A large number of sites on the Internet contain references to gambling. By far the vast majority are simply informational with details of such things as gambling opportunities and companies, or results of races and lotteries. There are, however, a growing number offering the opportunity to gamble and win money. These can be characterised into two kinds:
- Sites which offer an entry via the Internet to ierrestrial gambling opportunities
- Interactive gambling run exclusively on the Internet
The legal position in Great Britain
Almost all relevant British gambling legislation pre-dates the Internet. Nobody had such a powerful communications system in mind when that legislation was being enacted. Consequently the existing law impinges on Internet gambling in ways unintended and unforeseen.
The Gaming Board for Great Britain has produced a report on Internet gambling, which is available on their website.
Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963
Bookmakers have for many years been able to accept telephone bets from clients with credit accounts. There is therefore nothing to prevent them accepting such bets by e-mail.
Likewise, football pools have always been able to accept entries by post and could therefore also use e-mail.
Anyone setting up an internet betting service in Great Britain must hold a bookmaking permit from the local licensing magistrates.
Gaming Act 1968
Casino, bingo and machine gaming can be conducted only on licensed and registered premises and, in particular, the persons taking part must be on the premises at the time when the gaming takes place.
Section 5 of the Gaming Act 1968 prohibits gaming in a public place to which the public has access, as gaming is strictly forbidden to persons under the age of 18 years.
Section 2 prohibits bankers games and games which are, by their nature, not of equal chance unless conducted in licensed premises. Under section 12 of the Act, players have to be present on the premises in order to take part in the gaming. Participation by post or proxy is forbidden.
Hence no licence could be obtained by an operator who wished to offer such Internet gaming here and to set up such a site in this country would be illegal. The Gaming Board has made it clear that it would seek to take action against anyone who did so.
Who is liable
It is the operator who is guilty of committing any offence. Although it is illegal to set up and run a casino or bingo site from this country, it is not illegal for a person resident here to take part in Internet gambling. It would not, therefore, be illegal for someone on Britain to gamble on a site situated elsewhere in the world.
Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976
A lottery may only be conducted on the Internet providing it has been registered with either the appropriate local authority or the Gaming Board, in accordance with the usual rules for promoting a lottery under the Act.
Lottery tickets may be sold almost anywhere except in the street. They can be sold by post or by telephone, but not by means of a machine. The Gaming Board's view is that a lottery run entirely by computer via the Internet amounts to selling tickets by means of a machine, and it has refused to authorise such lotteries. The Gaming Board has, however, granted permission for two Lottery Managing Companies to run lotteries over the Internet in much the same way as using the telephone - as a means of communication connecting the buyers and sellers of lottery tickets. The actual sale of the tickets must be carried out by human agency. All lottery tickets must be paid for before they are entered into the draw.
Foreign lotteries may not be promoted in Great Britain. It would, therefore, not be lawful to advertise an overseas Internet lottery or to sell tickets abroad under section 2 of the 1976 Act.