA scope.

UIGEA does have a good result-security in gambling for US players. Since it tracks down different online gambling sites, it is almost impossible for them to run away, supposing they commit crimes. The main issue is that the UIGEA stirred the industry drastically. A more pressing situation is its ineffective enforcement. The irregularity in enforcement made UIGEA a culprit of setbacks in the online gambling world, no less.

General Picture

UIGEA is so inefficiently enforced that it has become a culprit of profound problems encountered in online gambling today. The issue has a lot to do with the shareholders who invested funds in gambling sites. Because of the impending prohibition of gambling, many shareholders withdrew their shares from online gambling sites because of fear of bankruptcy. This slump causes many gambling websites to shut down operations. As more sites closed, people began to believe that it was going to be the end of online gambling in the United States. Many of these online venues lay the blame on UIGEA for their closure and non-operation. What was supposed to safeguard the gambling market lead to its near demise.

This ineffective enforcement of UIGEA also caused another repercussion. As it is not implemented in some states, there is confusion across the country as to the scope of this law, whether it aims to ban gambling and ban citizens to gamble online or not. Nevertheless, UIGEA does not necessarily prohibit American players to join online gambling websites. But some states did not understand the bill correctly. So many of the US gamers have now succumbed to the idea that they could no longer enjoy gambling online. Despite the number of states allowing gambling, the anxiety in the whole country is very real. As you can see the truth, the nation’s opinion regarding gambling is not in unison. And up to the time that UIGEA continues to be in partial implementation, this nationwide confusion goes on.

Online Gambling

Internet Casinos Inc. (ICI), the world’s first online casino, started operating from August 18, 1995, with 18 different games. Since then more than 1,400 websites, mostly domiciled in small Caribbean islands, have given rise to an industry that grosses over $3 billion a year. In fact no business on the Internet earns more revenue than online gambling. Out of the estimated 14.5 million online gamblers, almost 30 per cent are from Asia.

A bet can be placed in minutes. Anyone with a credit card can set up an offshore currency account with a gambling site, leaving them free to place bets on sporting events like Wimbledon, cricket, horse racing and Formula One, or join a virtual casino to play slot machines, roulette, blackjack, poker etc. Companies like Flutter and Betmart accept bets on anything from who is going to win the Nobel Prize to whether Madonna is getting a divorce or not. Bets can range from a nickel to thousands of dollars and according to whether you win or lose the amount is automatically adjusted to your account. The final balance can then either be mailed to you or left for future bets.

The law relating to online gambling in India needs to be understood within the country’s socio-cultural context. At the outset, gambling, although not absolutely prohibited in India, does not receive express encouragement by policy makers. The Indian organized gambling industry is estimated to be worth around US$8 billion. While stringent laws have checked the proliferation of casinos and high street gaming centres as in many other countries, barring the state of Goa, the lottery business remains the most post popular form of gambling.

Though gambling is not illegal, it is a highly controlled and regulated activity. Modern India is a quasi-federal Constitutional democracy and the powers to legislate are distributed at the federal as well as the state levels. Gambling features in List II of the Constitution of India, this implies that the state governments have the authority to enact laws in order to regulate gambling in the respective states. Thus, there is no single law governing gambling in the entire country. Different states have different laws governing gambling in addition to the laws that have an application across the country. While some states have banned lotteries, other states allow state government lotteries marketed and distributed in other lottery playing and promoting states through private entities.

Regulation of gambling

The courts have defined gambling as ‘the payment of a price for a chance to win a prize’. The dominant element of skill or chance shall determine the nature of the game. A game may be deemed to be gambling if the element of chance or luck predominates in deciding its outcome. As a result, Indian courts have held that betting on horse racing and a few card games are not gambling. The right to undertake the business of gambling and lotteries is not considered as a fundamental right protected by the Constitution of India. It may however be pointed out that the state government run lotteries make significant contributions to the state exchequer of several state governments and the Union government, and hence there is a resistance to complete prohibition.

The following legislation is pertinent to gambling:

The Public Gaming Act, 1867

This Act provides punishment for public gambling and for keeping of a ‘common gaming house’. This Act also authorises the state governments to enact laws to regulate public gambling in their respective jurisdictions. The penal legislations in respective states have been amended in accordance with their policy on gambling. However, this legislation does not have any direct impact on online gambling unless a wide interpretation is given to the definition of common gaming house so as to include virtual forums as well.

The Indian Contract Act, 1872 (ICA)

The ICA is a codified umbrella legislation that governs all commercial contracts in India. Under the ICA, a wagering contract is the one which cannot be enforced. The Act lays down; ‘Agreements by way of wager are void, and no suit shall be brought for recovering anything alleged to be won on any wager or entrusted to any person to abide by the result of any game or other uncertain event on which any wager is made’. Gambling, lottery and prize games have held to be wagering contracts and thus void and unenforceable. While a wagering contract is not illegal, it cannot be enforced in a court of law. Thus, the courts will not entertain any cause of action that arises out of a wagering contract.

