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Gambling Safety 101: Know Your Laws

14 January 2011 by admin

This is part of an educational series on gambling safety.

Safety-First---14--x-10--5197980Political debate does no good when people stick to their talking points and are unable to look at the other side. The anti-gambling crowd says that gambling is dangerous and should be banned for the public good. The pro-gambling crowd says that it’s perfectly safe and no one should be telling them what to do with their own money. The truth is that, like many things in life, gambling can be dangerous if done irresponsibly. They key is to be educated and use your head when you play. That is the reason for this series, Gambling Safety 101.

If you are responsible, gambling is as safe as a trip to Disney World, going to a ballgame, or some other activity that is fun but costs money. Unlike those other activities, though, when playing casino games, there is a chance that you will end the night with more money. To be safe, it’s important that you use wise money management, make sure that the casino is safe and know the odds of the games that you’re playing. One thing that shouldn’t go overlooked, though, is ensuring that gambling is legal.

Even if you hit the jackpot on a progressive slot, those millions of dollars do you no good if the government confiscates it, freezes your bank account or arrests you. Across the world there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of gambling laws. Before you place a wager, before you either enter a casino or log onto an online casino, you need to make sure that you won’t be violating the law.

If you’re in the United States, you should know that, contrary to popular belief, there is no federal law banning online gambling. The two laws that are often cited, including by the prohibitionist government, are the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 and the Interstate Wire Act of 1961. Upon reading the laws, though, you will find that UIGEA does not ban any game, only holding banks responsible for blocking transactions for “unlawful” gambling. What is unlawful is not defined, which means the gambling activities must be banned by some previous law. That’s where the Wire Act comes in. The Wire Act, passed before online gambling existed, makes it illegal to use any form of wire communication or transmission (such as a phone) to place a bet on a sporting event or contest. The courts have ruled that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting.

Federal laws aren’t the only laws U.S. citizens need to worry about, though. Some states have laws that specifically address online gambling, but many do not. The state of Washington passed a law in 2006 banning all forms of online gambling, including poker. Therefore, anyone in Washington who plays for real money at an overseas online casino would be violating state law and the bank processing that transaction would be violating UIGEA. In addition to state laws, counties and even cities sometimes have laws regarding online gambling. If you are a U.S. citizen, it is recommended that you check your city, county and state laws to make sure it is legal.

The United States isn’t the only place with complicated online gambling laws, though. UK citizens are free (for now) to gamble at websites based in their country or abroad. Due to the European Union’s laws, most of their member states that allow online gambling will let you play at domestic casinos or any casinos based in another EU nation. Some countries, such as Germany, have been in violation of that law. The Netherlands, however, only allow gambling at their state-run monopoly, and the EU has upheld their law, so Dutch citizens have to know not to gamble at overseas online casinos. In Monaco, their own citizens are not allowed to gamble in their casinos, but tourists can.

Asia isn’t any simpler than Europe. In China, all gambling except the state lottery is illegal in the mainland, but Macau allows online gambling and has the largest land-based casino industry in the world. Japan’s gambling laws are pretty ridiculous. Most forms of gambling have been banned since 1882, but there are exceptions for horse racing, some (but not all) sports, and some racing. In North Korea, gambling is illegal for citizens, but tourists are allowed to play.

Without dragging this out and covering the laws in hundreds of countries, the point I’m trying to make is that there are hundreds of gambling laws across the globe. Some of them are easy to understand and some are complex. Some laws are in contrast to how they are sometimes “enforced.” Wherever you are, it is important to do your own research, learn the laws, and make sure you are not in violation before you play.

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