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Online Gambling Laws State by State: A-H...By Hartley Henderson
The last article discussed the legalities of online gambling in the United States. As mentioned the series is not intended to deter gamblers from wagering online, but simply to show whether betting in particular areas within the United States is prohibited. It was clearly shown in the first article that recreational wagering is not a crime by any of the federal statutes, so if it is illegal, it would have to be specified by the individual state. The following articles will look at states alphabetically.
Alabama Alabama does not have any statutes related to online gambling. If a person is caught wagering illegally then he is guilty of a misdemeanour although social gambling is permitted. The state doesn't define "illegal" gambling and seems to leave the definition up to the feds. Since online gambling is not prohibited federally and since there is no law against it specifically within the state, recreational online gambling in Alabama can be deemed not to be an offence.
Alaska Alaska was once known for the card games and gambling at the time of the Alaskan gold rush. It is in the very fibre of the state, but ironically, there are no casinos or state run lotteries in Alaska. Nevertheless, state laws do not prohibit recreational gambling and clearl allow social gambling. If a person is found to be in the business of gambling (i.e. whether a professional gambler or profiting from the activity as the proprietor of a bookmaking service or illegal gambling devices) he is subject to a felony conviction in the state punishable by prison time. It should also be noted that Congressman Don Young from Alaska is a strong proponent of Barney Frank's law to legalize and regulate online gaming.
Arizona One would expect the home state of Jon Kyl to have one of the most rigid set of gambling laws on the books. After all, if the Senator is so set on dictating moral laws for the entire nation then surely he would be lobbying heavily to make all gambling illegal in his home state. Unfortunately for Kyl, it appears that legislators in Arizona don't fully agree with his stand. While simple gambling (i.e. making a profit from games of chance) is specified as illegal on the books, the penalty is just a misdemeanor and subject to a fine. Moreover, there are several exemptions carved out for social gambling and games of amusement. The interesting note regarding the social gambling exemption is that based on its definition it would include poker and therefore online poker. Social gambling per Arizona's definition is as follows:
Gambling is not illegal in Arizona if it meets the following criteria
1- The players only win money against each other
2- The players are at least 21 years of age
3- No players have any advantage other than their own skill
Needless to say, that would apply to poker; and since there is no specific law prohibiting online betting of any sort in the state, by deduction online poker in the state of Arizona is perfectly legal. If a person is involved in the business of non-regulated gambling within the state of Nevada he is subject to a felony conviction.
Arkansas The home state of the leading candidate for the next election, Hillary Clinton does disallow social gambling unlike the prior 3 states. In fact, if a poker game is raided by the police all participants could be fined a maximum of 25 bucks. The fact that the average pot of any game would likely be far more than that, and in some games may even be an ante, one can argue that the law is irrelevant. It appears the state's laws are very antiquated and the legislators have little interest in the area of gambling. There is absolutely nothing on the books related to internet wagering, and for the social gambler there is not even a misdemeanour penalty handed out - just the 25 buck fine.
California One of the more liberal states in the nation, it's not surprising that gambling laws are not a priority. California is still one of few states that have specialty poker rooms set up outside of casinos and governor Arnold Schwartzenegger handed out numerous licenses to tribal gaming groups. It also appears Schwartzenegger is interested in seeing how the state can profit from online gaming. All crimes related to gambling on California's books are for individuals that are illegally running a gambling business and the penalties are misdemeanor citations. There is nothing on the books relating to the recreational gambler or simple gambling for profit or otherwise. Furthermore, internet wagering is not mentioned anywhere in the state laws. Three Congressmen from California are currently co-sponsors of Barney Frank's Internet Gambling Regulation bill.
Colorado Like the other states, Colorado does not list casual gambling as a felony. Recreational gambling is seen as a petty offense and is not really addressed in the gambling code at all. Professional gambling is singled out as a felony crime, but only on the 3rd offense. It is interesting to note that one of the supporters for Barney Frank's bill to repeal the UIGEA is Congressman Ed Perlmutter, who was just elected in the 2006 midterm election. Perlmutter is a Director of law at a major Colorado law firm and was on various judicial boards for the first district of Colorado. Consequently his decision to try and have the law repealed is significant.
Connecticut Connecticut does state that any person who engages in gambling is guilty of a misdemeanour. In fact, any person who witnesses someone gambling in the state and does nothing about it is guilty of a crime. Looking at past cases in the state I have not been able to find any recreational gambler who has ever been cited for anything in the last 2 years, so the law is likely on the books but not enforced. Of course as a petty misdemeanour it holds about as much concern to the police as littering does. There is nothing on the state books specifically related to internet wagering.
