But gambling critics see the move as another major crack in America's moral foundation, opening the way for states to become further dependent upon tax revenues gained from a form of recreation that hits hardest those who can least afford it. In that light, the new US stance may prompt Congress to enact laws aimed at helping to curb addiction and to prevent children from becoming involved in online gambling, even while allowing "casual" gamblers more options and opportunities to play. So far, Congress has folded on a handful of proposed Internet gambling measures.
"The United States Department of Justice has given the online gaming community a big, big present," writes I. Nelson Rose, a Whittier Law School professor who blogs at gamblingandthelaw.com. "My bet is that … Congress will continue to do nothing, while Internet gambling explodes across the nation, made legal under state laws."
The US has outlawed online "real money" poker since 2006, and in April the Justice Department charged three major online operators with fraud and money laundering for disguising bets as every-day credit-card payments. In a letter accompanying its announcement on Friday, the Justice Department noted that the new interpretation of law "will not undermine the Department's efforts to prosecute organized criminal networks. The significant majority of our current and past prosecutions concerning Internet gambling involve cases where the gambling activity is part of a larger criminal scheme."