In what was a very small occurrence with what may be much wider ranging implications, the Illinois State Lottery recently became the first American lottery provider to sell tickets online.
This may sound strange to non-U.S. citizens but it’s not through a lack of technological capability. The reason dates back to 1961 and the Wire Act, a piece of legislation which prohibited betting on sports events via the telephone. Until recently, uncertainty about whether this Act also restricted online casino and lottery gaming meant that no one risked breaching the law.
That was until December 2011 when the U.S. Department of Justice decided that the Wire Act only restricted sports betting online and not other activities, which include online gambling. The Illinois State Lottery was the first to offer this service and other States will surely follow LSM99.
But how does this affect the once huge market for online poker? What about blackjack and roulette? That’s a more complicated matter. These games still suffer from the effects of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) 2006 which prohibited the transfer of money to websites offering these games.
Some states are trying to find their own routes around this legislation. While all poker fans would prefer the federal government to regulate this industry and get it back on it’s feet, currently it looks as if it will be up to the more progressive States to get the ball rolling.
Nevada is the furthest along this particular track – at one point the bricks and mortar casino industry in Las Vegas and Reno were set against online gaming, fearing their revenues would be hit. They now appear to have seen the writing on the wall and accepted that this will happen sooner or later. Consequently some have entered into partnerships with existing non-U.S. online casinos to set up the necessary infrastructure in preparation for statewide regulation.
Nevada also boasts the Nevada Gaming Commission which is already in the process of setting up a regulatory framework to govern intrastate online gaming. In the absence of any federal, nationwide regulation, American poker players can only hope that the number of states which are willing to press ahead with their own gaming networks will reach a sort of critical mass which will force the governments hand.