Delaware Delaware, like the others thus far does not specify anything related to internet wagering in its statutes. As for recreational gaming in other areas, the only crime that is singled out in the books is for people who play dice games such as craps or foreign lotteries. Any other misdemeanour crimes are for those people involved in the gambling business.
District of Columbia Like most other things in Washington, DC, the laws related to gambling are confusing to say the least. Looking closely at the law it would appear that anyone caught in a gaming house or gambling "illegally" is subject to imprisonment. At the same time what is illegal is not specified, although it appears that betting into pools or sporting games can land one in jail for up to 6 months.
This is the exact wording from section 22-1708 of the Criminal Code for DC as listed on Westlaw Requirements
"It shall be unlawful for any person, or association of persons, within the District of Columbia to purchase, possess, own, or acquire any chance, right, or interest, tangible or intangible, in any policy lottery or any lottery, or to make or place a bet or wager, accept a bet or wager, gamble or make books or pools on the result of any athletic contest. For the purpose of this section, the term "athletic contest" means any of the following, wherever held or to be held: a football, baseball, softball, basketball, hockey, or polo game, or a tennis, golf, or wrestling match, or a tennis or golf tournament, or a prize fight or boxing match, or a trotting or running race of horses, or a running race of dogs, or any other athletic or sporting event or contest. Any person or association of persons violating this section shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than 180 days, or both."
It's also interesting to note that if one is in possession of a lottery ticket they can be imprisoned in DC. Those involved in the gambling business are subject to several years in prison if caught. There is currently nothing on the books of the state that specifies internet wagering.
Florida Florida's state laws regarding gambling are quite lengthy. The activity goes on for 2 chapters and discusses everything under the sun, which isn't surprising since Florida offers gambling on pretty much everything including greyhound racing jai-alai and gambling ships that dock just outside international waters. When it's all broken down, however, the laws of the state seem pretty straight forward: It is a misdemeanour offense to be involved in any form of gambling that is not specifically made legal by the state provided those bets exceed $10. For wagers of $10 or less the state does not consider the bettor to be guilty of anything. Nevertheless, because only state endorsed games or tournaments are technically considered legal, it can be deduced that online gambling is likely illegal also. Like most states, however, the bulk of the laws are related to those in the business of taking wagers or in possession of illegal gambling devices. The recreational bettor is really not mentioned, although the following is clearly specified in the books:
"Section 849.08 Whoever plays or engages in any game at cards, keno, roulette, faro or other game of chance, at any place, by any device whatever, for money or other thing of value, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. Looking at section 775.082 the penalty for the misdemeanour is quite harsh: (4) A person who has been convicted of a designated misdemeanor may be sentenced as follows: (a) For a misdemeanor of the first degree, by a definite term of imprisonment not exceeding 1 year; (b) For a misdemeanor of the second degree, by a definite term of imprisonment not exceeding 60 days." It is thus not surprising that many offshore sportsbooks, poker rooms and casinos refuse to allow citizens of Florida to register an account. While the offshore gambling site is likely immune from penalty as they aren't located in the U.S., the penalty for citizens is too severe to take the risk.
Two Congressmen from Florida, Robert Wexler and Alcee Hastings (who of course was famous for winning a seat in Congress after being impeached as a judge), are supporters of Barney Frank's gambling enforcement bill.
Georgia Georgia's laws are mostly related to gambling operators and the penalties are severe. Those involved in the business of gambling are subject to a $20,000 and up to 5 years in prison if convicted.
The recreational gambler is mentioned also, although it appears the penalty for recreational gambling is only a misdemeanor fine. Here is the exact wording from Georgia's criminal code:
"Section 16-12-21 (a) A person commits the offence of gambling when he: (1) Makes a bet upon the partial or final result of any game or contest or upon the performance of any participant in such game or contest; (2) Makes a bet upon the result of any political nomination, appointment, or election or upon the degree of success of any nominee, appointee, or candidate; or (3) Plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, or balls. (b) A person who commits the offence of gambling shall be guilty of a misdemeanour"
There is nothing on the books related specifically to internet wagering.
Hawaii Hawaii and Utah have the distinction of being the only two U.S. states where there is no gambling whatsoever. Hawaii doesn't even have lotteries. Recreational gambling is listed in the criminal code of the state and is a misdemeanour offence punishable by prison time for those who participate in gambling. Internet wagering is not singled out, but it need not be since all forms of gambling are illegal in the state. For that reason few, if any, internet wagering sites will accept residents of Hawaii. Here is the exact wording of what the state considers "gambling" which is punishable under section 712-1223 of the state criminal code:
"A person engages in gambling if he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome."
The next article will look at states from I-M.
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