Monday, July 17, 2006

Internet Gambling: Arrests in Missouri

The Wall Street Journal online reports this evening that the US DOJ is prosecuting the founder of an online gambling firm,, as well as a number of the executives of that company. A press release from the DOJ issued today can be found here.

The press release indicates that the DOJ is going after these people (and some have been arrested in the U.S.) under felony charges, including violation of the Wire Act, RICO, and tax violations. A gambling excise tax applies to certain bets, and given that these folks allegedly took in more than $3.3 billion from the U.S., even the small percentages involved in wagering excise taxes could add up to a lot of money.

The prosecution here should be considered a shot across the bow of a number of online gambling firms who are taking bets from U.S. citizens. The House recently passed a bill that will make it easier and clearer for online firms and those who aid and abet their operations to be prosecuted, but this action will demonstrate whether that authority exists already. (My own view: it does.)
Moreover, it will be interesting to see how tax laws are applied against these defendants.

To the extent that this prosecution is hindered by a lack of clarity in U.S. laws, the Senate will face considerable pressure to move on the Internet gambling bill.

The press release also indicates that phone companies were ordered to stop facilitating calls to the internet firm. This illustrates that there are a lot of other businessess that benefit from offshore illegal activity. Some of them advertise it; others facilitate payment or communication. These firms will also step up and notice such prosecutions. Executive types react strongly to possible incarceration - and they will act accordingly for self-preservation.



Anonymous said...

How does the WTO decision from a couple of years ago being reflected in the bill? Regardless of what the US says it lost that decision and it appears from my analysis this bill only further complicates the issue and increases the US's inability to compete in other nations via increase exports penalties.

While I understand your anti-gambling bias as a manner of social good, prohibition of a vice only lends itself to being more attactive (i.e. the booze prohibition in the early 20th century). Instead, there should be a policy of regulation and taxation of on-line gambling.

Ed Morse said...

As far as I can tell, it does not resolve the WTO dispute.

As for your comment on prohibition, we really don't have prohibition in the gambling area. We have regulation, with some modes of the game being proscribed. Even if there was prohibition, I disagree that it would make it more attractive. More people gamble today because it is legal. True enough, some would gamble anyway (especially the addicted). But shares of internet gambling stocks would not be dropping if the market did not believe that this would deter many prospective US customers. It all goes to whether people follow the law or not - some won't, but at the least an effort to restrict transnational payments will through sand in the bearings.

As for regulation and taxation of online gambling, good luck with that. You might read my paper on Internet gambling, which is posted on my faculty webpage:

Thanks for your comments.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your blog and raises interesting issues

I guess my point on the WTO is that the additional restrictions contemplated will further provide support to the island countries hosting on-line site in other WTO actions. I see no reason why an exporter to these nations should face higher tariffs because of the some people's moral issues with gambling.

As for addiction, you could say the government should involve itself in all manners of private and personal issues that it has no right doing but our country has seen fit to support this "momification" of the US over the last decade. I see alot more people addicted to food that costs much more to our society as a whole than gambling ever will.

I agree that regulating and taxing gambling is not likely to occur soon which ignores a rather healthy stream of revenue that could aid in combating the annual deficit and the overall debt of this fine nation. But I leave it to the great writer Mark Twain to answer why Congress won't do that -" Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself"

Anonymous said...

i agree with the legislation which aims to ban credit cards as a payment method for online gambling of any sort... i mean its a no brainer when you consider you are placing somebody else’s money on an uncertain event happening with the aim to recoup more than you invested. Chance and credit do not mix well in my opinion, and continuing to allow it would only contribute further to negatively affecting the high levels of personal debt many citizens today find themselves in. I agree however, in a sense that it won't work - i mean whats the point in banning credit card payments for online poker, for example, but not online sports betting? slightly hipocritical no? I mean how can you allow someone to participate in online horse racing betting, but not have a gamble on a hand of cards? both activities involve a large degree of chance, and neither are guaranteed to yield financial return.
It also infuriates me that the minority of irresponsible gamblers [those paying with someone elses money!] have now ruined the fun of online betting for everyone else - those like me who pay with money they actually have in their bank!! boooo