Lotteries (Regulation) Act, 1998

This Act provides a framework for organizing lotteries in the country. Under this Act, the state governments have been authorized to promote as well as prohibit lotteries within their territorial jurisdiction. This Act also provides for the manner in which the lotteries are to be conducted and prescribes punishment in case of breach of its provision. Lotteries not authorized by the state have been made an offence under the Indian Penal Code. Several non-lottery playing states, like Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, have prohibited the sale of other state-government lotteries under this Act.

Indian Penal Code, 1860

Section 294A deals with keeping lottery office. It says that whoever keeps any office or place for the purpose of drawing any lottery not being a State lottery or a lottery authorised by the State Government, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.

And whoever publishes any proposal to pay any sum, or to deliver any goods, or to do or forbear doing anything for the benefit of any person, on any event or contingency relative or applicable to the drawing of any ticket, lot, number or figure in any such lottery, shall be punished with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees.

Internet gambling

The law related to gambling is also applicable to online gambling. All gambling contracts are considered to be wagering contracts and it is not possible to enforce such contracts under the ICA, detailed above.

As pointed out earlier, the online lottery is the most popular form of internet gambling in India. Most companies marketing and distributing or conducting state government-sponsored lotteries through the internet are not allowed to sell their services in the states that banned lotteries. In most cases, these marketers and distributors limit their online services to consumers who are residents of the states where a lottery is permissible. Notwithstanding the fact there has been no reported case of breach by any company promoting online lotteries, most of these companies (as a safeguard) seek an undertaking from their consumers relating to their residence.

There have been instances where one state has banned the lottery of other states, including online lotteries. In a recent case, the Karnatka High Court upheld the decision of the Karnataka government to make itself a ‘lottery free zone’ by imposing a ban on lotteries of all other states, including online lotteries under the Lotteries (Regulation) Act 1998. The state government, in this case, directed the closure of the terminals and kiosks selling the online lotteries.

Enforcement over foreign jurisdictions

If the websites are hosted and operated from outside India, it may be difficult for the Indian authorities to issue any directive to close them down or prohibit their access without using its blocking powers under the ITA. The authorities have little to worry about, as Indian foreign exchange laws do not permit remittances outside India for gambling related activity, such as the purchase of lottery tickets, football pools and sweepstakes. As a result, a gambling website hosted outside India aiming at receiving money from within India cannot do so through legal channels.

Addiction – When Gambling Becomes a Problem

While most people enjoy casino gambling, sports betting, lottery and bingo playing for the fun and excitement it provides, others may experience gambling as an addictive and distractive habit. Statistics show that while 85 percent of the adult population in the US enjoys some type of gambling every year, between 2 and 3 percent of will develop a gambling problem and 1 percent of them are diagnosed as pathological gamblers.

Where can you draw the line between harmless gambling to problem gambling? How can you tell if you or your friend are compulsive gamblers? Here you can find answers to these questions and other questions regarding problem gambling and gambling addiction.

What is the Meaning of Problem Gambling?

Problem gambling or compulsive gambling is defined as an uncontrollable urge to gamble despite the destructive effect of gambling on the gamblers life and despite feelings of guilt and remorse. Problem gambling tends to have a negative effect on the gamblers financial state, relationships and daily life. Severe cases of problem gambling can be defined as pathological gambling.

Am I a Compulsive Gambler?

1) Do you gamble until your last penny runs out?

2) Do you gamble to win back your former losses or debts?

3) Did you ever had to borrow money to continue gamble?

4) Did your gambling habit ever made you lie to your friends or family?

5) Did you ever skip work or other obligation to gamble?

6) Do you tend to gamble to forget about your personal problems or to celebrate happy occasions?

7) Does gambling have a negative affect on your daily life or relationships?

If you have answered yes on at least one of the questions listed above, then you have a problem.

Can Anyone Become a Compulsive Gambler?

Theoretically, yes. Any gambler can develop gambling problem regardless to the type of gambling he is occupied with, the amount of money and time he is spending on gambling. Researches show that slot machines that can be found in bars and convenient stores are the most addictive type of gambling activity, while lottery draws and bingo games are located on the other end of the scale. Gambling addiction is an emotional problem; its symptoms, causes and treatments are similar to any other form of addiction.

How Can I treat Gambling Addiction?

1) Group Therapy:

Gamblers Anonymous offers a 12 step self help program similar to the one offered to alcohol addicts in Alcoholics Anonymous. Group therapy also offers gambling addicts advice and support from professional counselors and other gambling addicts in different phases of their recovery process. Gambler Anonymous centers are available in more than 1,200 locations statewide.

2) Individual Therapy:

Cognitive or behavior therapy can help gambling addicts to identify their unaware thinking and acting patterns, which led them to gamble compulsively, and to replace them with controllable and healthier ways of thinking.

3) Psychiatric Medication:

It has recently been proven that antidepressant medications from the family of SSRIs, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can be affective in treatment of gambling addicts.