“The future belongs to those who show up for it.” Mark Steyn

The shape of things to come

You have to hand it to the opponents of expanded Internet gambling in the United States. Like the Russians at Stalingrad, they held out longer than anybody thought was possible. Unlike the Red Army, however, they’re not going to win this one. By the way, the correct word is ‘expand’: Internet gambling has been a fact of life in the USA for over a decade now. No less than 32 of the 50 states licence Internet services to help with their horserace betting. Therefore, it is not correct to speak of ‘legalising’ Internet gambling as though this were a brand-new thing. The immediate question is how soon the states will move to expand an existing reality.

After years of false starts, the trend is underway at last. Illinois has just begun selling its state lottery tickets online, with Indiana soon to follow. Be sure that other states will soon join the queue. It is inevitable - online and mobile is the new 'normal' for marketing; if you want to sell a product, you have to go where the customers are. The same scenario will be played out again on the day that other online gambling, such as Internet poker, is also licensed and legalised.

Affiliates in a new arena

Such a course of events, obviously, will bring many and varied issues in its train. What we concentrate on here is what opportunities and obstacles the new turn of events will present to affiliate marketers.

First, the good news. The principal legal problem for affiliates - that of illegality - automatically disappears. The biggest single worry of the affiliate marketing community is that if a given jurisdiction holds Internet gambling to be illegal, then it will also hold advertising that activity to be equally illegal. And so, the affiliates for such operations harbour a constant anxiety that they might get grabbed by the authorities. As a practical matter, the possibility is very remote, unless the affiliate in question goes out of his/her way to attract official attention. The decision to prosecute in relation to gambling activities is most often politically influenced. And as a practical matter, somebody who is simply advertising and providing a link to a site which may or may not be legally taboo (especially in the USA, gambling law is all over the road) is just not a worthwhile target. Nevertheless, the worry remains.

When it becomes legal, of course, then you’re in the clear. It’s no violation of the law to advertise a service which is perfectly legal, all else being equal. ‘Wait a minute', I hear you say: ‘suppose advertising for Internet gambling in a state where it’s legal, reaches into a neighbouring state where it isn’t?’ As a general proposition (i.e. this is not direct legal advice) this is not a problem. As long ago as 1999, the Supreme Court, in the case of Greater New Orleans Broadcasting Vs US ruled that broadcasts advertising legal gambling in Louisiana did not violate federal laws against advertising gambling, even if the advertisement could be picked up by receivers in nearby states where gambling was against the law. If it works for broadcast TV, then obviously ads on the Internet, which is much more closely focused, are in no particular danger.
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