Gaming law is the collection of laws and regulations that govern wagers and betting in the United States. Gaming laws determine who can offer games of chance or wagers and under what conditions. There are laws that directly regulate gaming. There are also laws that indirectly impact the gaming industry like contract law, employment law and tort law. Laws that regulate gaming can change quickly. Gaming lawyers work with gaming laws as well as with the other areas of law that impact the gaming industry.
Gaming laws are federal, state and tribal laws
The U.S. federal government, state laws and tribal governments all regulate gaming. The U.S. federal government regulates the gaming activities of private individuals as well as tribal governments. States can choose to allow or prohibit various types of gaming activities. In addition, tribal governments can decide if they want to offer gaming activities on their land.
Types of gaming in the United States
When you think of gaming, you might think of the City of Las Vegas, but that’s only one type of gaming in the United States. State lotteries and state-sponsored scratch-off tickets are also legally regulated gaming activities in the United States. State lotteries may operate to raise funds for general operations, or they may direct the funds towards a specific government venture like education. States may choose whether to offer a lottery, and not all states have them. States that operate lotteries may work together to operate interstate lotteries like Powerball. States that allow gaming activities typically have a commission to oversee gaming activities and enforce state laws.
Sports betting is another type of gaming. Even bingo is a type of betting if players pay to participate. Gaming law includes all of the various laws that govern all games of chance or betting activity.
Gaming laws can change quickly in the United States
As circumstances change, gaming activities can change quickly in the United States. The laws that govern gaming can change quickly too. For example, Nevada legalized casinos in order to spur economic activity in the Great Depression. As other states grew more restrictive in their gaming activities, gambling grew in Nevada. Some states allow some types of activities but not others. For example, Illinois allows riverboat casinos and horse betting, but they prohibit most other types of gambling.
Similarly, Native American gaming activities didn’t occur in significant numbers before 1979. The Seminoles first began running bingo games in 1979. By 2006, more than 300 tribes offered gaming activities. In addition to federal and state laws that may regulate gaming, each tribe decides whether to offer gaming, what to offer and under what regulations and conditions they can operate.
Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 outlawed sports betting in most states. Congress justified the Act under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution that allows Congress to regulate economic activity between states. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the law violates the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution which says that powers not given to the federal government are left to the states. The case overturning the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 is Murphy v. NCAA. The U.S. Supreme Court decided the Murphy v. NCAA case in 2018.
Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (IGRA) is a U.S. law that regulates gaming activities by Native Americans. It establishes the National Indian Gaming Commission to oversee Native American gaming ventures and enforce the requirements of the IGRA. The IGRA requires Native American tribes to use gaming revenue for charitable purposes that may include their own government operations, economic improvements and the welfare of their tribal members. The Act divides gaming into classes based on the type of activity. Each class of gaming has a different regulatory authority and varying amounts of restrictions.
The National Indian Gaming Commission
The IGRA created the National Indian Gaming Commission. The Commission implements and enforces the IGRA. The purpose of the Commission is to enforce the IGRA and promote fair competition between gaming providers. The Commission is part of the U.S. Department of Interior.
The Department of Justice is also involved in gaming activities
In addition to the National Indian Gaming Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice is also involved in gaming law. Violations of federal gaming laws are federal crimes. The Department of Justice brings allegations of gaming law violations and enforces the law through criminal prosecutions.
While the Department of Justice works to enforce gaming laws through pursuing prosecution of violations, the Department of Justice and state prosecutorial agencies may also work to fight fraud in gaming. Scratch-off tickets are particularly susceptible to fraud, but any type of gaming may experience problems with fraudulent activity. To the extent that these activities constitute criminal fraud, the Department of Justice and state prosecutorial counterparts can be involved in efforts to root out fraud and ensure the integrity of gaming activities.
Modern technology has changed gaming law in the United States. Federal law made Internet gaming illegal at the time of the Internet’s inception. Under the Federal Wire Act of 1961, it’s illegal to wire or transfer money for the purpose of placing a wager. An offender may face up to two years in prison for a violation of the Federal Wire Act. The United States further strengthened the federal prohibition on Internet gaming with the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act of 2006. The Act directly prohibits most types of Internet gambling.
Gaming law may involve many areas of law
In addition to laws that directly regulate gaming activity, gaming law involves many other types of law. Gaming attorneys may encounter any of the following types of law in their practice:
- Real estate law
- Tax law
- Business law
- Employment law
- Contract law
- Zoning law
- Administrative law
- Criminal law
- Jurisdictional questions and issues
Gaming lawyers might encounter any of these areas of law in their work.
Who practices gaming law?
Gaming lawyers typically work for and advise gaming owners and operators. Casino owners might include private individuals or groups and Native American tribes. Lawyers might also work for a government entity advising them on state lottery operation. In addition, gaming lawyers might work for the National Indian Gaming Commission as regulatory officials. They might also work for the Department of Justice pursuing violations of federal gaming laws.
Attorneys may work directly for the gaming operator, or they might advise the gaming operator on a contractual basis. Because gaming operations tend to operate on a large scale, many gaming operators may have the workload and resources to employ gaming attorneys as in-house counsel. Lawyers who advise their clients in gaming operations might also advise their clients in other areas of law. A lawyer who advises a casino or other gaming operator might advise them in matters like business law, real estate, taxes, employment issues and any other matter where the client may need legal advice. Gaming lawyers work throughout the country but tend to concentrate in areas where gaming activities occur.
Why Become a gaming lawyer?
Gaming lawyers can enjoy a stable and lucrative career advising their clients. Attorneys who work for the federal government, a state government or a Native American tribe may enjoy a long career working for the same entity. Even attorneys working for private gaming operators may enjoy a long career without unwanted career changes or interruptions.
Gaming law provides the opportunity for an attorney to focus on one area of law and become an expert. Alternatively, gaming attorneys that advise gaming operators may branch their career into many different fields that impact any business operator including real estate issues, personal injury, tax questions, employment law and more. A gaming attorney can fashion an interesting and rewarding career in gaming law.
Being a professional gaming lawyer
Gaming lawyers work to advise gaming operators or enforce gaming laws. They work throughout the country, and they may work for public or private entities. There are federal, state and tribal laws that may impact gaming activities. Other areas of law may also impact gaming operations. In practicing gaming law, gaming attorneys have the opportunity to be a part of an exciting area of commerce.