Tags: FBI | Warns: | Don't | Bet | Online

FBI Warns: Don't Bet Online

Thursday, 07 June 2007 12:00 AM

If you've ever thought about visiting a cyber casino, know this: It's illegal to gamble online in the U.S.

This week the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued an e-mail and posted a statement to its Web site reminding citizens of the law.

"You can go to Vegas. You can go to Atlantic City. You can go to the racetrack. But don't do it online. It's against the law," says Leslie Bryant, head of the FBI's Cyber Crime Fraud unit.

More specifically, notes Bryant, the letter of the law means:

What's allowed? Some free online games, fantasy leagues, and Indian gaming sites that aren't strictly defined as Internet gambling, says Bryant.

It's also illegal for businesses to run gambling Web sites and to solicit online bets. Even companies handling transactions for cyberspace bettors can face federal charges.

For sure, the Bureau is cracking down hard these days.

The FBI strategy for tackling illegal online gambling is to start with the companies providing the services in the first place.

"We're going after the people making the money — the owners of these virtual casinos, gaming rooms, and off-track betting parlors," Bryant says.

Bryant points to about a dozen of these cases in motion. One of the biggest came last July when a federal grand jury in St. Louis returned a 22-count indictment against 11 individuals and four companies for their involvement in illegal online gaming and related activities.

On May 24, one of the companies — BetonSports — pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in the case.

The Bureau also claims success against companies supporting the money flows behind virtual gambling. In January, for example, two Canadians were charged with operating an Internet payment services company that transferred billions of dollars in illegal gambling proceeds between U.S. citizens and the owners of online gambling sites outside the country.

In 2003, another Internet financial services company paid $10 million in a civil agreement to settle allegations that it aided illegal offshore and online gambling agreements.

The U.S. government has also settled several cases with online businesses that have accepted money to market virtual gambling operations.

The Cyber Crime Fraud unit warns that even a little online gambling can cost the lawbreaker.

"Even if you don't get caught gambling, you could well lose the money you have in an online gaming account if the company faces charges, since the U.S. government seizes assets in these cases whenever possible," advises Bryant.

Strong warnings aside, Internet gambling has a big footprint and it's not getting any smaller.

Internet gambling is licensed in more than 80 nations outside the United States — but caters predominantly to Americans.

In 2006 alone, Americans lost more than $7.2 billion online, according to Sebastian Sinclair, a researcher who studies gambling trends for the New York consulting firm Christiansen Capital Advisers.

If the current growth continues, industry watchers predict Internet gambling revenues will reach more than $24 billion by 2010, notes a report in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

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If you've ever thought about visiting a cyber casino, know this: It's illegal to gamble online in the U.S. This week the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued an e-mail and posted a statement to its Web site reminding citizens of the law. "You can go to Vegas. You can...
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Thursday, 07 June 2007 12:00 AM
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