Rep. Peter King’s (R-NY) incendiary comments about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs last week ended up overshadowing some more substantial news: his introduction of the Internet Gambling Regulation, Enforcement, and Consumer Protection Act of 2013, a bill that would explicitly legalize online gambling across the country.
By now, most industries — retail, banking, publishing — have online counterparts. The US gambling industry does not. Heavy regulation prevents casinos, Native American tribes, and private companies from opening online gaming rooms, a business that is booming in other places such as the UK.
The idea that online gambling is illegal came from a broad interpretation of the Wire Act, which outlawed interstate sports betting over "a wire communication facility" in 1961. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 then made it a crime to accept payments in connection with "illegal" online gambling; this change facilitated the 2011 crackdown on US poker sites, which had previously been allowed to operate unmolested. But at the end of 2011, the Justice Department issued a pivotal new interpretation of the Wire Act, deciding that it only applied to sports bets.
Even if no federal law passes, Muny is confident that online gaming is on an inevitable march to acceptability. "We’re not seeing a big coalition against this the way we did six or seven years ago," he said. "When the legislation passed in New Jersey, there wasn’t a peep. It’s becoming more seen as a reality at this point. It’s just how it’s going to happen."