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Do Americans risk jail time for gambling online?

What kind of a person are you? One that does things always by the book? Are you careful not to flout laws or break rules? Or are you of the opinion that some laws and rules are stupid and it’s fine to go against them in certain circumstances? Many don’t care about the laws… is this you?

You probably know by now that online gambling is illegal in the US. Or maybe you didn’t. That’s a fact though – online gambling is against the law in the US. Straight from the horse’s mouth – well, the FBI’s mouth – “If you’ve ever thought about visiting a cyber casino, here’s something you should know: it’s illegal to gamble online in the United States.”

It’s a scary thought, especially as the FBI are telling you that. But you know that Jim and Blake at work are absolutely crushing it on their sports betting app. They don’t seem to care that what they’re doing is against the law. Perhaps they don’t even know. But the rules as they stand prohibit betting on sports or card games, transferring money for gambling over the internet, and even placing bets through apps or service providers overseas. Sure, you can play free games and fantasy sports, but you can’t play the standard online casino games or place bets on sports, regardless of where the game is being played.

But what this actually means for consumers is, in terms of ramifications for breaking the law, different from what it means for individuals and companies running these operations.

While, if you run gambling operations, either as an individual or as a company in the US, you can be busted and go to jail – and pay seriously hefty fines – as an individual this is probably never going to be the case. While we don’t usually take legal advice from Reddit, here’s a chestnut that’s highly relevant to the situation – “In point of fact, if you were prosecuted, you could easily defend yourself on the grounds that the government’s constant failure to prosecute online gamblers makes the laws against it moot”.

gambling online
This was the end of the beginning, but not the end of end

The fact is that the US government is actively seeking out (and stamping out) gambling operations helmed and run out of the US. This much is true. They aren’t even slightly, remotely likely going to go after the end user – because there aren’t as many profits to be made for the end user as they are for the house, of course!

This is a very important distinction to make. While what you’re doing is illegal ­­– there’s no getting around that – the chances of the government going after you for gambling online are slim to none, unless you manage to make a huge bet and have a ridiculous win, but even still.

Be under no illusions that what you are doing is anywhere legal if you are engaging in online gambling in the US. This is still against the law. If you want to make sure that you obey the letter of the law then you’ll have to visit a place like the UK where there are legal online betting avenues. However, if you do do it in the US, its not like you need to worry about the feds breathing down your neck – they have bigger fish to fry than your lazy bet on the latest round of college football. And rightly so.

We’re seeing indications of some possible progress in the US, in the shape of the Supreme Court taking a serious look at the rules surrounding sports betting online. It’s 50-50 at the moment whether old laws in place will be repealed and the sports betting industry online in the US being regulated instead of straight outlawed. A decision is due in this particular case in July of this year.

The outcome of this case is going to shape the way that online gambling moves forwards (or stagnates) in the US. It’s also important to keep an eye out as a consumer in the future. It’s more exciting for the business player who wants to get in the game, but also just as important as it is for consumers – especially those with a strong moral compass, or a strong lawfully compliant compass.

Whether you proceed to flout laws or not is none of our business. It’s up to you to be your own personal judge of character and risk taking. We’ve maybe all jaywalked before in our time. Or maybe some of you haven’t? It’s up to you to see what’s worth risking and what’s not. The law is the law, and for some it’s less of a big deal than others.

We recommend that you surround yourself with good, law abiding citizens on the whole. It makes for a less guilty mind and a calmer moral conscious. But let’s face it -we’re all human. Make sure that you love and enjoy your life and have it a life well spent.

augusta free press
augusta free press