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International and U.S. Internet Gaming Laws

Online Gambling and Online BettingOnline gambling has become a billion dollar a year industry. Considering that internet gaming hardly existed ten years ago, those are staggering numbers. There are several major types of online gambling, including online poker, online casinos, sports betting and bingo.

Gambling Online

Online Poker

Online poker rooms have become a huge windfall for online gaming websites. People have watched the antics of professional and amateur gamblers on the ESPN broadcasts of the World Series of Poker, as well as poker shows on Travel Channel, FoxSports, NBC and the Bravo Channel.

Players watching at home naturally want the thrill of a legal high stakes poker game, but might not have access to a local casino. The internet poker room is the perfect destination for such players.

Online poker websites offer games based on Texas Hold Em, Omaha, Seven Card Stud and all the other favorite poker variants. Online poker software is meant to simulate the feel of a 9-man or 10-man poker table, where players can interact with their opponents while trying to read them.

Chat features allow a player to put an opponent on tilt through needling or just to congratulate another player on a hand well-played. Online poker rooms often have notepads for each player at the table, allowing you to collect thoughts and tendencies of every opponent you face.

Online Casinos

Online casinos simulate the brick and mortar casinos. Through the use of the same number generators that have determined slot machine and video poker machine jackpots for the last 20 years or so, you can play online craps, roulette, baccarat, blackjack, slots or video poker.

Some games simulate the live experience better than others. Whatever your favorite casino game, though, you'll be able to find a home version of the game at an online casino.

Online Sports Betting

Sports betting remains a huge industry throughout the world. The internet has made sports betting quicker and more conveniant than it ever has before. This website will feature information on the local sports betting and pari-mutuel laws in all the countries being covered.

Online Bingo

Believe it or not, online bingo is one of the fastest-expanding games in the online gambling industry. Bingo traditionally doesn't have the onus that poker or blackjack might have for some, mainly because bingo is usually for a non-profit or charity foundation.

Online bingo does a good job of simulating the live bingo hall experience. You can even learn which not-for-profit organization is running the online bingo website. Chats allow bingo players to socialize with others in the game.

The only major different in brick-and-mortar bingo parlors and online bingo sites is the size of the contestant pool. Because an online bingo establishment can accommodate a whole lot more bingo players than a live bingo environment, the bingo jackpots can be a lot larger on the internet.

eCOGRA

eCOGRA is a regulatory authority for online gambling. E-Cogra was founded by several of the larger gambling institutions in the U.K. These gaming interests hoped that, if they self-regulated the industry, it would keep national government out of the online gaming industry. The thought process was much like the regulatory functions of the Hollywood ratings committee and many other such industry-wide self-regulatory bodies in the world.

Online gambling outfits can apply for the eCogra seal of approval. This is known as the "safe and fair" seal. When you gamble online, you might check for this eCogra seal to make sure your casino of choice is safe. You will know that eCOGRA members are legitimate. And if a member does something you think is suspicious, let eCOGRA.org know about your complaint or concern. ECOGRA offers comlaintants access to advise from a Fair Gaming Advocate.

E-cogra stands for eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance.

The UIGEA

In October of 2006, the U.S. Congress decided to pass the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, often called the UIGEA. The UIGEA did not create new powers to enforce internet gambling, but was meant to expand the powers of the 1963 Wire Act.

The Wire Act was passed to go after organized crime, though advocates of stringent government law enforcement have suggested expanding the law for many different purposes over the years. Those who view gambling as immoral and dangerous have called for liberal interpretations of the Wire Act for years.

Senators Jon Kyl and Bill Frist led the charge for the UIGEA, which created new and liberal enforcement standards for the Wire Act. Essentially, the Justice Department would not punish American online gamblers.

Instead, the UIGEA allowed the Feds to go after the internet money transaction companies which processed money exchanges between online casinos and internet gamblers. The U.S. government would go after the flow of money between internet gambling operators and U.S. gaming enthusiasts.

Online Gambling Panic

In the wake of the UIGEA, certain online casinos, online poker rooms and internet casino software designers got out of the U.S. market. Others decided to continue to do business as normal. The split for the online casino software companies came between those which were publicly-traded and those with private investors. The public companies decided to avoid the greater risks of taking U.S. players.

Meanwhile, online casinos who handled their own bank transactions were free to carry on like normal. This didn't include many online gaming sites, though Bodog is able to use this loophole to continue its American operations. Bodog handles its own money transactions, so there is no financial lynchpin for the Department of Justice to go after.

Soon after the UIGEA was passed, the Republicans who championed the act lost control of the Congress. With Democrats in power in the U.S. House and Senate, advocates of U.S. online gambling began to organize a campaign to first strip the powers of the federal government to sanction the internet gambling industry and let the state governments enforce their laws, and second to begin a systematic campaign to change the state laws in the favor of the online betting industry.

International Online Gambling

Meanwhile, gambling laws have been loosened in many countries worldwide. The World Trade Organization has championed the rights of smaller nations like Barbuda-Antigua in taking international players, arguing that the United States government enforces their owns laws unevenly and in the meantime refuse to abide by treaties signed by American officials.

The particular treaty in question is the General Agreement on Trade in Services, otherwise known as the GATS Treaty. This treaty stipulates that if a nation allows its own citizens to maintain services in their country, that the same nation cannot bar foreign companies from doing the same.

The WTO and the GATS Treaty

In the online gambling case, the WTO ruled that the U.S. allows American gaming interests, such as the horse racing industry and the state lottery, to provide gambling to American citizens. By doing so, the U.S. cannot bar foreign-based online casinos from taking American gamblers at their websites.

The current U.S. administration claims that pari-mutuel betting and the lotto are not immoral and dangerous, while internet poker and internet casinos certainly are. How this dispute plays out is anyone's guess, though the assumption is the current debate will continue along these lines at least until a new administration takes office in early 2009.

Meanwhile, gambling is gaining wider acceptance throughout much of the rest of the world. Russia and France have loosened restrictions on casino poker in the past year, while Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan and a half dozen other East Asian countries have liberalized their stance on gambling in recent years.

Some people still claim that online gambling should be policed more closely than brick and mortar establishments, because the convenience of internet betting makes the game more dangerous for the average house gambler. One politician has even labelled one form of online scratch-offs as "the crack cocaine of gambling".

Evolving Online Gaming Laws

Because online gambling is such a new concept, international gambling laws will continue to evolve in the next ten years. Some countries will make it easier for internet gamers to lay a bet, while other countries will close what they believe are dangerous loopholes in local gambling laws which never envisioned global gambling interest on home computers.

At the same time, advances in electronic technology will make it easier to gamble online. In the not too distant future, gamblers will be able to lay a bet on a sporting event through an interface on their cellphone or iPhone and be able to keep track of the game or event in real time.

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