U.S. Gambling Culture Spreads to Wall Street

In 1995 we saw the emergence of internet casino gambling, which includes playing games Slotxo  of chance such as poker, blackjack, and roulette as well as betting on sports events. By the year 2000, nearly 300 companies around the world operated almost 2,000 internet gambling websites. And in 2005, worldwide online gambling revenue is expected to be over $US10 billion for such operators while a total of $US 200 billion is expected to have been wagered.

Widely an issue of intense debate since its inception, the criminality of online gambling has been argued at the U.S. Department of Justice as well as in the halls of the U.S. Congress. But since internet gaming sites are primarily offshore, U.S. residents are presently not held accountable for breaking federal law in the absence of such precedent. However, individual states may mandate such practices illegal, going after banking institutions to prevent such transactions, for example, but individuals have not been prosecuted.

The prevalence of online gaming and the large revenues enjoyed from it has however prompted major U.S. brokerage firms to claim their piece of the pie. At stake is whether or not the Department of Justice will apply the Wire Act of 1961 in enforcing the law and how long it will be before the Congress can agree on passing new legislation which will help strengthen the Wire Act. The main dispute is that the Wire Act was intended exclusively for placing bets on the phone to bookmakers for sports events, and was largely put in place by then Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, in order to discourage organized crime and bookmaking. Whether the law now applies to communication between a home computer and an establishment or casino not located in the U.S. still remains a gray area.

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