What constitutes gambling? Many people, including the law makers in many states, define it differently. Generally speaking, gambling consists of paying for a bet or wager on any form of non-conformity with established generally accepted rules, generally when one is operating in the public open air. Casinos are often the poster child for the use of gambling as a social activity.
For purposes of our discussion what constitutes gambling, let’s assume we are discussing Washington State. Washington State is an experiment in the confluence of free enterprise and small government. The people of Washington State have voted to allow the free market system to determine tax rates, regulation of business, and regulation of speech. The ninth circuit is a division of the ninth district of the supreme court of the United States.
What constitutes gambling? The tenth circuit, in a brief article, held that the definition of gambling as used in Washington State included “gambling at wagers of odds.” The question is what constitutes gambling at odds? What is a “rate” for betting on whether a football team will win or lose? What is “odds”? The question becomes important if we are to define online gambling.
In discussing what constitutes gambling, I will attempt to make clear the difference between a casino and an online casino. A casino operates inside a physical building and may contain gaming tables, video poker or roulette machines, roulette wheels, hand-held devices used for wagering, poker machines, slot machines, and redemption slots. In an online casino, a player conducts his transactions through a computer. A casino website has no tangible property, no live employees, no games, and no cash receipts or debits. The entire operation occurs over the Internet. In contrast, a land-based casino in operation within a physical structure may allow customers to play the games for which they are responsible, such as slots, roulette, and card games.
To answer the question what constitutes gambling, we need to recognize a distinction between indoor and outdoor casinos. An indoor casino is a facility that offers gambling events but does not actually operate the games themselves. An outdoor casino is operated by means of signage, hired employees, and sometimes by live animals. Slots machines are an example of an indoor facility; electronic machines are the basic example of an outdoor facility.
Some jurisdictions criminalize gambling with the use of computers and/or video games, even if the players do not actually gamble. In the United States, state and local governments often criminalize conduct involving gambling, including the transfer of money or the provision of funds to individuals who are involved in illegal gambling. In other jurisdictions, gambling is not criminalized but the law refers to it in terms of penalties for particular types of activity. Gambling, then, can be considered a type of activity that is related to the criminal activity. The penalties for conduct defined as gambling are very high indeed.
The nature of the legal issues surrounding the subject of what constitutes gambling varies significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. While some jurisdictions have common problems such as tax and payment of taxes to state and local government entities, others have unique issues such as the definition of ‘gambling.’ Gambling can be defined as any activity, game, or event that utilizes chance (but see also lottery theory and its modern offspring, the lottery) as a fundamental part of its outcome. This includes sports betting, online gaming, horse betting, bingo, slot machines, baccarat, and even poker.
In most jurisdictions, what constitutes gambling is dependent upon the’sporting events’ category. In the United States, this commonly includes state-licensed casinos and land-based casinos (including internet casinos). For example, to play slot games at a non-licensed “motor club” would probably be considered acceptable gaming by most states, but what about playing slot games at an Internet casino would almost certainly be considered illegal gambling in most jurisdictions. With that being said, it is important to note that nothing in the US penalized persons from using the slots for ‘receiving’ money, like we have seen in the UK where a recent court case discussed a Texas man who was tried for accepting money for playing in an online casino without actually playing in that particular game.