Read the previous post to this one. Although online gambling has been a contentious topic ever since its advent in the mid to late 90s, most who indulge in it don’t realize they’re both breaking and following the law simultaneously. In 2004 the World Trade Organization (WTO), ruled in favor of Antigua in a confidential case during which the United States had sought to maintain its prohibition of offshore gambling services which catered to American clients through the internet.
Ask Jay Cohen, at one time the operator of the ‘World Sports Exchange’, based IN Antigua. In 1998, the US cracked down on so-called ‘Internet Betting Parlors’, and charged 21 US citizens, including Cohen, with violations of the Wire Act of 1961. Cohen was the only person charged who neither pleaded guilty nor became a fugitive (fleeing or remaining out of the country)
. …Hold up, what’s that ‘Wire Act’ you mentioned?
Oh yeah, that. The Wire Act of 1961 is a federal statute prohibiting the transmission of certain types of bets via wire-based communication networks (i.e. telephones). Although the Wire Act obviously predated the internet, and is arguably a prime example of the American government overreaching past its own boundaries when it comes to jurisdiction, the Department of Justice (DOJ) articulated its extrapolation of the Wire Act in 2002. Then Assistant US Attorney General Michael Chertoff stated that the Wire Act, “prohibits gambling over the internet, including casino-style gambling”, and [covers jurisdictions both] “where the bettor is located and the state or foreign country where the gambling business is located”. Even before the Antigua/US international judicial conflict, rulings made by domestic courts have partially contradicted the DOJ’s stance and extension of the Wire Act. Regardless….
Okay, we get it; quit dropping legal jargon and tell us about that Cohen guy..
Jay Cohen, our brave (or foolishly naive depending on how you look at it) protagonist, left the safe haven of Antigua to contest his case in the United States. As you’ve probably concluded at this point: he lost. In 2000, Cohen was sentenced to 21 months in prison, and was fined 5 grand, in the process becoming the first person convicted in the United States of operating an offshore internet gambling website.
Poor guy, sucks for him..what does he have to do with the rest of this mess?
While Cohen’s conviction wasn’t exactly front-page news, word traveled. It eventually reached attorney Mark Mendel. Mr. Mendel did some research, leading him to the belief that the government had violated the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade Services (GATS…no joke, it’s most commonly referred to as GATS). After outlining his case in a memo sent to Antigua’s government, their prime minister enlisted Mendel to file suit against the US at the WTO.
Our (speaking as an American citizen) “mighty” government lost a confidential ruling, and several appeals that followed to a country that is roughly 1/10 the size (in area) of our smallest state, Rhode Island.
The American government is known for its pride; hell, historically there’s a precedent for what was to come next from the ‘Stars and Stripes’. Remember former president Andrew Jackson? Old Hickory? He definitely had a pair of what those speaking Antiguan Creole would call ‘frickadella’. In reference to the former head of the Supreme Court whose ruling ordered for a cessation of Jackson’s Indian Removal Act, he allegedly audaciously stated, “John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!”. Jackson’s Treaty of New Echota flew directly in the face of the decision rendered by the Supreme Court. Its amendment and ratification was essentially the legal basis for what became infamously known as ‘The Trail of Tears’.
So wait..if I live in the United States and use an online website to gamble on sports, or horses, or casino games..am I breaking a law?
If we’re going by international court and the accompanying legal precedent: no, you aren’t. If we’re talking about the reality and logistics of it: yes, you are. I don’t know exactly why our government chooses to ignore the WTO’s ruling, but it does.
Okay, so it’s a bad idea just because of that..?
If that isn’t enough on a castigatory basis, think about the ramifications it has regarding the integrity of establishments choosing to violate domestic law. Let’s say you’re a great sports-capper (..like me), but unlike me, you’ve chosen to place $200 into some online book. What do you think happens if you win $1000, want to withdraw that money, and the book becomes unresponsive or uncooperative? Are you going to threaten them? Tell them you’re going to call the police for refusing to give you what’s rightfully yours? If you can even get them on the phone, you’ll probably hear some customer service rep laughing at the mere thought. It’s tantamount to a pot smoker calling the cops because their dealer shorted thema few grams.
Two reasons..I need some more convincing!
Uh..let’s start with that article from ESPN I posted. These websites don’t answer to anybody or any body (see what I did there?) until the damage has been done. Full Tilt Poker currently owes $390 million to its players. They have only $59 million. Considering ESPN trusted Full Tilt’s legitimacy enough to allow them to sponsor…ESPN, think about websites that aren’t under a corporate microscope. Think about everyone you know that knows how to make their Myspace look appealing—-professional, even. They’re about 10 hours of learning away from being able to use their skills to establish an official, sophisticated online gambling website. When you go to Las Vegas, walk inside Caesar’s Palace, take note of the lush surroundings, you can LITERALLY see people cashing out (some small, and some large), you KNOW there’s REAL money that your chips represent.
I could honestly give ten more reasons, but the bottom line is: online gambling is more than a gamble. I’m Sharp. Trust me.