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State and federal Internet gambling laws

Wisconsin laws address personal and professional gambling without specifically mentioning online gambling. Some Milwaukee residents may believe the lack of an Internet gambling law is the same as permission to bet. That’s a false assumption — online gambling can lead to state and federal criminal charges.

The boundaries of online gambling are defined within the laws, but it is difficult to understand where legal online betting ends and illegal wagers begin. Generally, it’s permissible to play authorized lotteries and free Internet games, participate in fantasy league betting and visit approved Indian gaming sites.

Wisconsin and federal gambling rules include laws that outlaw the transmission of betting information, offers or wagers through a “wire communication facility.” The laws are applicable to websites that promote gambling, like online casinos and off-track betting parlors as well as companies that support the cash flow for the sites.

It is illegal for individuals to make card game, off-shore casino and sports wagers or transfer gambling money online, according to the Cyber Crime Fraud division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is also against the law for businesses to solicit bets and run unapproved betting websites online.

Criminal charges for illegal gambling in Wisconsin range from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class I felony for a commercial gambling offense. A misdemeanor gambling charge may affect individuals who place illegal bets and nonprofit organizations that conduct lotteries, even when proceeds are beneficial to a community. The commercial gambling law targets offenders who operate “for gain.”

Individuals facing gambling charges have legal rights just as all other defendants do, including the right to seek the advice of an attorney. Keep in mind that ignorance of an Internet crime like gambling does not prevent prosecution or a conviction. However, criminal defense attorneys do everything possible to mitigate serious consequences for defendants accused of online betting or operating Internet betting sites.

Source: The Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Online Gambling Don’t Roll the Dice,” accessed May. 13, 2015

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