Difficulties in The Internet Gambling Regulations

Internet gambling operators also have several tools at their disposal for concealing their activity from law enforcement. Internet gambling operators can change the address of their Web site quickly and without cost, maintaining their easily identifiable domain name. Although Internet users typically key in a domain name to visit a particular site, the addresses of Web sites actually consist of a series of numbers. By changing its numerical address, the site may appear to remain in the exact place each time a user accesses the address, even though the site may have moved or may be one of several mirrored sites. (Mirrored sites are usually created because a particular Internet address cannot handle the number of visitors attempting to access its original location. Popular Internet operations, such as AOL’s home page, may have more than 15 different numerical addresses under a single domain name). Changing the numerical address makes it difficult to track the physical location of Internet gambling operators. Internet gambling operators also may notify their regular customers of an address change by sending e-mail directly to their clients. Because of the volume of e-mails sent daily, it may be difficult to monitor or prevent this type of activity. Furthermore, Internet gambling operators can obscure the originating location of e-mails through the service of “re-mailers.” Other methods that Internet gambling operators can use to provide information on Web address changes include posting notices on Internet bulletin boards and in newsgroups and chat rooms.

Holding ISP’s responsible for information passed through their routers raises technical concerns. Most of the 6,500 ISP’s within the United States are local providers. Installing hardware that monitors information would be too costly for most operators and could lead to a dramatic slowdown in the general transmission of information on the Internet as well as the possibility of failures within the system. Likewise, filtering devices may rule out legally posted Web sites, including those with helpful information on where to receive treatment for problem or pathological gambling.

The possibility of prohibiting Internet gambling also has raised concerns regarding whether the ban will infringe on the constitutionally protected freedom of speech. Congress has made two previous attempts to implement legislation regulating activity on the Internet. The first proposal passed by Congress was the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Incorporated in the Telecommunications Competition and Deregulation Act of 1996, 59 the purpose of the CDA was to protect children on the Internet by discouraging the transmission of potentially harmful information to minors. The intent was to prevent minors’ access to obscenities and safeguard them from stalkers and harassment via the Internet. Following passage of the CDA, legal battles ensued regarding the constitutionality of the law; the case eventually was heard before the Supreme Court. In Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Supreme Court decided in favor of the ACLU and held that “provisions which prohibit knowing transmission to minors of ‘indecent’ or certain ‘patently offensive’ communications (47 USCS 223 (a), 223 (d)) held to abridge free speech protected by First Amendment.” 60

The second law addressing the need to protect children from certain activity on the Internet was the Child Online Protection Act (COPA). Included in the omnibus appropriations bill for the fiscal year ending in 1999, COPA attempted to prohibit the transmission of harmful information to minors over the Internet. In response to the passage of COPA, the ACLU filed for and was granted a preliminary injunction from the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania barring the Department of Justice from enforcing the COPA. 61

59 47 USCS ยง 230, 223 (a), 223 (d). 60 Janet Reno, Attorney General of the United States, Et Al., v. American Civil Liberties Union Et Al., 117 S. Ct. 2329 (1997).