Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is it Legal to Advertise Online Gambling?

Recently, I was debating with a site owner about whether a link to a gambling site was legal where he lived in Washington State. He pointed out that online gambling was illegal in that state, and he didn't want to take a chance to be accused of promoting online gambling, so the owner would not place any gambling links.

I didn't know about Washington State laws, so I did a quick Google search and came up with an interesting fact sheet from the Washington State Gambling Commission at http://www.wsgc.wa.gov/faq/internet_gambling.pdf. The first line is pretty ominous. It says "Internet gambling has always been illegal in Washington State and in the United States." I don't know about gambling having always been illegal, but I am aware that transferring funds to pay for online gambling are not allowed in the US, and that banks, credit card services, and PayPal can't transfer money from US customers to online gambling sites. These money transfer laws were made at the federal level, so they applied to every part of the United States.

The Washington state gambling commission also didn't like advertising for gambling. On the second page of their fact sheet, it says that "It is illegal to solicit Washington State citizens to gamble on the Internet when a fee is involved to play the games."

In the state of Washington, and perhaps other states, would a mere link to a gambling web site constitute soliciting someone to do something illegal? As I said before, I'm no lawyer, but I'll give you my opinion anyway. In my opinion, if the web site is not promoting illegal activity, and if it is legal in the location where it resides, then providing a link to it should not be a problem.

Any site owner should review the destination URL of any outgoing link you currently have, and any external link that you are thinking about adding. If you already have a link to a site, and then you find out that the site is not obeying the law, specifically the law where you reside or where your web site is hosted, then the sensible thing to do is remove the link. If you are still deciding to place a link, and you have even a little bit of hesitation, then don't add the link.

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