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Bet Your Future On Experienced Federal Gambling Defense Attorneys

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Accusations of illegal gambling can result in numerous related charges, from money laundering to criminal conspiracy. Make sure you’ve got experienced criminal defense counsel to make your case in federal court – get The Law Office of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, LLC, on your side.

What Is Legally Considered Gambling?

First – some definitions.

Federal regulations define “gambling” as an activity at which someone bets something of value and has a chance of losing their stake. This definition primarily covers contests and games of chance or “luck.”

If there’s some sort of randomization in the outcome involved, then it’s probably gambling.

Whether law covers games of skill is another matter entirely. Consider the difference between a contest and a sweepstakes. A contest offers a prize for someone who does or presents the best item or skill. A sweepstakes, on the other hand, is a random chance for anyone to win the prize.

That said, both contests and sweepstakes are not considered gambling games. Contests may require you to pay to enter – thus risking loss of the “stake” – but are not dependent on chance. Sweepstakes do not require purchase or a stake to play. There are no monies or other valuable items at risk, and therefore it is not a gambling game.

However, your local bingo hall probably requires a gambling license to operate. Most events require some sort of purchase or monies down to play. The winner of a bingo round is also chosen at chance through balls; there is no skill required to play.

Therefore, bingo is legally gambling.

Games like blackjack or craps are also considered gambling, since there’s an element of luck and skill involved. These sorts of gambling activities can also be referred to as “gaming,” rather than gambling, but are often regulated the same way.

What Makes Gambling Illegal?

Gambling generates a lot of money, so the government – federal and state – wants to make sure that they’re getting a cut of the revenue. They also want to protect citizens against gambling addictions, too, so the industry must be regulated.

If an organization operates outside of the required gambling regulations and licenses, then that activity would be considered illegal gambling and subject to prosecution.

To tell whether an activity is considered gambling by federal law and thus requires a license, follow this checklist of requirements.

  • Are more than five people involved in managing the activity?
  • Are there games of luck involved? If so, do people offer money in the hopes of winning a prize of value?
  • Do they consider the activity a revenue-generating business? That is, are they trying to make money?
  • Have they taken in more than $2,000 in a day?
  • Have they run this activity for more than 30 days?

If the answer is yes to all of these questions, then you’re looking at possible illegal gambling charge.

Federal prosecutors have also charged defendants with “illegal redistribution of wealth through electronic means” in gambling related cases.

This charge is filed when law enforcement believes that a gambling business owner – either legal or illegal – uses devices, programs, or other methods to severely tilt the odds in favor of the house.

It’s fine to have a low chance of success and winning, but federal law prevents outright manipulation, either physically or digitally.

Finally, prosecutors may claim that a gambling business – legal or illegal – was used to commit other illegal activities. Money laundering, fraud, and other charges can be filed in relation to gambling misconduct.

As with many legal questions, it depends.

Your average office pool during the football season – or any other fantasy sports game – is not considered gambling, per federal legislation. Fantasy sports are specifically exempted as part of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

As of 2012, Maryland law also allows fantasy football and other fantasy sports contests to continue unregulated as a hobby – even with entry fees.

The question brings up another query: Is sports betting and fantasy sports organizations illegal, too?

Per a 2018 Supreme Court Ruling of Murphy v. NCAA, the federal government is not allowed to force states to outlaw sports betting – they can decide for themselves.

So, the legality of sports betting varies on a state-by-state case. Specifically, Maryland does not allow sports betting in the state.

Fantasy gaming sites such as DraftKings or FanDuel are not available to Marylanders. The state has determined that they are primarily games of chance, not skill, despite both business’ marketing campaigns to the contrary.

That said, the November 2020 election had a referendum on the Maryland state ballot for citizens to vote yes or no to making sports betting legal in the state, and it was approved. Sports betting is legal in Maryland.

What Are Possible Penalties For Federal Charges Of Illegal Gambling?

Federal charges of gambling are generally brought for online gambling cases. (Since it’s online, the activity usually happens between states, which means it’s a federal instead of a state case.)

If found guilty, sentences range extensively, but they’re all deadly serious.

  • Convictions of criminal charges of illegal online gambling can earn defendants up to 5 years in prison and a lifelong ban on any sort of gambling.
  • Convictions of running a gambling organization can get a sentence of up to five years in prison for each illegal organization. For example, someone who ran five different illegal website could spend up to 25 years in jail.
  • Convictions of laundering money through gambling result in up to 20 years in prison and fines of $500,000 or twice the value of whatever funds were laundered.
  • Convictions of running gambling as part of other illegal enterprises can see up to 25 years in prison and $250,000 in fines or twice the value of illegal funds, whichever is higher.

How Can A Criminal Defense Attorney Fight Against Gambling Charges?

When you’re staring down six-digit fine amounts and years in prison, it’s time to call for reinforcements. Gambling charges are not the time to run your own legal defense.

Charges can come before federal prosecutors have completely built their case. That gives your criminal defense team time to collect evidence and build a case of their own to defend you and keep you out of prison.

A criminal defense attorney experienced with gambling charges can help show the court and jury how law enforcement may have misinterpreted perfectly legal activities and actions. They can also examine state and federal statutes to see if any laws were broken in the first place.

If you have been charged with illegal gambling – especially if those charges are coming with the full weight of the federal government behind them – you need the best criminal defense attorneys you can find to stand between you and prison.

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