Is it legal to run an online gambling site from within the US if it is hosted over seas and denies any US participants?

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Is it legal to run an online gambling site from within the US if it is hosted over seas and denies any US participants?

If so, do you still pay taxes to the US?

Asked on January 30, 2014 under Business Law, Virginia

Answers:

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in November 2002 that the Federal Wire Act prohibits electronic transmission of information for sports betting across telecommunications lines but affirmed a lower court rulingthat the Wire Act "'in plain language' does not prohibit Internet gambling on a game of chance." But the federal Department of Justice continues, publicly, to take the position that the Wire Act covers all forms of gambling.

In April 2004 Google and Yahoo!, the two largest Internet search engines, announced that they were removing online gambling advertising from their sites. The move followed a United States Department of Justice announcement that, in what some say is a contradiction of the Appeals Court ruling, the Wire Act relating to telephone betting applies to all forms of Internet gambling, and that any advertising of such gambling "may" be deemed as aiding and abetting. Critics of the Justice Department's move say that it has no legal basis for pressuring companies to remove advertisements and that the advertisements are protected by the First Amendment. In April 2005, Yahoo! has instigated a restrictive policy about gambling ads.

In July 2006, David Carruthers, the CEO of BetonSports, a company publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange, was detained in Texas while changing planes on his way from London to Costa Rica. He and ten other individuals had been previously charged in a sealed indictment with violations of US federal laws relating to illegal gambling. While as noted above, a United States Appeals court has stated that the Wire Act does not apply to non-sports betting, the Supreme Court of the United States previously refused to hear an appeal of the conviction of Jay Cohen, where lower courts held that the Wire Act does make it illegal to own a sports betting operation that offers such betting to United States citizens.

The BetOnSports indictment alleged violations of at least nine different federal statutes, including 18 USC Sec. 1953 (Operation of an Illegal Gambling Business).[citation needed] Carruthers is currently under house arrest on a one million dollar bail bond.

In September 2006, Sportingbet reported that its chairman, Peter Dicks, was detained in New York City on a Louisiana warrant while traveling in the United States on business unrelated to online gaming.Louisiana is one of the few states that has a specific law prohibiting gambling online. At the end of the month, New York dismissed the Louisiana warrant.

Also in September 2006, just before adjourning for the midterm elections, both the House of Representatives and Senate passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (as a section of the unrelated SAFE Port Act) to make transactions from banks or similar institutions to online gambling sites illegal. This differed from a previous bill passed only by the House that expanded the scope of the Wire Act. The passed bill only addressed banking issues. The Act was signed into law on October 13, 2006, by President George W. Bush. At the UIGEA bill-signing ceremony, Bush did not mention the Internet gambling measure, which was supported by the National Football League but opposed by banking groups.

In response to Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, a number of online gambling operators including PartyGaming, Bwin, Cassava Enterprises, and Sportingbet announced that real-money gambling operations would be suspended for U.S. customers. PartyGaming's stock dropped by 60% following its announcement. Other operators such as PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Bodog, and World Sports Exchange announced their intention to continue serving customers in the U.S.

The regulation called for in the UIGEA were issued in November 2008. The regulation does not define "unlawful Internet gambling."

In April 2007, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced HR 2046, the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act, which would modify UIGEA by providing a provision for licensing of Internet gambling facilities by the Director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Several similar bills have been introduced since then in the House and Senate.

In June 2009, the U.S. Department of Justice seized over $34 million belonging to over 27,000 accounts in the Southern District of New York Action Against Online Poker Players. This is the first time money was seized from individual players as compared to the gaming company. Jeff Ifrah, the lawyer for one of the account management companies affected, said that the government “has never seized an account that belongs to players who are engaged in what [Ifrah] would contend is a lawful act of playing peer-to-peer poker online."

On December 3, 2009, the House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on UIGEA and Rep. Frank’s Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act of 2009 (H.R. 2267) where experts in the fields of online security and consumer safety testified that a regulatory framework for Internet gambling would protect consumers and ensure the integrity of Internet gambling financial transactions. On July 28, 2010, the committee passed H.R. 2267 by a vote of 41-22-1. The bill would legalize and regulate online poker and some other forms of online gambling.

On November 22, 2010, the New Jersey state Senate became the first such US body to pass a bill (S490) expressly legalizing certain forms of online gambling. The bill was passed with a 29-5 majority. The bill allows bets to be taken by in-State companies on poker games, casino games and slots but excludes sports betting, although it allows for the latter to be proposed, voted on and potentially regulated separately in due course. However, a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll in April 2009 showed only 26% of New Jersey voters approved of online sports-betting. On a national level, two-thirds (67%) of voters polled by PublicMind in March 2010 opposed changing the law to allow online betting. Men were more likely than women (29%-14%) and liberals more likely than conservatives (27%-18%) to approve of changing the law to allow online betting. In May 2012, FDU's PublicMind conducted a follow up study which asked voters if they favored or opposed online gaming/gambling and "allowing New Jersey casinos to run betting games online, over the Internet." The results showed that (31%) of voters favored while a sizable majority (58%) opposed the idea. Peter Woolley, Director of the PublicMind commented on the results: "Online gambling may be a good bet for new state revenue, but lots of voters don't think it's a good bet for New Jersey households."

On April 15, 2011, in U. S. v. Scheinberg et al. (10 Cr. 336), three online poker companies were indicted for violating U.S. laws that prohibit the acceptance of any financial instrument in connection with unlawful Internet gambling, that is, Internet gambling that involves a "bet or wager" that is illegal under the laws of the state where the bet is made. The indictment alleges that the companies used fraudulent methods to evade this law, for example, by disguising online gambling payments as purchases of merchandise, and by investing money in a local bank in return for the bank's willingness to process online poker transactions. The companies argue that poker is a game of skill rather than a game of chance, and therefore, online poker is not unlawful Internet gambling. There are other legal problems with the government's case; and, interestingly, the indictments did not mention the Wire Act. On July 31, 2012, it was announced that two of the three companies indicted for money laundering and forfeiture settled with the Manhattan U.S. Attorney for $731 million without legally admitting guilt. The government also asked the judge to approve a settlement with the third defendant, Absolute Poker.

Assuming the ganmbling is legal in the United States, taxes would be needed to be paid in this country.


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